Indian Higher Education Reforms, A closer look

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    Indian higher education system is in a very bad shape. Only 7% graduates passing out every year are employable. Only two universities are in the world's top 200 list. Modi's HRD ministries performance till date is abysmal.

    I would like to list some initiative which are in right direction to reform the system.
    • Scrap or reform central regulators (AICTE,UGC,MCI)
    • 20 World class universities with full autonomy and enough funding.
    • Give full autonomy to based on university ranking.
    • Encourage a culture of R&D and fund institutions to make world class R&D facilities
    • Open gates for foreign universities to india
    • Cut engineering seats significantly and focus on quality.
    • Encourage universities to go multidisciplinary
    Sources:
    1. PMO advises HRD ministry to give full autonomy to 20 'world-class' educational institutions
    2. AICTE to cut number of engineering college seats by 600,000
    3. Allow foreign university campuses, says Niti Aayog
    4. Niti Aayog proposes IITs, NITs and AIIMS to be made institutions of world-class excellence
    5. Govt wants IITs, IIMs to go multidisciplinary for world-class institutions tag
     
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    Higher education has collapsed in India, we just don’t know it yet

    The failure of Indian education system is stark when seen in light of the fact that thousands of students every year go abroad for college education. European universities and even the European governments seem to have a more definite plan for Indian students than India. A graduate degree in India is mostly a farce in most of the colleges. There is hardly any education imparted and it is seen as more a stepping stone for a masters or a necessity to do something else. Students file into colleges spend their time in everything but education. Courses are outdated, faculty is inept, illiterate to the changes around them.

    A recent experience in Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University really brought all these issues upfront. The outreach cell of the university organised a seminar on globalisation. It roped in a public sector company as a sponsor, tied up with a one man think tank from Chandigarh. Invited to speak I was piqued as it seemed like a interesting effort. It seems only the invitation was genuine. Neither the university nor the organisers were actually interested in seminar. All that they were interested in was getting to know a minister. The obsession of the academia in Delhi with politicians is not new. Most faculty appointments are at behest of the politicians. Huge physical infrastructure but very poor soft infrastructure is not just true of public universities like Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha but it is even worse in private universities.

    The highway from Delhi to Roorkee, is dotted with shells of buildings posing as private universities. Actually on any national highway anywhere if you see a glass or fancy building with nothing around it will be a private university. Everything is new and shiny, designed to grab a student’s attention. Large rooms are labelled labs with hardly any equipment inside, huge campus with skeletal staff and even less faculty.

    As of 2014, there are 677 universities, 37,204 colleges and 11,443 stand-alone institutions in India, as per the statistics from the website of India's HRD ministry. There is no dearth of institutions willing to give a degree for money, education or skills is not the concern. Higher education is in rot at all levels, the irony is that these numbers are touted as an indication of the prowess of our education system. Not a sign that this rapid mushrooming has created an edifice that is destroying an aspirational class. There is very little debate and discussion on the fact that our higher education system has completely collapsed.

    A study done by a private body says that approximately 18.43 percent of engineering graduates are employable, which means 80 percent of them are unemployable. The situation is worse for plain graduates and that is where the real malaise lies. Employers say just 5 percent of the graduates in other disciplines are actually employable. What these figures mean is that in sum higher education or college education has collapsed. Do we see any concern around this collapse. NO.

    The IITs, AIIMs, IIMs are cited as examples of success, not because they have great faculty but because of the students. How many faculty members from our so called Institutes of National Importance have done anything worthy. A committee under Anil Kakodkar was formed in 2011 to revamp the 30 NITs, the second rung of the IITs, and not the 37,204 colleges or the 11,304 institutions. The rationale according to the preamble to this committee says that these 30 NITs can aid in ‘nation building’. So what will the lakhs of students in thousands of colleges doing? If they are not involved in aiding the nation building exercise than we have a much bigger problem on hand.

