The problem with our university vision

Source: The post is based on an article “The problem with our university visions” published in the “The Hindu” on 5th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Social Sector; Education Sector

Relevance:  Higher Education reforms

News: Recently, the global ranking systems such as the coveted QS World University Rankings were announced for the international rankings of higher education institutions (HEI).

The NEP 2020 Vision

It has envisaged all HEIs to become multidisciplinary institutions by 2040.

It aims to ensure that there is at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district by 2030. It means that single-stream specialised institutions will eventually be phased out.

About the QS World University Rankings 2022

It has ranked HEIs on the following components: (i) academic reputation (40%), (ii) employer reputation (10%), (iii) faculty student ratio (20%), (iv) citations per faculty (20%), (v) international faculty ratio (5%) and (vi) international student ratio (5%).

Performance of Indian HEIs in International Ranking

(1) Firstly, number of Indian institutes among the top 1,000 globally has risen to 27 from 22 last year

(2) The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has moved up 31 places to emerge as the highest ranked Indian institute in the 2023 edition,

(3) The Institutes of Eminence (IOE) dominated in the top 500 in the QS World University Rankings comes as no surprise. They performed well because they are granted more academic and administrative autonomy. Further, public IOEs get additional funding.

Issues of Concern

The prominent multidisciplinary universities such as JNU, Delhi University, the University of Hyderabad, and Jamia Millia Islamia have slipped in the QS World University Rankings.

However, single-stream specialised HEIs such as the Indian Institutes of Technology and IISc have performed better than their multidisciplinary counterparts. For example, 8 IITs are placed among the top 500 globally, in addition to IISc, Bangalore.

Other Important issues in HEIs in India?

There is an unequal and unfair system in the Indian higher education system. The State-sponsored HEIs are provided step-motherly treatment. They are positioned poorly vis-à-vis centrally funded institutions.

The central HEIs institutions get generous allocation of financial resources from the Indian Government. However, the financial support provided by State governments to State HEIs is far from adequate. They barely manage to pay salaries and pensions. This has been despite the fact that the number of under-graduate students is largest in State public universities.

Therefore, Centre perform better than their State-sponsored counterparts on all academic performance indicators — faculty strength, modernised laboratories, building infrastructure, digitised libraries, etc. Therefore, the academic and administrative infrastructure of the State-level HEIs has not been strengthened. For example, faculty positions are not filled, quality of teaching and research in HEIs has worsened.

Way Forward

For India to perform better on these rankings, we need to pay more attention to the State HEIs.

The Indian government should revisit the NEP focus on the multidisciplinary HEIs in the coming years because the specialised HEIs have performed well over multidisciplinary institutions in the QS World Rankings.

All HEIs should not be converted into multidisciplinary institutions. No study or data support the idea of transforming all the specialised institutions into multidisciplinary/multi-faculty universities.

India should develop our higher education system while taking into account Indian conditions and market demands.

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