Higher Education in India

SEP 10

Mains   > Social justice   >   Education   >   Higher education

WHY IN NEWS?

  • The Higher Education Department has constituted three commissions in a bid to modernise the sector that has been deemed outdated in several respects.

STATISTICS:

  • India's higher education system is the third largest in the world after US and China.
  • India has more than 800 universities, with a mix of Central, State, Deemed and Private universities.
  • As per All India Survey on Higher Education 2019-20:
    • Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 27.1%.
    • Gender Parity Index (GPI) in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 1.01 against 1.00 in 2018-19 indicating an improvement in the relative access to higher education for females
    • In the last five years from 2015-16 to 2019-20, there has been a growth of 11.4% in the student enrolment.
    • Pupil Teacher Ratio in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 26.
  • In the recently released ‘Times World University Ranking 2022’, three Indian educational institutes have made it to the list of the best 400 universities across the world

CHALLENGES TO HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA:

  • Low enrolment ratio:
    • In spite of large expansion in the number of Higher Education Institutions recently, the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for India is 26.3, which is lower than the world average and much-lower than most of the developed countries.
    • India not only lag behind developed countries such as the US (86%), but also developing peers such as China (54%) and Brazil (36%)
  • Equity:
    • There is no equity in GER among different sections of society. GER for males (26.3%), females (25.4%), SC (21.8%) and ST (15.9%).
    • There are regional variations too. While some states have high GER some are far behind the national figures.
    • The college density (number of colleges per lakh eligible population) varies from 7 in Bihar to 59 in Telangana as compared to All India average of 28.
    • Most of premier universities and colleges are centred in a metropolitan and urban city, thereby leading to the regional disparity in access to higher education
  • Higher pupil-teacher ratio:
    • Pupil Teacher Ratio in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 26. It needs to be improved to make it comparable to USA (12.5:1), China (19.5:1) and Brazil (19:1).
  • Teacher vacancies:
    • According to the AISHE 2019-20, the total number of teachers in higher educational institutions in India has been drastically falling. Nearly 35% of professor posts and 46% of assistant professor posts out of total sanctioned strength remain vacant across the country.
  • Poor research ecosystem:
    • Poor fund allocation in research:
      • India’s investment in R&D has remained constant at around 0.6% to 0.7% of India’s GDP.
      • This is below the expenditure of countries like the US (2.8), China (2.1), Israel (4.3) and Korea (4.2).
    • Questionable quality of research:
      • India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for ‘predatory journals’.
      • Researches published are riddled with issues of plagiarism and data manipulation.
      • Moreover, Indian Higher education institutions are poorly connected to research centres.
    • Other issues related to research:
      • Low levels of PhD enrolment, fewer opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research, low quality of research work, etc. are some of the factors affecting the research ecosystem in India.
  • Lack of employable skills:
    • As per NITI Aayog, only 5.4% of India’s workforce has undergone skill training compared to 75% in Germany and 96% in South Korea.
    • According to the Annual Employability Survey 2019 report by ‘Aspiring Minds’, 80% of Indian engineers are not fit for a job in the knowledge economy. This arises mainly due to the focus on rote learning and outdated curriculum taught at colleges.
  • Limited financial resources:
    • Bulk of the enrolment in higher education is handled by state universities and their affiliated colleges.
    • However, nearly 65% of the UGC budget is utilized by the central universities and their colleges, while state universities and their affiliated colleges get only the remaining 35%. 
  • Lack of University-Industry Linkage (UIL):
    • In research conducted by the PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Science & Technology, the UIL of India is 4.7 on a scale of 10.
    • It shows the absence of appropriate schemes and policies by the government that would support the cause.
  • Outdated Curriculum:
    • Outdated, irrelevant curriculum that is dominantly theoretical in nature and has a low scope for creativity. There is a wide gap between industry requirements and universities’ curriculum that is the main reason for the low employability of graduates in India.
  • Accountability and performance of teachers:
    • At present, there is no mechanism for ensuring the accountability and performance of professors in universities and colleges.
    • This is unlike foreign universities where the performance of college faculty is evaluated by their peers and students.
  • Issues in governing bodies:
    • As a result of increase in number of colleges and students, the burden of administrative functions of universities has significantly increased. Due to this, the core focus on managing academics and ensuring quality got diluted.
    • Moreover management of the Indian education faces challenges of over-centralization, bureaucratic structures and lack of accountability, transparency, and professionalism
    • Also, governing such as the UGC is riddled with allegations of corruption and nepotism.
  • Low public spending:
    • India spends 4.6% of its total GDP on education, against the recommended level of 6%.
    • While private sector has been involved, it has led to the mushrooming of a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities.
  • Weak school education system:
    • School is the foundation of higher education in all societies. However, the Indian education system emphasises on rote learning without application-based knowledge and field practical information.
    • This limits free thinking and creation of novel ideas.
  • Political interference:
    • Appointments to various premier institutes have been marred by allegations of favouritism. Campus politics further constricts the focus on academics.

