Amity University plans its US debut, at a 170-acre New York campus

Amity University has long sought to create a global network of schools

One of India’s largest colleges, Amity, is expanding into the US with the purchase of one campus in New York and a proposal to buy two more. It plans to open its first US branch at the 170-acre, century-old St. John’s University campus in New York City after it gains ownership in June 2017.

Dozens of US colleges have opened overseas campuses, but few foreign schools have sought to establish branches in the United States. Amity University, a system of private colleges based in New Delhi, has long sought to create a global network of schools.

Since it was founded in 2003, the chain has opened campuses in India, England, China, South Africa and five other countries. And now US.

Amity paid $22 million in September to buy a Long Island branch of St. John’s University which was selling the campus and shifting to a smaller site on Long Island.

The chain also has made a deal to buy the New England Institute of Art, a for-profit college near Boston, and one of its sister schools, the Art Institute of New York City, according to documents filed in Massachusetts. The deal would require approval from state education officials.

“We are very, very skeptical about this,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is asking the state’s Board of Higher Education to block the sale. “It’s hard to imagine that this outfit from overseas, which has never done any education work here in this country, is well-suited to provide any kind of education to these students,” Hailey added.

Amity hopes a US campus will attract students from abroad who want to gain the prestige that comes with studying in the United States. It also hopes to forge research partnerships with other colleges, and to connect foreign scholars with their counterparts here.

“We have a global vision for education, a model of education which allows for student mobility, faculty collaboration and research collaboration. We believe that the leaders of tomorrow will be those who have perspectives from different parts of the world,” said Aseem Chauhan, Amity’s chancellor

Owned by a nonprofit company, the chain offers bachelor’s and graduate degrees in a range of fields, from art to engineering. It enrolls 125,000 students at more than a dozen campuses, and has grown rapidly amid rising demand for higher education in India.

Its founder president, Ashok Chauhan, was charged with fraud in the 1990s by authorities in Germany, where he ran a network of companies. He returned to India and was never extradited. A plastics company in the US also sued Chauhan in 1995 for failing to pay $20 million in debts, which led to an ongoing court battle in India. The university is now in the hands of his sons, Aseem Chauhan and Atul Chauhan.

Aseem Chauhan counters that Amity has an “excellent and exceptional” track record of student outcomes, although he declined to provide the statistics.

The school’s leaders have been eyeing a US expansion for years. In 2011, Amity was one of seven colleges that entered a competition to build an engineering campus in New York City. Cornell University and a school in Israel ultimately won.

In 2014, Amity filed paperwork to open a nonprofit school in California, tax records show, but never opened a campus.

Amity has been pushing for US expansion while some traditional schools close because of dwindling enrollment, and as many for-profit institutions seek buyers amid increasing federal regulation and oversight.

Even if the proposal is approved, Amity could face a long road before it starts work in the US. To begin granting degrees, it would need approval from a US accreditor, often a rigorous process. And to receive federal financial aid for its students, it would have to be screened by the US Department of Education.

– With PTI inputs