    Kakodkar’s report is a bundle of homilies, generalities and advice from geriatrics. It was submitted in 2014 to the then Education Minister Smriti Irani. Here is a sample of Kakodkar committee’s recommendation: “ICT for the NITs acts like a force multiplier. NITs must deploy and upgrade the IT infrastructure and associated facilities. Each institute must facilitate extensive use of computer-aided / on-line teaching, virtual labs, e-learning resources, connectivity with National Knowledge Network, etc". This is a recommendation in 2014, in the world of MOOCs, Coursera, and availability of free lectures from MIT or any other university of repute. In a world of mobile internet, ubiquitous internet access. Its recommending National knowledge network !! will a student go there or see and hear the latest lecture from a noble laureate. Even the term ICT referring to Information computer technology harks back to the 60’s when some of the committee members actually did their education.

    This is the saddest and the most ironical part of higher education the system is ossified because of its sheer reliance on age, hierarchy or seniority. While the world that their students live and learn in has changed. Higher education will not be revived or pulled out from depths of his failure by people who do not have a stake in its future. A retired nuclear scientist more a bureaucrat should not be recommending anything about the future of anything let along higher education. Bureaucrats should be kept far away when it comes to reinventing.

    While we struggle with higher education, Europe seems to be eyeing the conscientious Indian student. More and more students are now travelling abroad for education. Earlier cost used to be big barrier for a foreign education. But as our higher education system is collapsing other countries are seeing it as an opportunity. German chancellor Angela Merkel has approved a six year plan to attract Indian students to Germany. Under fire for her liberal immigrant policy she is pushing German universities to attract Indian students waiving off tuition fees for them. Daria Kulemetyeva, of Germany’s largest public university, Georg-August-Universtat Gottingen, says, Indian students will have to pay just the administrative fees of 300 euros per year if they are selected in a course. The travel and accommodation costs are separate. The rationale, according to Kulemetyeva is to seek diversity in the student population.

    It is not just German universities, almost every country in Europe and its public universities are keen to attract Indian student. Universities from Sweden, Norway, Spain, and France have been working very hard for the last few years to attract Indian students. They have adapted their courses in English offering free language lessons for immigrant students, etc. A combination of ageing population and fall in interest in higher education among the current generation is forcing these universities to India. British universities have always found India a fertile ground for students.

    John Sanders of University of Sussex, says the lack of standards in Indian higher education means that our Indian student population has always been growing year on year. Harish Lokhun of University of Edinburgh says, now Indian students go for even liberal arts and humanities whereas earlier they were only interested in engineering and the likes. Even the oldest university in Europe, Sweden’s Uppasala University is looking for Indian students, and for a reason. Lina Solander, of Uppasala University, “When we are looking at health problems, Indian students would have a much more different view of health policy than a local Swedish student.”

    Spain has formed a consortium of four universities to target Indian students. Matilde Delgado Chauton represents Universidad Autnoma De Madrid, one of the leading university which is part of
    the consortium. She says, that the gaps in higher education in India means that only a small number of students gets access to quality, we are looking at bridging those gaps by offering a quality education with a European exposure. Spain is also looking at funding Indian students. Indian students have traditionally looked at just US universities for graduation, now they have more avenues opening up.

    If India does not look at the collapse of its higher education closely not only will we be leading to a new brain drain but a collapse of aspirations. This is especially of concern to the new government that has come to power on the rise of this aspirational class.

    The writer is a digital strategist and policy commentator based in Delhi, he tweets @yatishrajawat
     
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    A Sad Tale of Higher Education Reform in India

    Early in April, this year, the University Grants Commission (UGC)—the primary institution responsible for allocation of grants related to and maintenance of standards of higher education in India—came up with a proposal to introduce a Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) in Indian universities that has generated intense controversy. While university administrations have generally been in favor of the proposal—with 18 central universities adopting it soon after the UGC announcement—teachers and students have been much more critical. Joint protests by students and teachers, and even fisticuffs between left and right wing student organizations, have been reported from Delhi University in the national capital of the country.

    The proposal to introduce a CBCS follows the UGC’s attempts, over the past few years, to move higher educational institutes in the country from an annual to a semester-based system. This move has often been opposed by teachers and students. Now, the CBCS consolidates the semester-based system and adds to it a proposal for uniform syllabi and evaluation systems across universities.

