Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)
Adequate funding, effective regulations will help varsities
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 Higher Education World 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 to 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 regula- tory 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 environment,” adds Baty.
He welcomes the plan to 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 funding is essential to 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.
By its very definition, worldclass institutions would demand ample resources in terms of time and money along with the political and regulatory support. However, says Rahul Choudaha, principal researcher and CEO of DrEducation - a US based global higher education research firm, one element which is often missed is the importance of attracting world-class talent.
“This includes students, faculty and administrators who create an ecosystem of quality and excellence. Building this ecosystem requires more than time and money. It requires leadership and governance where professionals define, implement and adhere to the standards of world-class quality as opposed to politicians, bureaucrats or business owners of the private institutions,” he says.
In the current scenario of higher education system in India, even the basic norms and expectations of quality are consistently violated, he says.
“Providing a few institutions with access to disproportionate funds will create more inequity. The direction of creating an enabling regulatory framework is a positive one, however, the entire higher education system in India is in need of a coherent and efficient regulatory system. In addition, there is a need to build a profession of higher education leaders, administrators and academics, who shape the standards of quality and relevance of Indian higher education,” adds Choudaha.