A game of numbers
Higher Education : A Sick Child
Architects of post-inde
pendent India appear to have
stressed more on higher education. The first significant step taken by the Government of India in the field of education was the constitution of the University Education Commission under the Chairmanship of Dr S Radhakrishnan within a year after independence. The first Prime Minister was of firm opinion that if the universities run well, all would be well with the Nation.
Number of universities in the country, funded mostly by government, increased from 20 in 1947 to 64 in 1966 and affiliated colleges from 500 to 2565. The numbers further increased to 150 and 5000 respectively during mid-eighties of the previous century—not a very spectacular success on any count.
A good number of institutions of higher learning, however, was working with reputation, much before independence was achieved. To them were added, a few more names that helped promotion of technological education in the country in a big way. These are the autonomous Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). These institutes of national importance, having at the same time the status of a university, were established, during its first phase, at Kharagpur, Mumbai, Madras, Kanpur and Delhi. Jawaharlal Nehru took similar initiative for providing world class Management education and the first Indian Institute of Management (MM) was established at Calcutta and the second at Ahmedabad, both in 1961. By the end of the century, IIMs increased by two more and IITs by another—at Guwahati(1994).
Another brainchild of Nehru towards spread of science and technology education was creation of a few engineering colleges, better than the average in quality, under joint responsibility of the State and the Centre. Between 1958 and 1965 fourteen such colleges—Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs)—were built at various parts of the country.
Investment in education, including higher education, was never made to the extent desirable though, it is in the National Policy of Education (1986) that one sees for the first time the Government of India suggesting reduction of subsidy to higher education and encouragement of private initiative.
New Economic Policy and Higher Education
The Education Commission (1964-66) reported surreptitious profiteering stratagem of a few private professional colleges in some of the states and strongly recommended that the practice of 'capitation fee' for the award of seats be stopped immediately.
In the Mohini Jain vs. State of Kamataka case (1992), the Supreme Court observed "Indian civilization recognizes education as one of the pious obligations of the human society. To establish and administer educational institutions is considered a religious and charitable object. Education in India has never been a commodity for sale." These are all stories of the past.
Following the advent of New Economic Policy world over, Indian government appeared to derive advantage of the opportunity, holding interest of the common people at bay.
The UGC-appointed Justice Punnayya Committee(1993) recommended, inter alia, raising the tuition and other fees to be collected from the students, in consonance with the rate of inflation. Madhavrao Scindia, the HRD minister of Narasimha Rao cabinet, presented the Private Universities (Establishment and Regulation) Bill, 1995 in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill sought to prescribe laws for establishment and regulation of self-financing private universities. The bill had to be eventually withdrawn in 2007. When the Private University Bill was in a state of hibernation, the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Advisory Council on Trade and Industry formed a two-member committee comprising Mukesh Ambani and Kumarmangalam Birla, to prepare a report on 'Policy Framework for Reforms in Education'. In their report, suggestion has been made for "new private universities in the fields of science and technology, management, economics, financial management and other critical areas with commercial applications". In the report, the government was further advocated to establish private universities and invite Foreign Direct Investment.
"Government should also progressively reduce the funding for universities and make them adopt the route of self-sufficiency. Concurrently, a credit market for private finance of cost of higher education should be developed.
A Private University Bill should be legislated to encourage establishment of new private universities in the fields of science and technology and management.
Existing centres of excellence should be encouraged to establish international centres to attract overseas students. Foreign direct investment in education should be allowed, to begin with, limited to science and technology and management areas."
The All India Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations (AIFUCTO) in their 21st biennial conference held at Lucknow in 2001 rejected the Ambani-Birla report on reforms in education. They strongly opposed the decisions of governments in favour of privatisation and commercialisation of education, in general, and higher education, in particular. They also took a dig at the proposition of the government to surrender before the "neo-imperialism" forces in the form of structural adjustment policy.
The Chhattisgarh government, however, gleefully promulgated the Chhattisgarh Private Sector Universities Act, 2002, permitting establishment of private universities for higher education.
Based on a petition from Prof Yashpal, the former UGC Chairman, the Supreme Court declared in 2005 the establishment of all 112 private universities (along with branches in other places in the country) under the Act, null and void. So poor was the infrastructure of most of the new private universities that they were, according to Yashpal, 'nothing but teaching shops, some of them even functioning in shopping complexes.' All UGC rules were violated with impunity.
