Higher Education in India

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Fly High With Higher Education

India as a nation that created the world famous Gurukul system inspiring modern day international pedagogies of teaching and learning did especially well to keep its legacy of creation alive post-Independence.

University Grants Commission (UGC) Role

The commission led by Dr Radhakrishnan immediately post-Independence was instrumental in the creation of the UGC in the 1950’s and the focus on channelizing talents of young adults towards employment was a key strategy that governed the approach deployed by the UGC in the years to follow, especially its first phase roll out. “What dominated the years that followed is the focus on reduction of stagnation of unqualified students by institutionalising three-year degree courses, improving of infrastructure, scholarships for research, better remunerated and qualified teachers etc. This led to the evolution of more universities – a demand also fuelled by the fact that primary and secondary education became also popular. As the UGC matured in the next phase of growth, it also dedicated its efforts to technological and vocational education. This era saw emphasis for women education, growth in rural schools etc. and ultimately led to the set-up of the Indian Education Commission under the leadership of Dr D S Kothari in the 1960’s, a significant era in the history of Indian education,” says Fatema Agarkar, Educationalist.

Global Education

While Indians are doing extremely well in global economy, Indian higher education needs to reinvent itself to be more relevant. “The Indian Industry needs to fund academic research to bring efficient innovation trends as fundamental driver of economic growth and creation of new knowledge. Indian Institutes are not in Global Rank list, but India is emerging patent destination with R&D Centres of major multinationals. 24% of World R&D happens in India, 650 Global R&D centres in India. Analysis of patent data indicates that only 24% registered are from academic institutions mostly IITs and other Govt research institutions and 76% are from Industry R&D centres,” says Dr. Anand K Joshi, Vice Chancellor, CMR University, Bangalore.

Heterogeneous Education Challenges

Heterogeneous education system is based on geographical, rural-urban, rich-poor set up and is big challenge for the educational institutions. Varieties of colleges, universities, technical institutions provide different quality of Education. “Some are imparting qualitative education while a few others are doing the dullest job. Higher Education also faces difficulties with Heterogeneous education system as it slows down the learning of higher performing students. Each student has different levels/phases and capabilities, putting students with different capabilities in one group can slow down the step-wise learning of life,” says Alka Gupta, Managing Director, BAFEL. Heterogeneity can be in perspective of either having all class of student population under the same education system or the unavailability of uniform education system for students with disabilities. “In both the perspective, it’s a loss to the nation’s productivity. This results in a mediocre society. Learning success can be achieved by homogenous education system, creating able pipeline of resources in all way of life, rather than only creating average engineers and outsourcing service population, which can be automated. Also with the advancement of artificial intelligence, mathematical concepts pioneer education can be provided to all student types,” says Suresh Rangarajan K (SRK): Educationalist, Emprasa Knowledge city.

Economic Conditions

The cost of higher education like most essential services has been skyrocketing over the past few decades. This cost inflation is inevitable as the predominant input into higher education is human capital and infrastructure. “Although, government spending on higher education has been increasing over time it is now crucial for the private sector and employers to step in and fund educational initiatives. This is key, as they require highly trained and world class talent and here is an opportunity for them to shape this talent. This model is rapidly emerging in Asia in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam and could be a good model to implement in India, given the amount of money corporates spend on recruitment and training,” says Siddharth Shahani, Co founder & Executive Director, ISDI, ISDI WPP and ISME. The biggest challenge in the education system is that all people are not equally talented. “So there is a huge gap between the top of the class and the bottom of the class. Ideally the education system should allow people at various competencies to grow. But since we conduct common entrance exams, the difference between good and bad is measured by the way he answers that exam. Only now private universities are coming up with separate assessment,” says T Muralidharan Chairman TMI Group.

Education Hubs

India has several regions in the higher education field like Noida and Manipal that are known for their education. “In my view such regions have no edge when it comes to quality of education. The only edge that such concentration of educational institutes provides is shared services for student residences and recreation. Educational institutions provide a great opportunity for local businesses to flourish. Thus they should be distributed fairly across all regions to enhance prosperity and to provide local access to such institutions,” says Sanjay Padode, Secretary, CDE (IFIM Institutions). Dr. (Prof.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University avers, “I personally think it is a very good time to be in higher education. There is a lot energy and dynamism that is taking place. The President of India has been the vanguard of a number of free thinking, attitudinal change among academics. The vice chancellors, the directors of the institutions of higher learning, the regulatory bodies including the government are participating in this reform effort. All of this means that there is a new form of energy and dynamism that is being infused in the higher education sector.”

Looking Ahead

Dr.Biju Paul Abraham, Dean (Academic) & Professor of Public Policy, IIM Calcutta opines, “the major challenge for India is to expand opportunities for higher-education while at the same time improving the quality of education delivered.  This will require significant investment in both physical and human resources.  While the demand for higher education has increased, the supply has not kept pace. Human resources are the primary challenge.  Attracting and retaining good faculty, internationalizing programmes and developing partnerships with Institutions abroad are three critical challenges that the Indian higher-education sector will need to face in the coming decade.”
India is on the verge of harvesting the largest pool of work force in the world. A healthy education backbone can help us build a dominant force of professionals, entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders for managing the world affairs. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for a nation and we must not lose this chance.

This story appeared in the Jan 2017 issue of Spice Route Magazine here: 

Higher Education


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