    What is the reason for the CBCS? According to the UGC, diversity of evaluation systems followed by different universities has hurt students because of lack of “acceptance of their credentials” across the university system and employment agencies. The CSBS is being visualized as the way to solve this problem by ensuring “seamless mobility of students across the higher education institutions in the country and abroad,” and also across “employment agencies.”

    In a detailed and thoughtful article published in the Economic and Political Weekly, a group of teachers from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have questioned the whole framework underlying the UGC proposal. They have pointed out, correctly in our opinion, that one of the main problems facing higher education in contemporary India is a severe problem of excess demand—there are too many aspirants and too few places, especially in better institutions. Thus, the major reason behind students not being able to move is the extreme selectivity arising from the gross mismatch of demand and supply. It has very little to do with incompatibility of courses or evaluation methods across institutions. It stands to reason then that the CSBS will not address the main problem it is supposedly meant to address.

    Even as the CSBS proposal does not and possibly cannot “solve” the problem that the UGC suggests has called it forth, it might have other, intended or unintended, implications that are worth considering.

    Cafeteria and Its Customers

    One of the UGC notifications to introduce the CSBS proposal used a metaphor that is pregnant with meaning. For the UGC, the CSBS system provides a “cafeteria”-type approach, where students can take courses of their “choice” and learn at their own pace.

    Probably this imagination of educational institutions as shops and students as consumers is not a matter of coincidence. The CBCS may be a mechanism to promote private monopoly capital in the higher education sector in India. Why?

    The Indian higher education sector is large, rapidly expanding and somewhat unwieldy: at present, there are 45 central universities, 321 state universities, 129 deemed universities, and 187 private universities. One of the ways to facilitate the entry and consolidation of private capital is to standardize the sector. Too many segregated small markets is not helpful for the growth of large commercial ventures. A single big playing field promises economies of scale and higher profitability, encouraging the concentration and centralization of capital.

    Moreover, as the logic of the market takes hold in the educational sector, matters of affordability and access by the poor will gradually recede into the background. A natural corollary of a cafeteria approach to higher education will be to encourage a system that caters to those, and only those, who can pay. The poor will be priced out.

    CCSS in the U.S. and CBCS in India

    Developments in the primary and secondary education sector in the United States offer interesting parallels and lessons. Since 2008, there has been a concerted effort to push U.S. states to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of prescriptive curricula and standardized tests. Those who are aware of the history of educational policies in the U.S. point out that the CCSS arose from the wreckage of previous, federally mandated standards and testing experiments: the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) of the Bush administration and the Race to the Top (RT) of the Obama administration. While advocates claim that the CCSS will improve the quality of schooling and reduce the inequality of educational attainment in the U.S., critics see it as part of a longer term strategy—of which NCLB and RT were parts—to undermine public education and create avenues for profit making.

    To move from the CCSS (U.S.) to the CBCS (India), it is important to emphasize the difference between curricula and syllabi—a difference that the UGC seems to have implicitly ignored. A curriculum is prescriptive in nature, often nothing more than a broad set of principles. A syllabus is more concrete and narrow, providing details of readings, textbooks, examinations, and other related issues. One way to emphasize this difference is to note that the same curriculum can be expressed through different syllabi.

    The CCSS in the U.S. relates to the adoption of common curricula, but the CBCS in India is about the adoption of common syllabi. The former allows for much more leeway for individual institutions than the latter. Thus, if even the CCSS in the U.S. is utilized by the private sector to carve out spaces for profit making—as the developments in the publishing, software, and testing industries in the U.S. suggest—the CBCS might be so much more helpful for analogous sectors of private capital in India.

    Is there a “Make In India” connection?

    The UGC’s proposal for CBCS also finds interesting resonances in this year’s Economic Survey. In chapter 7, the Economic Survey offers an interesting and well informed analysis of structural change and economic growth in India. A review of cross-country and India’s own aggregate and state-level post-independence trends suggests that India is already witnessing premature de-industrialization. This means that the industrial sector in India is shrinking, even though the country is at a very low level of per capita income. Thus, effecting structural transformation and ensuring stable long run growth through low skill industrialization seems unlikely, if not impossible. The way ahead, according to the Economic Survey, runs through rapid growth of skilled manufacturing and services. And that requires the creation of a large and growing pool of skilled labor. Enter UGC’s proposals for CBCS.

