UGC gets deadline to select world-class universities
CLASS APART Selected through a rigorous process, the proposed 20 ‘world-class universities’ will be free to choose their syllabus and faculty
The government is now moving quickly to set deadlines for creating world-class universities following finance minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget announcement on the selection of 20 such institutes. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has been asked to frame rules for selection and function of the institutes by September 30, 2016.
A note from the Union ministry of human resource development (MHRD) asking UGC to frame rules for 20 world-class institutions – 10 by the government and the rest by private entrepreneurs, says these institutions, once selected through rigorous process, will be free to choose their syllabus, faculty, admission and fees. At present, universities follow UGC rules.
Admitting that “world-class” is difficult to define, MHRD has identified 17 features of globally top-ranked colleges that include teaching and research, proportion of foreign or foreign-qualified faculty, a mix of foreign students, financial aid based on merit students, one faculty for ten students and a target of 20,000 enrollment within 15 years. It asked UGC to follow these standards when making rules.
“Both government and private institutions will have freedom to make their syllabus and charge any fee they want. At present, universities need UGC’s consent for foreign collaboration but once they get world class tag, this restriction will go,” says an MHRD source.
He adds that while private institutions will be free to hire foreign faculty and admit foreign students, government universities will have a cap of 25% for foreign faculty and 30% for foreign students.
A UGC expert committee will select 10 government universities from the top 25 in the National Institutional Ranking Framework to be released on April 4 or those thatwill appear in the top 500 in any recognised international ranking. Ten private universities can be shortlisted from existing or upcoming colleges. The note also recommends penalty if universities fail to figure in “top 500 of any of the world renowned ranking frameworks (such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings or QS or Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University) in the first ten years of setting up, and in top 100 eventually.”
If the institute is unable to meet the goals, the committee may direct the MHRD/UGC to to strip the university of its special designation and revert to regular university status, says the ministry note. India has today 750 universities of different categories. Out of that, 345 are state universities and 223 are private universities. The number of Central universities is 43.
Some academicians hail this initiative to create world class institutions in India but say it requires clarity. “You can say an institute is ‘world class university to-be’ or ‘university with potential to be world class’ but you cannot immediately categorise it as ‘world class institution’ initially. The government should first identify an institution’s potential, give full support, review its performance and once it figures in world class rankings only then it should get world class title,” says AK Bakshi, a DU pro- fessor and former head of Tertiary Education Commission, higher education regulator in Mauritius.
Professor M Aslam, vice chancellor, IGNOU, is of the opinion that there should not be too much emphasis on foreign faculty and foreign students. “China spent millions of dollars to recruit i nter nationally renowned, foreign- trained Chinese and Chinese-American scholars to build state-of- the art research laboratories. When we are talking of 25% foreign faculty, why can’t we follow the Chinese model and start looking for internationally renowned foreign-trained Indians. This will make us believe in ourselves,” he says.
Welcoming the initiative, Prof NR Madhava Menon, founder director of the National Law School of India University, says, “It will allow promising institutions to compete with world class institutions. Instead of working on minimum standards, I am happy that we are looking at the maximum standards. The purpose of introducing world class universities is to raise the standards of education in India so that it would become an educational hub for students from other countries. The government’s plan to formulate an ‘enabling regulatory architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions so that they can emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions’ is aimed at helping them make a mark in global higher education rankings. While only a handful of Indian institutions have made it to the top 800 in the last few years, creating these 20 world-class universities can help boost India’s performance on the world rankings, say experts.
Phil Baty, editor, Times H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n Wo rl d University Rankings, says the government’s announcement is very exciting.
“Providing a clear policy commitment to nurturing worldclass universities is a positive first step towards making India’s universities globally competitive, and ensuring they find their rightful place higher up the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Across the world, nations have had real success in global rankings through similar so-called excellence initiatives,” says Baty.
The most outstanding example is China, where a small number of leading universities were given special additional funding and have undergone a reform process to make them more competitive. Now, China has two universities in the world top 50. A similar initiative is underway in Russia and there have been more than 30 such national initiatives since the THE rankings were created back in 2004.
However, the details will be very important. “These sort of programmes take time (China began the process in the 1990s) and they do require substantial amounts of money, often amounting to billions, not millions, of US dollars. You need money t o pay competitive salaries to attract and retain and the world’s leading scholars and to create the facilities required for cutting edge teaching and research. The enabling regulatory architecture will be crucial – for too long India’s finest universities have been held back by red tape and bureaucracy. They need the freedom and flexibility to thrive in a competitive global environ- ment,” adds Baty.
He welcomes t he plan t o include both public and private universities in this initiative as a mixed economy of universities with different types of institutions providing healthy competition for one another is a good thing.
Experts from QS Rankings agree. “While adequate fundi ng i s essential t o create a world- class university, effective governance and regulations are equally, if not more, important. The announcement from India’s finance minister is certainly an encouraging one and hopefully a step in the right direction but we will need to see how it will be implemented,” says a QS Ranking spokesperson.