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India’s Higher Education

Context: There is growing shortage of faculties in India’s higher education sector.

India’s Higher Education Background

  • India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world that stands second in terms of the higher education network.
  • The term ‘higher education’ with respect to India denotes the tertiary level education that is imparted after 12 years of schooling (10 years of primary education and 2 years of secondary education).
  • India today has over 1,000 Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), including over 150 of national importance.
Regulatory framework of Higher Educational
Regulatory framework of Higher Educational

Issues plaguing India’s Higher Education

  • Shortage of Faculty: Colleges and universities need a sufficient number of teachers and researchers to create and disseminate knowledge. The paucity of a sufficient number of faculty members undermines the growth of India’s knowledge sector.
    • There is no standing mechanism to collect the information shortage of faculties.
    • Sometimes positions of faculties also remain vacant due to caste-based discrimination.
  • Diversity of teachers: In central universities (CUs), 75.2% of the sanctioned SC posts, 87.3% of the ST positions and 84.7% of the OBC posts for the position of professor are lying vacant, while in the associate professor category it is 64.7%, 76.8% and 76.6% respectively.
  • Shortage of PhD scholars: As per data of Lok Sabha, in 9 IITs, the acceptance rate for SC/ST/OBC PhD candidates is at or below 8%, despite all of these universities receiving hundreds of applications. The dropout trends from these premium educational institutions have been from SC/ST/OBC categories.
  • Low GER: In India, currently, the gross enrolment ratio for Higher Education is less than 30%.
  • Overburdening faculty: As a result of faculty shortage, professors are being overburdened. Their working hours have increased.
  • Lack of Financial Resources: Public spending on education has been relatively low in India since its inception. Most states spend 2.5 to 3.2% of their GDP on education.
  • Poor Quality of Education: Many private universities whose primary purpose is profit-seeking hire less qualified people in poorly paid part-time positions as faculties instead of better qualified, regular faculty members, to keep costs down.
  • Commercialization:  The withdrawal of public sector has left the space open for private institutions that have turned education into a flourishing business.
  • Curriculum Disparity: There is a wide gap between industry requirements and curriculum taught at colleges. This also renders graduates unemployable lacking in specific skill-sets.
  • Poor Research infrastructure: India’s spending on research and development (R&D) is among the lowest in the world.
    • Only 2.7% Colleges run Ph.D. programme and 35.04% Colleges run Post-Graduate Level programmes in India
  • Under-representation of Women: India’s best educational institutions rank quite poorly in women diversity. The scores have been dismal in India’s top 10 engineering institutes.
  • Lack of Autonomy: The over-regulation by regulators such as UGC, MCI, which decide on aspects of standards, appointments, fees structure and curriculum has further deterred new institutions from opening campuses.

Government Initiatives for Improving Higher Education

  • National Education Policy 2020: The National Education Policy 2020 proposes various reforms in India’s higher education including technical education.
    • NEP aims to increase the gross enrollment ratio (GER) to 50% by 2035 through six focus areas: student centricity, faculty, research and innovation, governance, equity and inclusion, and digital learning.
    • NEP aims to establish National Research Foundation (NRF) for connecting academia with ministries and industry and fund research that is relevant to local needs.
    • NEP provides for a new governance model and shall grant graded autonomy. Independent boards will manage the HEIs with active participation from alumni and experts from academia, research and industry.
    •  For higher education, for the first time, government promises a budget allocation for education as a fixed percentage of Gross Domestic Product at 6%.
    • NEP promotes internationalization of education. This approach includes facilitating research exchange with high-quality foreign HEI, encouraging high performing Indian universities to set up campuses in other countries.
  • The Institute of Eminence (IoE): It is a recognition scheme under University Grants Commission (UGC) that helps empower higher educational institutions. The HRD Ministry of India grants the Institution of Eminence status to multiple universities.
    • Academic institutions that can impart highest quality education, generate cutting edge research, and attract the best and the brightest from across the globe can have multiplier beneficial effects for the country.
  • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA): It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) that aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
  • Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP)’: This is a five-year vision plan to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the next five years (2019-2024).
    • Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India.
    • Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities.
  • Global Initiative for Academics Network (GIAN): The programme seeks to invite distinguished academicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, experts from premier institutions from across the world, to teach in the higher educational institutions in India.
  • All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE): The main objectives of the survey are to identify and capture all the institutions of higher learning in the country; and collect the data from all the higher education institutions on various aspects of higher education.

Way Forward

  • Indian HE institutes must focus on improving their international footprint, while policymakers could focus on liberalizing HE landscapes to attract international investors and universities in India.
  • Government must ensure filling up of vacancies through more autonomy to the institutions.
  • There should be new compensation and incentive structure for faculty members. A flexibility to pay differential salaries based on market forces and merit must be part of this transformation.
  • It is important to make curriculum industry-oriented, updated and practical focusing on skill development.
  • UGC should act as a facilitator rather than a regulator. More autonomy to universities to be provided.
  • Government 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.
  • India must establish world-class multidisciplinary research universities. There needs to be more funding for research and development.

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