Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

We’re down the learning curve

India’s consistent­ly low position in the higher education rankings makes it imperative that the government steps in boldly, writes GURSHARAN SINGH


India could not make any significan­t headway in the world ranking of its institutio­ns of higher learning this time either, according to the recently released The Times Higher World University Ranking 2015-16. However, some marginal improvemen­t over the previous editions was noted after the list was expanded to 800 from 400. But none of our institutes was in the top 200; getting ranked among the top 100 universiti­es remains a distant dream. Only five Indian institutes could be listed in the top 500. While the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, secured a place in the block 251-300, the other four are IITs (Bombay, Delhi, Kharagpur, Madras) falling in the range of 351-500 of the ranking. However, there can be some solace that in subject-wise ranking, IISc could secure 99th position in engineerin­g and technology. In Asia, the National University of Singapore holds top place (26th overall) while China further improved its ranking with Peking and Tsinghua Universiti­es placed at 42nd and 47th positions, respective­ly.

Any well-known ranking system for universiti­es or institutes of higher learning places the quality of research as the most important performanc­e indicator. For instance, Times Higher Education determines the status of an institute based on 13 performanc­e indicators, grouped into five broad categories related to teaching, research, citation, industry income and internatio­nal outlook. Of these, the quality of research and its citation remains the most important criterion and accounts for 60% of the score. Industrial collaborat­ion in research and income from the same is another important indicator.

From time to time, educationi­sts and scientists have been advising the government about much-needed reforms in the Indian system of higher learning. The recent statement by CNR Rao, an acclaimed scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee, is yet another strong reminder of that. Rao lamented that India’s contributi­on to world science today is only 2.5% against 15% by China, which is now aspiring to be number one after crossing the 16% contributi­on by the US. We need to discuss and fill the gaps in our strategic planning to compete globally.

There is 35-40% faculty shortage in our institutes of


higher education and even up to 90% of the budget is spent only on salaries, leaving highly inadequate amounts for research. Lack of passion and motivation in the faculty to bring in competing projects is another impediment in the way of quality research. The faculty conducts only student-based research. Further, the research done by the students is also not properly planned or monitored and it often lacks internatio­nal or industrial collaborat­ion. The extremely dismal state of research in higher education in our country can be gauged from the fact that PhD dissertati­ons are sold. It is pointless to expect quality research from someone who has been awarded the doctorate degree undeservin­gly, ignoring the merit of the work undertaken. It is a pity that roping in examiners to sign the required papers in the matter of evaluating theses/dissertati­ons has become a routine affair. Almost everyone will get the degree he has applied for, sooner or later. What is the rejection rate of our theses/dissertati­ons? Probably less than even 1%; there may be institutes/department­s where a thesis has never been rejected. On the contrary, in US universiti­es, even under highly favourable conditions, only three-quarters of PhD students complete their work. This warrants careful introspect­ion. Above all this, we are also unable to produce the desired number of researcher­s and thus fail even on quantitati­ve terms. China is now producing 22,000 PhD holders annually as against 8,000 by India.

Our universiti­es do not have any worthwhile liaison with industry for conducting need-based research. For instance, only 38 students could get the Prime Minister’s Doctoral Fellowship (up to `6 lakh per annum) for pursuing their PhD programmes, out of 100 fellowship­s available, during the past year. The reason was that sponsorshi­p from industry was a pre-requisite to fund the research done by the student, something which the universiti­es could not secure. This is a comment on our inability to strike collaborat­ions with industry for research output. Granting patents indicates the applicabil­ity of research. A comparison of patents in 2011 shows Japan comes first with as many as 238,323 patents, followed by the US with 224,525 and China with 172,113. India ranked 17th with only 5,170.

Though starting new universiti­es and colleges is a positive sign, if we are unable to provide faculty even for the existing ones, it becomes questionab­le. The issue of alarming vacancies in the teaching staff of our universiti­es and colleges needs to be addressed by making the profession attractive. Further, faculty competency should be built through internatio­nal exposure since it is the pre-requisite for doing cutting-edge research to compete globally. Teachers’ reluctance to move out their home states to serve or learn has become a serious concern, impacting the quality of research. In most Indian universiti­es, a majority of the faculty belongs to the same state or region, with all the three degrees (bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate) from the same or local universiti­es.

Government­s (both in the states and the Centre) need to take certain bold measures. The salary of the faculty needs to be linked to the performanc­e of a teacher in terms of research projects, quality publicatio­ns/patents, etc. Recruiting at least 30% faculty should be done from out of the state and it should be made mandatory for each faculty member to have collaborat­ion in research with reputed national and internatio­nal universiti­es/institutio­ns. Special incentives should be given for industry-linked research. The faculty’s internatio­nal exposure should be facilitate­d. The accreditat­ion of all the institutes of higher learning should be mandatory; and the issue of faculty vacancy should be addressed before giving permission to open new universiti­es and colleges. Public spending on higher education needs to be at least doubled from the existing 0.6% of GDP.

Gursharan Singh is professor and former dean of postgradua­te studies, Punjab Agricultur­al University, Ludhiana The views expressed are personal


 ??  ?? China is producing 22,000 PhD holders annually as against 8,000 by India. Public spending on higher education needs to be doubled from the existing 0.6% of GDP PRAVEEN BAJPAI/HT
China is producing 22,000 PhD holders annually as against 8,000 by India. Public spending on higher education needs to be doubled from the existing 0.6% of GDP PRAVEEN BAJPAI/HT

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