In Learned Com­pany

Pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties have given a fil­lip to higher ed­u­ca­tion. The fo­cus now is on qual­ity, says IN­DIA TO­DAY’s sur­vey

India Today - - LEAD ESSAY - By Kaushik Deka

THE IN­DIA TO­DAY GROUP’S an­nual Best Uni­ver­si­ties sur­vey has emerged as the most au­thor­i­ta­tive com­men­tary on higher ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try. The ex­er­cise, con­ducted by the Nielsen Com­pany, mir­rors the emerg­ing trends in univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. As in­no­va­tion has been the norm, the sur­vey for 2017 ranks the uni­ver­si­ties across four streams— gen­eral (arts, sci­ence and com­merce), tech­ni­cal, med­i­cal and le­gal. With each pass­ing year, pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties have been chal­leng­ing the tra­di­tional cen­tres of learn­ing. While such com­pe­ti­tion is wel­come, what’s of con­cern is the per­for­mance of In­dian uni­ver­si­ties on the global plat­form.

On June 9, when Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukher­jee re­ceived the 2018 edi­tion of the QS World Univer­sity Rank­ings com­piled by the Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­mo­tion So­ci­ety of In­dia, he had rea­son to be pleased. Three in­sti­tu­tions—In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Delhi, In­dian In­sti­tute of Sci­ence, Ban­ga­lore, and In­dian In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Bom­bay—had found place in the list. The pres­i­dent, how­ever, sounded a word of cau­tion that while there has been con­sid­er­able in­fra­struc­ture ex­pan­sion in higher ed­u­ca­tion, the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion re­mains wor­ry­ing, and many In­di­ans are pur­su­ing their higher ed­u­ca­tion abroad. Num­bers jus­tify his con­cern: as per of­fi­cial US data, some 166,000 In­di­ans study in that coun­try.

The Union gov­ern­ment is tak­ing steps to stop this brain drain. The HRD ministry has pro­posed to cre­ate 20 ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, to be chris­tened In­sti­tu­tions of Em­i­nence. Ten gov­ern­ment and 10 pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions will be con­ferred the sta­tus, with a Rs 10,000 crore fund­ing for the for­mer. The gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions will ap­ply to the ministry. A pri­vate univer­sity will need a spon­sor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion with a net worth of Rs 5,000 crore, a de­tailed 15-year vi­sion plan and a five-year rolling im­ple­men­ta­tion plan.

The In­sti­tu­tions of Em­i­nence will be se­lected by an em­pow­ered ex­pert com­mit­tee of three to five em­i­nent per­sons ap­pointed for three years, with the fi­nal ap­proval of the ap­point­ments com­mit­tee of the Cabi­net headed by the prime min­is­ter. The in­sti­tu­tions will have com­plete aca­demic, ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial au­ton­omy and will be free from the re­stric­tive in­spec­tion regime of the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC) and the reg­u­la­tory con­trol over fee and cur­ricu­lum. They will have to achieve a place in the top 500 of any of the global

rank­ings within 10 years and even­tu­ally climb to the top 100.

The idea ap­pears to have orig­i­nated from a report by the T.S.R. Subra­ma­nian-headed Com­mit­tee for Evo­lu­tion of the New Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy. It was set up by for­mer HRD min­is­ter Sm­rit Irani. One of the report’s rec­om­men­da­tions reads: “Over the next decade, at least 100 new cen­tres for ex­cel­lence in the field of higher ed­u­ca­tion need to be es­tab­lished. If this is suc­cess­fully ac­com­plished, it will pave the way for In­dia to host ma­jor re­search and in­no­va­tion ini­tia­tives.” Though the ministry has junked the report and Irani’s suc­ces­sor, Prakash Javadekar, has an­nounced he will set up a new com­mit­tee to for­mu­late the ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy, it’s heart­en­ing to see the gov­ern­ment take mea­sures to im­prove higher ed­u­ca­tion.

More changes are afoot. Higher ed­u­ca­tion watchdogs such as the UGC and the All In­dia Coun­cil for Tech­ni­cal Ed­u­ca­tion will be re­placed by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Em­pow­er­ment Reg­u­la­tion Agency. A sin­gle reg­u­la­tor is be­ing put in place to elim­i­nate over­laps in ju­ris­dic­tion and do away with reg­u­la­tory pro­vi­sions that may now be ir­rel­e­vant. Sev­eral pan­els, such as the Yash­pal com­mit­tee, Na­tional Knowl­edge Com­mis­sion, Hari Gau­tam com­mit­tee and Subra­ma­nian com­mit­tee, had sug­gested re­plac­ing the mul­ti­ple reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties with a sin­gle en­tity. While the idea will take a while to fruc­tify, it could well be the be­gin­ning of re­forms the coun­try’s higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is await­ing.

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