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Higher Education in India: An introspection


The key to harnessing India’s demographic dividend is education. Indian higher education currently the third largest in the world, is likely to surpass the US in the next five years and China in the next 15 years to be the largest system of higher education in the world. Indian higher education has a complex structure riddled with many contradictions, still has great possibilities.

By 2030, India will be amongst the youngest nations in the world. With nearly 140 million people in the college-going age group, one in every four graduates in the world will be a product of the Indian education system. Higher education in India has recorded impressive growth since Independence. University Grants Commission (UGC), by designing programmes and implementing various schemes through academic, administrative and financial support, has contributed in the growth and development of Indian higher education. In the changing landscape, entrance of private universities is a game changer. Many new institutions of medicine, science, technology and others have been introduced. We have gross enrollment ratio of about 17.9% now, while an ambitious target of 25.2% has been envisaged by the end of 12th Plan.

With many state universities in bad condition, the gap is being filled by several private universities. It is important to ensure that these universities have adequate faculty, research facilities, relevant curriculum and adequate infrastructure among others. There is an immediate need to transform the whole system of higher education in India. I wish to offer a few suggestions in this regard: Academic quality is of paramount importance. In order to have good quality academic institutions, we should follow the best practices in accreditation and assessment. Currently, only a handful of Institutions in India are accredited by NAAC and NBA.

Faculty members form the core of any academic institution.

They should be research focused and properly engaged with mentoring, industry engagement, research and consulting.

A major concern for India is creation of employable workforce to harness our demographic dividend. According to Industry reports supported by NASSCOM, only 25% of technical graduates and about 15% of other graduates are considered employable by IT/ITES industry. Another survey conducted on 800 MBA students across different cities in India revealed that only 23% of them were considered employable. Hence, there is an immediate need for a holistic and symbiotic association between industry and academia to make employable graduates. There is also an immediate need for moving from ‘generic model’ of education to a ‘learner-centered’ model of education. The students should be mentored to make their careers in the areas of their strength and abilities.

Currently, there are lots of issues regarding governance and autonomy of such educational institutions, which create major road blocks in performance and require urgent attention. There are several legal and regulatory hurdles to create quality institutions in India. For example, ISB Hyderabad is the only B-School from India which features in Top-20 in Financial Times list, but it cannot grant a recognized MBA degree due to legal and regulatory constraints. There is an immediate need for transforming governance and leadership in higher education Institutions.

Last but not the least, to achieve GER as envisaged in our 12th Plan and harness our demographic dividend, it is important to allow not-forprofit institutes to bring large-scale investments from Indian promoters and global educational institutes as has been done in the Healthcare sector. This step can truly transform the Education sector and India can become the knowledge capital of the world.


Times of India