Higher Education in India

India’s higher education system is the third largest in the world, next to the United States and China. Higher Education sector has witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of Universities/University level Institutions & Colleges since Independence. Some institutions of India, such as IITs, NITs, IIMs have been globally acclaimed for their standard of education.

  • India’s focus on expanding the higher education sector to provide access has led to a situationwhere research and scholarship have been neglected.
  • Funding issues:
    • The Central government’s slant toward premier institutions has continued ever since the Eleventh Five Year Plan where in spite of a nine-fold increase in Budget allocation State institutions have been left to fend for themselves with funding mainly directed towards starting more premier institutes.
    • Investment by State governments has been also dwindling each year as higher education is a low-priority area. The University Grant Commission’s system of direct releases to State institutions which bypasses State governments also leads to their sense of alienation.
    • There has been a demand to take spending on education to 6% of gross domestic product for decades.
  • Low enrolment:-
    • The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education is 24.5 meaning out of every 100 youths eligible for higher education, less than 25 are pursuing tertiary education.
  • Desired levels of research and internationalization of Indian campuses remain weak points
  • It follows a largely linear model with very little focus on specialization. Both experts and academics feel Indian higher education is tilted towards social sciences.
    • Only 1.7% colleges run PhD programmes and a mere 33% colleges run postgraduate-level programmes.
  • Regulatory issues:-
    • The country has a poor record with both the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) being seen more as controllers of education than facilitators.
    • As a regulator of India’s higher education, coordinator of vastly different kinds of institutions, and custodian of standards, the UGC had begun to look ill-equipped.
    • Regulatory bodies with licensing powers hurt the autonomy of professional higher education, leading to serious imbalance in the diarchy they were under, and partitioning general from professional higher education in several crucial areas of knowledge.
    • Privately set-up institutions in medicine, engineering, and other fields created the ground conditions in which strict regulation acquired justification. The power to license led to corruption.
    • The existing model is based on deep and pervasive distrust among regulators over the possibility of universities doing things on their own, and doing it well. The current framework that require universities to be constantly regulated by laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and policies set by the government and the regulatory bodies have not produced the best results.
  • Lack of autonomy:
    • All aspects of academic life, including admission norms, syllabus design, and examination were controlled by the affiliating university.
    • In colleges set up and run by the government, recruitment of faculty was the state government’s prerogative.
    • When certain state governments stopped fresh recruitment altogether and moved over to the practice of hiring contractual or ad hoc teachers, no college could practise autonomy to alleviate its suffering.
    • Autonomy to function through their own structures of governance first began to diminish in many provincial or state universities in the sphere of appointment of vice chancellors. State universities could not resist the imposition by those with political power of poorly qualified and unsuitable individuals as vice chancellors.
  • The vacancy crisis broke the sense of professional community among teachers and their organisations.Even teacher quality was abysmal
  • Ranking systems:
    • Additional autonomy granted on the basis of NAAC rating and status in NIRF begs questions about these systems of evaluation. They are neither authentic nor valid. The reason they lack authenticity lies in the processes through which they are derived.
    • The NAAC is based on an inspectorial process. Its reliability suffers from both ends involved in any inspectorial system in our ethos.
    • NIRF’s need arose from India’s poor performance in global ranking systems but the question is if Indian institutions of higher learning were found to be generally too poor to be noticed globally, how would they get any better if ranked among themselves
  • Roots of Vulnerability
    • Currently there is a dominant ideology of commercialisation of knowledge and teaching.
    • Higher education is not leading to graduates entering the work sector as the education is not in sync with the needs of the companies.

Higher Education is the shared responsibility of both the Centre and the States. The coordination and determination of standards in institutions is the constitutional obligation of the Central Government. The Central Government provides grants to UGC and establishes Central Universities in the country. Meritorious students, from families with or without necessary means, need an incentive or encouragement to keep on working hard in their studies and go to the next level of education in their academic career. This is where the scholarships and education loans play a crucial role.

Following are some significant fellowship schemes/scholarships awarded by the various institutions:

  • Scheme of Apprenticeship Training
  • National Scholarships
  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (Scheme)
  • Junior Research Fellowships for biomedical sciences
  • All India Council for Technical Education Scholarships
  • Department of Science and Technology grants and fellowships
  • DST’s Scholarship Scheme for Women Scientists and Technologists
  • Biotechnology fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral studies by DBT
  • Scholarships /Awards at Undergraduate & Postgraduate level in various science courses at the University of Delhi
  • Fellowships/Scholarships/Awards by the Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Sports Authority of India promotional schemes
  • Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities – Schemes/Programmes
  • Scholarship Schemes for ST Students by Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Post-matric Scholarships for SC /ST students
  • Scholarships for Minority Students
  • Restructure or merge different higher education regulators (UGC, AICTE, NCTE etc.) to ensure effective coordination.
  • Amend UGC Act to give legislative backing to regulatory structure.
  • Allow foreign institutions to operate joint degree programmes with Indian institutions.
  • Link University grants to performance.
  • Select Vice-Chancellors of universities through a transparent & objective process.
  • Broaden the scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to provide access to quality educationbeyond geographical boundaries.
  • All central universities should develop strategic plans for getting into the top 500 global universities rankings in the next 10 years.
  • Funding to these institutions should be linked to performance and outcomesthrough the MHRD and newly constituted Higher Education Funding Agency.
  • The goals of the higher education, for that matter any education system of any country is expansion with inclusion, ensuring quality and relevant education.
  • To meet these challenges, there is a need for policyto identify the jet issues involved, to build up on the earlier policies, and to take a step ahead.
  • Research cannot be improved merely by regulating universities, instead they need efforts to create enabling atmospherefor which it is imperative to grant more autonomy, better funding and new instruments to regulate work ethic.
  • New initiativeslike Hackathon, curriculum reform, anytime anywhere learning through SWAYAM, teacher training are all aimed at improving quality. These need to be effectively implemented.
  • As India wants to transform its universities into world class institutions, it must safeguard the interests of young researchers and thousands of temporary faculty members by expediting the permanent appointments in a time-bound framework and transparent manner.
  • Establish world-class multidisciplinary research universities
  • Create a master planfor every state and union territory
  • Each state must establish an integrated higher education master planto provide an excellent education for all its residents.
  • Attract the best and the brightest talent to be faculty members
  • One of the fundamental changes India must institutionalize is a radically new compensationand incentive structure for faculty members. A flexibility to pay differential salaries based on market forces and merit must be part of this transformation.
  • Thus a complete revamp is neededto meet the present demand and address the future challenge that India is about to face.
  • To reap the diverse culture demographic dividendand to maintain peace and social harmony among them quality education with values are the necessary area to focus.

The higher education is facing many challenges as pointed above, most the challenges are difficult but are not impossible to resolve. Our goal to be a world power, the resolving and restructuring of higher education is must, then only we will be able to harness the human potential and resources of nation to the fullest and channelize it for the growth of the Youth is the most important asset for a country their future is the future of the Nation. So, the government must be compelled to provide basic education and skills.