It’s time for India’s universities to join the world

Source– The post is based on the article “It’s time for India’s universities to join the world” published in The Hindu on 23rd January 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Issues relating to development and management of education

Relevance– Higher education

News– The article explains the specifications of the higher education sector in India. It also suggests some solution to establish India as a major player of the world’s academic community.

What are the specifications of the higher education sector in India?

Emerging leader– Indians are well-known globally as top scientists and academics, university leaders, and key leaders in high tech. But little is known about the academic environment from which they have emerged.

India’s academic system is now the world’s second largest. The country is actively pursuing reform and improvement.

India is in a particularly advantageous position. The world sees India as an increasingly important economy and geopolitical player.

India also plays an important role in higher education. It is mainly an exporter of students and talent in many scientific fields, especially in information technology.

There is a growing interest abroad in linking with Indian universities and research institutes due to disengagement from China by some Western countries.

Complexity of system– India has one of the world’s most complex and little understood academic environments. Its higher education sector is fragmented, inflexible with tight subject boundaries.

Private sector colleges and universities will continue to fuel growth. High-quality government institutions such as the IITs and AIIMS are also expanding and improving.

India has set up the National Institutional Ranking Framework. It has helped to fuel competition among institutions.

India’s global ranking in scientific publications improved from the seventh position in 2010 to the third in 2020. India ranks third in terms of the number of PhDs awarded in science and engineering.

India’s Global Innovation Index ranking has also improved significantly, from 81 in 2014 to 40 in 2022, although it lags significantly behind the U.S. and China.

Indian universities have not scored well in the global rankings. The highest-scoring Indian institution in the 2023 Times Higher Education ranking is the Indian Institute of Science, in the 251-300 range.

The best-known institutions globally are the IITs. These do not rank well because they are small, specialised schools and not comprehensive universities. But, their quality is much better than their ranking scores.

Distinctiveness– There has been emergence of about a dozen top-quality non-profit private universities, mostly funded by philanthropically minded Indians. This elite sector is expanding and is focused on building an international ‘brand’ for Indian higher education.

India uses English as the main language of science and higher education, which makes it much easier to interact with the rest of the world.

India has more than 100 research laboratories in diverse areas sponsored by the CSIR and other Central government agencies. Some are outstanding in terms of their research contributions and their relationships with India’s economy.

What is the way forward to establish India as a major player of the world’s academic community?

India’s universities and its scientific prowess are an important part of a soft power strategy. The internationalisation initiatives outlined in the NEP is an important start. India’s G20 leadership is also an excellent opportunity to exercise leadership.

India should convene a conference of leaders of universities in the G20 countries with the aim of acquainting them with India’s academic opportunities.

It is required to create a prestigious scholarship programme that would provide top Indian students and faculty time in leading universities abroad and funding to bring top academics from abroad to India. China’s version of this is the China Scholarship Council.

Indian universities, researchers, and academics also need to involve themselves in the global scientific community through participation in joint projects, international meetings.

This will need careful planning, sustained resources, support from the Central and State governments and an expanded international consciousness in the Indian academic community.

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