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

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Jee­van Prakash Sharma Gauri Kohli

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.

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