From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Institutions of Eminence
Mains level : Higher Education quality in India
The furore surrounding fee hikes at the Jawaharlal Nehru University has spurred deeper questions about the quality of university education.
- India’s higher education system is structurally flawed and underfunded.
- This crisis will affect innovation and human capital, the two pillars of labour productivity and GDP growth.
- It will hurt India’s largest demographic of its potential.
- A surge in women’s enrolment does not necessarily imply better outcomes.
- ‘India Skills Report’ suggests that only 47% of Indian graduates are employable.
- India has startlingly low faculty figures.
- Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average.
- A Deloitte gathering of 63 Deans of top-tier institutions revealed that 80% listed lack of quality faculty as their biggest concern.
- The problem lies in increased demand and stagnant supply.
- The number of institutions has surged in India since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant.
- There are over a 1,00,000 India-born PhDs in universities around the world. They are kept away by paltry salaries and poor funding.
- China attracted Chinese-origin PhDs back home with dollar salaries and monetary incentives for published research.
- Tsinghua University is designed on the Western model of teaching and research and is even ahead of MIT in terms of published papers.
The problem of Indian universities
- Indian universities separate research and teaching activities, depriving students of exposure to cutting-edge ideas.
- Monetary incentives for academia are practically non-existent.
- Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies.
- Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching.
- The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, at rank 155, was our highest in the Scimago Institutions Rankings (SIR) for research. 6 Chinese institutes figured in the top 50.
- These flaws could affect macroeconomic indicators such as labour productivity, determined by innovation and human capital.
- The workers of tomorrow need to transition to the formal, non-agricultural sector, with higher education credentials.
- An increase in research could lead to more innovation in the economy. It might drive up labour productivity.
- The Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) proposed ambitious reforms. It aims to double education spending to 6% of GDP and close the research-teaching divide in higher education.
- It is coupled with an ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme started in 2018 that gave increased funding to some research universities.
- The dramatic increases may not be politically feasible.
- The implementation of such reforms may go the path of previous NEPs — watered down and eventually shelved.
- The government needs to ensure that higher education’s role in innovation and human capital is not ignored.
- The reforms must be pushed through and must lead to legislation that will fund research-based universities.
- Only this can bring a culture of discovery and accountability to India’s higher education institutions.
Institutions of Eminence