Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reforming higher education

Issues relating to entry of foreign universities in India.

See the full article in The Hindu of yesterday.

It is a fact that foreign universities play an important role in the Indian higher education scene. There are both pull and push factors operating on Indian students opting for foreign higher education:

  • Less seats in higher education, coupled with a fast growing student population act as the push factors.
  • As more and more students are going abroad every year, the me-too phenomenon and the important role played by the foreign returned students in the Indian scene, the social status they command on return etc., act as the pull factors.

Five most important issues facing higher education in India as identified by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD include: access and equity; relevance; quality and excellence; governance and management; and funding. The report identified some concerns regarding the foreign institutions:

  • Lack of a database of foreign educational institutions
  • Possible threat of foreign institutions adopting double standards
  • Prospect of entry of unqualified educational institutions

While many foreign institutions are clearly interested in knowing about India and entering India, ambiguity in the regulatory environment has discouraged their planning and open discussion.

As UGC and AICTE have made some regulations or draft regulations regarding governing foreign educational institutions, the HRD ministry has appointed a committee headed by Prof. C.N.R. Rao. Based on the recommendations made by this committee, a draft bill on private educational institutions is under consideration.

In this context the policy makers will do well to keep in mind that:

  1. There is a proliferation of many deemed universities in India. From around 15 in 1999, they now number around 105 in 2006. Are they really meeting all the criteria that are envisaged by the Parliamentary Committee?
  2. It is important that clear rules and regulations are drawn up and they are implemented in a transparent and quick manner.
  3. Academic autonomy, which made the foreign universities, especially the US based ones so successful, is to be ensured and preserved.
  4. Meeting all the five important issues identified is possible through a thorough process of accreditation of both the institutions and the professional programs.
  5. Limitation on tuition fees etc. can have an adverse affect on entry of some of the US institutions.
Note: This is contributed by Ms. Sumana of Hyderabad.

1 Comment:

Ramakrishna said...

Though most of the foreign universities that are operating in India are not of good quality, they carry a label which sells in the Indian market. This is a tricky problem, as imposing any ban or some such thing would run the risk of WTO violations. The two prime issues of ensuring quality and equity can be met only by assessing their performance and standing. – Amrik Singh: Ex Vice Chancellor of Punjab University.

Education sector is fundamentally different because students form an integral part of the system the quality of which affect them: they are ‘prosumers’ not consumers. Foreign institutions do not rush in to fulfill a social responsibility; they come with a profit motive. – Ajit Mohanty, Professor, JNU

Hence both the above experts call for proper regulation of the foreign universities or institutions that are proposing to enter India.