    When the need of the hour is to generate a trained workforce to fire up skill intensive manufacturing and services, the process of training needs to be controlled, coordinated, modulated. Standardization and centralization could be the preliminary steps in that direction. It will make sure that the output from the education sector dovetails with the needs of the growing market economy. While private capital will certainly be given more freedom to operate in the education sector, it doesn’t hurt if government universities, adequately tamed, are pressed to the service as well.

    In the drive to tether the education sector to private capital and the “Make in India” campaign, we risk making two serious mistakes. We narrow the role of education from encouraging the development of well-rounded individuals to training for marketable skills; and we undermine a founding principle of the provision of education: while education is a right and the State is obliged to provide it, the State must respect the autonomy and independence of educational institutions. This is especially true at a time when the moves of the State are suspiciously compatible with the interests of the privileged.

    Deepankar Basu teaches in the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Debarshi Das teaches in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati.
     
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    The making and unmaking of UGC

    Since its inception in 1956, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has been witness to a spectacular growth in higher education. The number of universities has multiplied 40 times over, and student enrolment has increased a hundred fold. But the UGC has also been a silent spectator to the languishing quality of education in many of these institutions.

    In this context, the T.S.R. Subramanian committee’s recommendation in the National Education Policy, that the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse and replaced by a new National Higher Education Act, brings up an important question—has the UGC failed to evolve according to the changing dynamics of higher education, and fallen short of achieving its original mandate?

    The UGC is the central body for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university education in India. Though it can’t be blamed for all the problems with the higher education system, its decisions have an important bearing on the entire student population of the country. Therefore, when policies made by the UGC to keep pace with the changing dynamics of higher education are ill-considered, as well as lacking in research and consultation with stakeholders, there is reason to worry. The recent increase in teaching hours of the faculty and its subsequent cancellation, the implementation of the choice-based credit semester system in Delhi University, and the decision to discontinue UGC non-NET scholarship for MPhil and PhD students and its abandonment after protests, are all cases in point.

    The three primary functions of UGC include overseeing distribution of grants to universities and colleges in India; providing scholarships/fellowships to beneficiaries; and monitoring conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges. It is in the context of these functions that one must examine the UGC while debating its relevance.

    Today, instances of delay in fellowships, especially the ones under other ministries such as minority affairs, social justice, and tribal affairs, have become a regular affair, placing underprivileged research scholars in a fix. The fresh efforts to use direct benefit transfers for fellowships and bring institutions under the public finance monitoring system are a relief, but the policy still has to cover a lot of ground.

    The problem is that an understaffed UGC, while disbursing grants and fellowships, fails its more important function—ensuring quality standards. According to QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings released last month, India ranks 24th in higher education system strength out of the 50 countries evaluated. Interestingly, along with countries such as the US, the UK and Germany, the traditional leaders in higher education, Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Japan have also figured in the top 10. It might be worthwhile for UGC to explore how quality standards are maintained elsewhere to accomplish the same in India.

    Its policies suffer from two diametrically opposite issues—under-regulation and over-regulation. While it lets smaller substandard institutions slip by as deemed universities, it also instigates witch-hunts against reputed deemed universities.

    Last year, it wrote to 10 institutions asking them to shut down their off-campus centres for violating rules. BITS Pilani got a court stay order for the same—the rule specifications had been notified after the construction of the campus in question. As a saving grace, the new rules for deemed universities lifts the bar on the number of off-campus centres, and stipulates that the UGC and human resource development ministry approve applications for deemed universities within seven months—as opposed to the normal time lag of 6-7 years.

    It is doubtful if scrapping UGC or any institution is the remedy needed for India’s higher education system. The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011, introduced in the UPA regime, was discarded for non-consultation with states, violation of institutional autonomy and so forth. Unless a foolproof system is made addressing these issues, the new proposal would be akin to renaming a scheme or creating a new institution on the ruins of an old one to earn the government extra brownie points for the next elections.