With growing market demand, private operators jumped over establishing profitable professional institutions. Inadequate infrastructure, lack of qualified teachers and many other shortcomings posed no problem in getting nod from the respective regulatory authority—UGC, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), Bar Council of India (BCI), Indian Council of Agricultural Research and others. Thousands of sub-standard private engineering colleges, for example, established through nexus of profit-minded private investors, politicians and bureaucrats were approved by the AICTE. Almost all of the regulatory bodies—total being not less than 16—have the glory of such a dubious distinction!
The table below shows how the number of colleges conducting courses on Engineering, Management, Master in Computer Application, Pharmacy, Architecture and Hotel Management and Catering Technology increased over the last few years. Most of them operate under private management. Needless to say, the list is not exhaustive.
Further, There are a total of 355 MBBS teaching medical colleges, more than half of which are not run by government.
Committees, Commissions, Bills
Dr Manmohan Singh, after he assumed Prime Ministership during UPA-1, set up the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in June, 2005. Mr Sam Pitroda was appointed the Chairman of this 'high level advisory body to the Prime Minister of India'.
The NKC submitted , during 2006 to 2009, around 300 recommendations on various aspects of education at all levels to the Prime Minister 'to prepare a blueprint for reform of our knowledge related institutions and infrastructure which would enable India to meet the challenges of the future'.
Recommendations on higher education include increase of Gross Enrollment Ratio(GER) in higher education of relevant age-group (18-24 years) of boys and girls to 15% by 2015, establishment of 1500 universities and 500 National Universities, collection of a minimum of 20% of total expenses of an institution from tuition and other fees from students, encouragement of private and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode of investment, abolition of too many regulatory bodies with questionable integrity and establishment of Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE) etc.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Human Resource Development constituted in February, 2008, 'The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education' under the Chairmanship of Prof Yashpal.
What follows, is an abstract of their important advices :
l Universities and research bodies should work in close coordination
l IITs and IIMs should have humanities and other disciplines
l Full-fledged orientation programmes are necessary for newly recruited teachers in colleges and universities
l For all universities, a rich undergraduate programme should be mandatory
l State-run, private-run and public-private-partnership established institutes should run hand in hand
l Provision for Deemed University status should be put on hold for the present
l Entry of the best of foreign universities say, amongst the top 200 of the world, should be welcomed.
l No student should be turned away from an institution for want of funds for education
l A sense of academic and administrative autonomy should be inculcated, as its absence introduces a high degree of educational and social distortion
l Academic functions of all the regulatory bodies, should be subsumed under one apex body to be called The National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER).
Quite a few bills endeavouring to address various aspects of higher education, as suggested by the commissions, have been introduced. They include Fereign Educational Institutions Bill, Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill, National Accreditation Regulalory Bill, NCHER Bill, Higher Education and Research Bill, University for Research and Innovation Bill. According to the Bill last mentioned, The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, not only a registered society or a Trust, a private company is also entitled to establish a university! Debate over many of them is going on interminably over the years.
Higher education system of the country is one of the largest in the world. As on August 2011, India can boast of 611 universities and university-level institutions and 31,324 colleges. In the Economic Survey 2011-12, it was claimed that a "large-scale expansion in university education has been initiated during the Eleventh Five Year Plan by setting up new educational institutions comprising 30 central universities, 8 new IITs, 8 new IIMs, 10 new National Institutes of Technology (NITs), 20 new Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), 3 new Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research(IISER), 2 new Schools of Planning and Architecture(SPAs), 374 model colleges, and 1000 polytechnics."
Distribution is not even at all. Tamil Nadu is the state with maximum number of universities as also deemed universities—55 and 29 respectively while Andhra Pradesh has the most state universities (32), Rajasthan, the most private universities (25), Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the most central universities, four each.
Besides the universities listed, there are, as has been delineated earlier, other academic centres of national importance with degree awarding authority. Total number of IITs are now 16 and IIMs 13. Since 2003, all RECs were upgraded to National Institute of Technology (NIT). With a tag of Institute of National Importance, each is being exclusively funded by the central government.
