The problem with our university vision

Instead of taking into account local conditions and market demands, India is trying to ape the West

Instead of taking into account local conditions and market demands, India is trying to ape the West

It has now become an annual ritual in India to discuss international rankings of higher education institutions (HEIs) only when global ranking systems such as the coveted QS World University Rankings are announced. The QS World University Rankings ranks higher education institutions according to the following: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty student ratio (20%), citations by faculty ( 20%), international faculty rate (5%) and international student rate (5%). The international research network and employment results were 0% for this edition.

While it is encouraging to see that the number of Indian institutes in the world’s top 1,000 rose to 27 from 22 last year, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, gained 31 places to become India’s top ranked institute in the 2023 edition, there is no serious debate about the abysmal performance of Indian universities except the Institutes of Eminence (IOE). IEOs occupy a special place as they enjoy greater academic and administrative autonomy, and public IEOs receive additional funding. Hence, their dominance in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings comes as no surprise.

Stepmom treatment

Also among the other HEIs there is great inequality. According to the All India Higher Education Survey (2019-2020), 184 out of the 1,043 HEIs in the country are centrally funded institutions. The Indian government generously allocates financial resources to these institutions. However, the financial support provided by state governments to state HEIs is far from sufficient, even though the number of undergraduate students is highest in state public universities (13,97,527) followed by state open universities (9,22,944) of total students. ‘ registration. State-funded HEIs barely manage to pay salaries and pensions.

While the number of universities increased by almost 30.5% in 2019-20 compared to 2015-16, the academic and administrative infrastructure has not been strengthened to match this growth. The casual attitude we see in staffing faculty positions has further worsened the quality of teaching and research in HEIs. In fact, the quality education and world-class research outputs that policymakers expect from state public universities remain elusive because these HEIs have never had the financial and other resources to achieve academic and professional growth.

On the other hand, institutions generously funded by the Center outperform their state-sponsored counterparts on all academic performance indicators – faculty strength, modernized labs, building infrastructure, digitized libraries, project grants sponsored research centers, computer facilities, etc. Therefore, it was obvious that state-funded HEIs would not perform well in these rankings. It is a consequence of the unequal and unfair system of the Indian higher education system, where state-sponsored higher education institutions are treated like mother-in-law and are poorly placed compared to government-funded institutions. ‘State. No ranking system appears to rationally rank institutions after considering their administrative challenges, infrastructural constraints and financial difficulties; they pay attention only to performance measures based on academic strengths and other accomplishments. For India to perform better in these rankings, we need to pay more attention to state HEIs.

The CIP vision

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has planned for all HEIs to become multidisciplinary institutions by 2040. The objective is to increase the gross enrollment rate in higher education, including vocational education, from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035. The NEP also aims to ensure that by 2030 there will be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district. This means that specialized single-track institutions will be phased out.

However, the fact that leading multidisciplinary universities such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Delhi, University of Hyderabad and Jamia Millia Islamia have slipped in the QS World University Rankings should compel think tanks to review the NEP proposal in this regard. An in-depth study by QS World University Rankings reveals that specialized single-track HEIs such as Indian Institutes of Technology and IISc performed better than their multidisciplinary counterparts. Eight IITs (Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Guwahati and Indore) are ranked among the top 500 in the world, in addition to IISc, Bangalore. IIT-Indore ranked first among second generation IITs by securing the 396th position and IIT-BHU made its first appearance in the 651-700 band.

A plan in the NEP for multidisciplinary teaching and research universities is also envisaged in order to achieve the highest global standards in quality education. While everyone is calling for multidisciplinary training, the performance of specialized HEIs in the QS World Rankings testifies to their superiority over multidisciplinary/multifaculty institutions. The idea of ​​transforming a specialized institution into a multi-faculty university does not bode well for an economy driven by specialized professionals. It would be surprising if IITs decided to offer courses in physical education and medicine or if national law universities organized undergraduate programs in mechanical engineering.

It is crucial to stress here that no one is opposed to the idea of ​​multidisciplinary/multi-faculty teaching if there is a flexibility of 15-20% in the total academic staff. But converting all HEIs into multidisciplinary institutions is not a sustainable idea given India’s unique conditions and requirements. There is also no study or data supporting the idea of ​​transforming specialized institutions into multidisciplinary/multi-faculty universities. Such an idea may have worked in the West, where HEIs invest substantial resources in multidisciplinary research through private and public grants and research funding. But a “one-size-fits-all” approach may not help India much. The need of the hour is to build and develop our higher education system while taking into account Indian conditions and market demands.

Milind Kumar Sharma is a Professor in the Department of Production and Industrial Engineering, MBM University, Jodhpur, formerly, MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur. Views are personal

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