STEPS TAKEN:

  • Provisions under National Education Policy 2020:
    • Increasing GER:
      • The NEP aims to increase the GER in higher education to 50% by 2035 from 26.3% in 2018.
      • Institutions will have the option to run open distance learning and online programmes to improve access to higher education, which will improve GER in the country.
    • Restructuring of institutions:
      • All higher education institutions (HEIs) will be restructured into three categories:
        • (i) Research universities focusing equally on research and teaching
        • (ii) Teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching
        • (iii) Degree granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.
      • All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy - academic, administrative, and financial.
      • All HEIs should eventually be transformed into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges with 3,000 or more students.
      • By 2030, there should be one multidisciplinary HEI in, or near every district.
    • Multidisciplinary education:
      • The curricula of all HEIs should be made multidisciplinary to integrate humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
      • The undergraduate degree will be made more flexible with multiple exit options with appropriate certification.
      • For example: students will receive a certificate after one year, diploma after two years, bachelor’s degree after three years, and bachelor’s with research degree after four years.
      • Further, an academic bank of credit will be established to digitally store academic credits earned from various HEIs for awarding degrees based on credits.
      • HEIs will have the flexibility to offer different designs of masters' programmes.
      • The M.Phil. programme will be discontinued.
    • Regulatory structure:
      • The regulatory structure of higher education in India will be overhauled to ensure that the distinct functions of regulation, accreditation, funding and setting academic standards are performed by separate, independent bodies.
      • This will minimise conflict of interest and eliminate concentration of power.
      • To ensure this, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be setup with four independent verticals:

National Higher Education Regulatory Council as a single regulator (including teacher education, excluding legal and medical education)

National Accreditation Council for accreditation of institutions

Higher Education Grants Council for financing of higher education institutions

General Education Council for specifying the curriculum framework and learning levels for higher education.

      • Disputes between the four vertical will be resolved by a body of experts under the HECI.
    • Improving research:
      • The NEP recommends setting up an independent National Research Foundation for funding and facilitating quality research in India.
      • Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, Indian Council of Medical Research will continue to fund independent projects.
      • The Foundation will collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.
    • Foreign universities:
      • High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in other countries.
      • Similarly, selected top global universities will be permitted to operate in India.
      • A legislative framework facilitating such entry will be put in place. Such universities will be given exemptions from regulatory and governance norms on par with autonomous institutions in the country.
    • Vocational education:
      • The NEP recommends that vocational education should be integrated in all school and higher education institutions in a phased manner over the next 10 years.
      • A national committee for integration of vocational education will be setup under the MHRD for this purpose.
      • The national skills qualifications framework will be detailed further for each discipline vocation and profession.
      • The NEP aims to ensure that at-least 50% of learners in school and higher education should be exposed to vocational education by 2025.
    • Technology in education:
      • The National Education Technology Forum (NETF) will be setup to facilitate decision making on the induction, deployment and use of technology.
      • This Forum will provide evidence-based advice to central and state governments on technology-based interventions.
  • Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP):
    • This is a five-year vision plan to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education over the next five years (2019-2024).
    • It aims to
      • Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India.
      • Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities.
  • Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA):
    • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
    • It aims to improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
    • It has been set up in 2017 by the Central Government as a Non ­Profit, Non-Banking Financing Company (NBFC) for mobilising extra-budgetary resources for building crucial infrastructure in the higher educational institutions.
  • Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Higher Education (RISE) by 2022
    • RISE scheme was announced in Union Budget 2017-18.
    • It aims to lend low-cost funds to government higher educational institutions.
    • Under it, all centrally-funded institutes (CFIs), including central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs and IISERs can borrow from Rs.100000 Cr. corpus over next 4 years to expand and build new infrastructure.
    • It will be financed via restructured Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  • All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE):
    • The main objectives of the survey are to- identify & capture all the institutions of higher learning in the country; and collect the data from all the higher education institutions on various aspects of higher education.
  • The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)
    • It is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Education, Government of India, to rank institutions of higher education in India.
  • Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN)
    • It is aimed at tapping the talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs internationally to encourage their engagement with the institutes of Higher Education in India so as to augment the country's existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India's scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
  • UGC’s Learning Outcome-based Curriculum Framework (LOCF)
    • LOCF guidelines, issued by UGC in 2018, aims to specify what graduates are expected to know, understand and be able to do at the end of their programme of study. This is to make student active learner and teacher a good facilitator.
  • SWAYAM:
    • It is a MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) programme designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality.
    • The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged.
    • SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.
  • Skill Development Schemes
    • Skills Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) project
      • It is a World Bank assisted -Government of India program with the objective of improving the relevance and efficiency of skills training provided through ITIs and apprenticeships.
    • Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) Scheme
      • It is a World Bank loan assisted programme of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with three key result areas, namely
      • (i) Institutional Strengthening at Central,State, and District level
      • (ii) Quality Assurance of skill development programmes
      • (iii) Inclusion of marginalized population in skill development programmes.
  • VAJRA (Visiting Advanced Joint Research) Faculty scheme
    • It enables NRIs and overseas scientific community to participate and contribute to research and development in India.
    • Under this scheme, foreign researchers abroad of Indian origin or otherwise can collaborate with faculties in public funded Indian institutions
  • Institutions of Eminence scheme
    • To provide an enabling regulatory architecture to ten public and ten private Higher Educational institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions.

