Formula for Real autonomy in Higher Education

Formula for real autonomy in Higher Education in India

Introduction :-

The Quality of Higher Education is the engine of economic growth powering the supply of high level skills, conceptual knowledge & scientific innovations that can eventually position India as a strategic global leader.

Recognising the merits of maintaining high standards of higher education institutes (HEIs), The University Grants Commission (UGC) recently granted full autonomy to 60 of them, including five Central universities, 21 state universities, 24 deemed and two private universities, marking a move towards transforming HEIs in sync with international standards. Eight other autonomous HEIs are also included in the list.

With this freedom, they can now introduce their 

  • Own curriculum and academic programmes to add substantial value in collaboration with global institutes
  • Pursue research in science and technology
  • Hire foreign faculty, pay different range of compensation and perquisites
  • Enroll foreign students
  • Run distance learning programmes
  • Enter into collaborative arrangements with globally acclaimed entities.

These prime HEIs could get the autonomy based on the standards set by regulators and accrediting agencies.

Status of HEIs :-

Higher education in India has been spreading fast, even into rural areas, with 377 universities now located in the hinterland.

According to the All-India Survey on Higher Education-2016 :-

  • There are 799 universities (277 private universities), 39,071 colleges and 11,923 standalone institutions.
  • The total enrolment in higher education is 34.6 million students, of which 18.6 million are boys and 16 million girls.
  • Gross enrolment in higher education in India (including in HEIs) is 24.5 per cent, computed on the basis of population in the age group of 18-23 years. More than onethird of such young population is not able to pursue higher studies. They should be gradually covered, with the involvement of
    government and voluntary agencies.
  • Another 11.05 per cent of students get enrolled in distance education, of which 46.3 per cent are female.
  • Research appetite is very poor, with only 0.4 per cent students enrolling for Ph.D, of which many drop out when they get a job. Serious researchers are too few, keeping in view lack of its recognition as a profession in creating a new body of knowledge and innovation and in helping policy reforms.

International measure of HEIs :-

Except evaluation by the accrediting agencies in India, there is no ready index available to measure the performance of HEIs, but globally there are some credible indexes.

The HEIs are evaluated on the basis of 25 attributes divided into four key areas:

  • Resources
  • Environment
  • Connectivity
  • Output.

According to the 2017 report of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in its Universitas 21 (U21) ranking of national systems of HEIs.

In Ranking of National System of Higher Education Quality :-

  • The United States is at the top of the league, followed by Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
  • India stands at the low rank of 49 among 50 national systems of higher education
  • Indonesia is at the bottom at 50.

Among BRICS countries

  • Brazil is at number 42
  • Russia 34
  • China 30
  • South Africa 37.

It calls for a constructive introspection of what ails the HEIs in India.

As per the Times Higher Education World University Rankings-2018 :-

  • None of the HEIs from India are in the first 200 global universities. 
  • The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, slipped from its earlier rank from the bracket of 201-250 to the 251-300 group. This is due to a drop in research influence and research earnings. 
  • The other HEIs — IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Kanpur and IIT-Kharagpur — were the top Indian schools, standing at ranks between 401 and 600.
  • While Oxford University, UK, gets the number one rank in the global order, the next is Cambridge University and California University, US, takes the number three slot.

Productivity and areas of focus :-

Despite sustained focus on education

  • Only 4.5 per cent of India’s population is a graduate.
  • The 1.5 million graduates passing out from colleges hardly have enough skills to be employed in the industry, befitting their
  • Due to very few postgraduate seats, many of them search for jobs for which many HEIs provide campus placements. Some opt for higher education abroad.

The major weaknesses in our higher education are :-

  • Lack of scope for flexibility, creativity and innovation in curriculum.
  • High student-teacher ratio, limiting individual development of students.
  • Lack of monitoring of teaching methodology.
  • Low industry academic interface and onthe-job exposure.
  • Lack of development of research mindset and applied research is not encouraged.

In view of these factors, the quality of publications needs reinforcement in order to meet global standards.

Policy shift :-
With a specific objective to boost research and development (R&D) in higher education and to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions,

  • The latest Union Budget introduced the Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) scheme with an investment of Rs 1 lakh crore spread over the next four years.
  • Also, the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) is proposed to be suitably structured for funding this initiative.
  • It is estimated that spending in the higher education sector may grow at 18 per cent: from Rs 46,200 crore in 2016 to Rs 2,32,500 crore in the next 10 years.
  • Outlay for the education sector is set at Rs 85,010 crore.

So, while the autonomy of HEIs is a welcome move, its synergy can be derived only If teaching quality is improved with focus on

  • Applied research
  • High quality publications
  • Intense academic-industry interface
  • Student-teacher exchange programmes with global institutes of higher learning to imbibe improved teaching methodologies.

Conclusion :-
Stakeholders have to demonstrate a high degree of professional commitment, much beyond short-sighted commercial view to position India in a quality orbit to eventually lead global higher education system.

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