With an objective of offering quality education and research facilities, five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (USER) have been established at Pune, Kolkata, Bhopal, Mohali and Thiruvananthapuram. National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) has been set up at Bhubaneswar for the same purpose. They have all started functioning as autonomous institutes though many from temporary locations with inadequate arrangements.
Prof C N R Rao, the scientific adviser to the Prime Minister was unhappy to learn that six IITs were to be established in 2008. The renowned scientist reportedly expressed his dissatisfaction, saying—"Opening so many IITs in one year is a disaster. I had no idea that so many IITs have already come up in our country. ...This is not a play. To open IITs, you need proper planning. There are makeshift campuses and some are even attending classes in old IITs."
Many of the old renowned IITs also could not holdout their earlier positions of excellence. If this be the situation with the world class institutes, how well the new profit-centric undergraduate colleges and government-funded uncared for institutes are being run—is anybody's guess.
The arena of higher education is gradually receding away from the under-privileged section of the society. And that makes the country's GER so poor even compared to Asian countries. Indian planners are hopeful of achieving a 25% GER target for tertiary education by 2016-17.
In a conference of Vice Chancellors organized by the UGC in October, 2007, the then HRD minister Arjun Singh (now deceased) lamented that higher education was a sick child of education. Prime Minister also expressed anguish and disappointment in his address at the 150th Anniversary Function of the University of Mumbai (2007) :
"Our university system is, in many parts, in a state of disrepair... In almost half the districts in the country, higher education enrollments are abysmally low, almost two-third of our universities and 90 per cent of our colleges are rated as below average on quality parameters... I am concerned that in many states university appointments, including that of vice-chancellors, have been politicised and have become subject to caste and communal considerations, there are complaints of favouritism and corruption'.
An humble question may however be asked to India's Prime Minister, a first grade scholar. What has been done all these years to remedy politicisation, favouritism, corruption and other deep rooted vices? Surely it is not through the neo-liberal agenda that the "sick child" may come round and the people can "confidently face the challenge of the 21st century".
Growth of AICTE approved Technical Institutions
Year Engg Mgmt MCA Phar Arch HMCT Total
2006-07 1511 1132 1003 665 116 64 4491
2007-08 1668 1149 1017 854 116 81 4885
2008-09 2388 1523 1095 1021 116 87 6230
2009-10 2972 1940 1169 1081 106 93 7361
2010-11 3222 2262 1198 1114 108 100 8004
2011-12 3393 2385 1228 1137 116 102 8361
Source: AICTE Approval Process Handbook (2012-13)
As of June 2012, the total number of universities in India is 567 as shown in the table below.
Universities in India by State and type
State Central State Deemed Private Total
universities universities universities universities
Andhra Pradesh 3 32 7 0 42
Arunachal Pradesh 1 0 1 0 2
Assam 2 4 0 2 8
Bihar 1 14 2 0 17
Chandigarh 0 1 1 0 2
Chhattisgarh 1 10 0 4 15
Delhi 4 5 11 0 20
Goa 0 1 0 0 1
Gujarat 1 18 2 11 32
Haryana 1 10 5 6 22
Himachal Pradesh 1 4 0 12 17
Jammu and Kashmir 1 6 0 0 7
Jharkhand 1 7 2 1 11
Karnataka 1 22 15 2 40
Kerala 1 11 2 0 14
Madhya Pradesh 2 15 5 7 27
Maharashtra 1 19 21 0 41
Manipur 2 0 0 0 2
Meghalava 1 0 0 8 9
Mizoram 1 0 0 1 2
Nagaland 1 0 0 2 3
Orissa 1 12 2 1 16
Pondicherry 1 0 1 0 2
Punjab 1 7 2 3 13
Raiasthan 1 14 8 25 48
Sikkim 1 0 0 4 5
Tamil Nadu 2 24 29 0 55
Tripura 1 0 0 1 2
Uttar Pradesh 4 23 10 16 53
Uttarakhand 1 6 4 6 17
West Bengal 1 20 1 0 22
41 285 129 112 567
Source: List of Universities in India; en.wikipedia.org
Vol. 45, No. 14 - 17, Oct 14 - Nov 10 2012
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