WAY FORWARD

  • Public Private Partnerships and responsible for-profit education institutions:
    • They must be considered while putting in place a robust regulatory framework in the country, to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised.
    • This can ensure a paradigm shift in the existing state of affairs whilst achieving much higher GER ratios.
  • Use of ICT:
    • Traditional teaching methods should be gradually replaced by ICT based systems, like in the form of smart classes.
    • This could facilitate a customised learning experience, utilising means such as advanced tablets, cloud technologies and new devices, ensuring easier scalability.
  • Distance and online education:
    • Broaden the scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to provide access to quality education beyond geographical boundaries.
    • Moreover the government needs to develop a regulatory mechanism to manage the credibility of online education providers.
    • Over 10 million students globally have enrolled in thousands of courses offered by just the top three to four providers of MOOCs (massive open online courses).
    • With the advent of innovative digital platforms, MOOCs can help address the lack of faculty in higher education.
  • Mobilization of alternative funds
    • Mobilization of alternative funds in state universities should be explored, through other means such as endowments, contributions from industry, alumni, etc.
  • Development of Private Universities:
    • The central government must work together with state governments to facilitate private entities in setting up higher education institutions, especially in the niche and futuristic areas of design, entrepreneurship, communication and innovation studies.
    • A push for private for-profit institutions can be made. This can help bridge the limitations faced by at present.
  • Employability and skill development:
    • Developing new and promoting existing institutional mechanisms to further align industry and academia will address the challenge of disconnect between skills and employability. Introducing ‘employability modules’ and ‘soft skills training’ should become mandatory in all educational institutions.
  • Capacity Development:
    • Industry should be encouraged to participate in curriculum framing, teaching and provision of internships and placements. Funds available through CSR should be used to create Centres of Excellence, Innovation Hubs as well as encouraging endowments for faculty positions, capacity development, and upkeeping of infrastructure.
  • Extracurricular activities:
    • Extracurricular activities stand out as major activities that play a positive role in the institution and enhance the academic mission of the institution.
    • These activities focus on the student’s healthy overall development and are an integral part of education.
  • Innovation universities:
    • The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill was earlier introduced to allow the central government to set up Universities for Research and Innovation through notifications. A much-needed revival of the Bill will enable private players to set up innovation universities.
  • Strengthening University-Industry Linkages (UIL):
    • There is an urgent need to transfer university knowledge to the market by making supportive policies, to further increase the UIL of India.
    • By bringing in measures to increase UIL, Industries will get innovators that would contend equally with their global competitors, whereas, innovators will get a platform to get recognized at an early stage of their life.
  • A robust rating system:
    • A robust rating system will give rise to healthy competition amongst universities and help improve their performance.
    • Hence, rating agencies, reputed industry associations, media houses and professional bodies should be encouraged to carry forward the process of rating of Indian universities and institutions.

ADD ONS:

  • Three ideal learning outcomes of higher education:
    • (1) To provide knowledge in the relevant discipline to the students.
    • (2) Since higher education students are on the verge of joining the workforce, it is expected that their education will also impart them with the skills needed for their jobs/enterprises.
    • (3) Students are expected to play a constructive role in shaping the society and the world at large using the values and ideals of a modern, progressive society; the teaching-learning process is expected to mould their character accordingly.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. ‘There is an urgent need to bridge the gulf between the university curriculum and actual job requirements’. In the light of this statements discuss the steps needed to overhaul higher education sector in India?