    To begin with, the UGC should resolve its many problems with respect to placements—nepotism at the top of the ladder and understaffing at the lower rungs. It could then work its way to reinventing itself in line with the T.S.R. Subramanian committee recommendation—retaining a leaner and thinner version of the commission as a nodal organization and creating a separate mechanism for disbursement of fellowships. Perhaps, this will enable it to focus on the more relevant issue of quality education.

    http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/e14HCY9YVd87gtpVAf0xGP/The-making-and-unmaking-of-UGC.html
     
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    Demystifying Higher Education in India

    This is a story about the Indian Higher Education system. Alright, maybe story isn’t the right word. This is a saga. And like all good sagas, it will have heroes and villains, ups and downs, and most of all, it will take a really long time to get to the end. Or maybe there’s no end. It’s one of those stories. Our goal is pretty ambitious – we want to dive into the complex, beating heart of college education in this country and come out with a coherent map of that territory.

    Why is that going to be hard? India’s university system as it exists today started in 1857 with three essentially British creations – the Universities of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay. But now in 2015, there are more than 700 universities and 35,000 colleges catering to more than 30 million students spread across every state and union territory. And the regulations governing the formation, financing and functioning of these organizations are murkier than you would believe. For example, private universities (not deemed universities) in India can only be setup by legislative enactments in the state assembly. This scenario, of requiring political action for the formation of a private educational institution, has resulted in some bizarre situations. In 2005, the Supreme Court struck down a law in the state of Chhattisgarh that recognized 112 private universities in one year. 30,000 students were affected, according toFrontline.

    Whoever you are, you’re a stakeholder in the education system. As a student, as a parent, as a future parent, as a citizen – this is the system that makes your doctors, your lawyers and your politicians. Well, maybe not your politicians but you get the point. The stunning lack of information about a sector that plays such a vital role in the broader story of this country’s development and transformation (which is what the Urban History Project is eager to document) seems almost criminal. So despite the desire for reform being almost universal, conversations about policy among the majority of the country are almost impossible to get off the ground. We need some facts. Or at the very least some stats! Government funding, research outputs, enrolment ratios, employment percentages and private finances – there’s a lot to know about these things and I’ll be working with the team at UHP to wrestle with all of it.

    What’s our strategy? We will be working to collect, interpret and visualise public data. But public data won’t be enough and we’ll be looking to crowdsource new information, especially about the private sector. We’ll also be looking to collaborate with experts to give us in-depth answers to the questions that arise. As a matter of principle, we’ll be biting off more than we can chew and we won’t be able to succeed without the help of the larger community.

    A brief introduction

    The phrase ‘Knowledge is Power’ might have originated with in the 16th century with Francis Bacon or Thomas Hobbes but as a political strategy, it’s as old as time. Religious societies institutionalized the boundaries around literacy, leveraging their inaccessibility for the governance of society. When the King James Bible was being translated, the great debate centred on whether people deserved, or rather could be trusted with, the power to read the Bible without the priestly class as intermediaries. In India, Sunil Khilnani in his book The Idea of India talks about the ancient Brahmin developing a monopoly on literacy and thereby creating a power that was insulated from the political upheavals of the time. Formal education as we know it grew out of traditional systems of religious instruction. In Europe, the current university system evolved out of the monastic system of learning – universities were cathedrals of education in more ways than one.

    And then, as with every aspect of public life, the state usurped the role of religion. Education began to be seen as a public good – a vital responsibility of the state towards its citizenry. And then as free market capitalism becomes the dominant ideology, private education began to be seen as the solution to a supply-demand problem that was not going away. You can watch Ken Robinson tell you in his TED talk that ‘in the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history’.

    As per the Indian government’s stated aims for higher education enrolment, India will need to add 14 million seats in the period 2014-2020. The trend is quite clear that this demand will primarily be met by the private sector. This isn’t necessarily true across the world though. Germany, Ireland, Scotland and the Scandinavian countries offer various degrees of free higher education to their residents. England moved in the other direction – raising the cap on tuition and allowing universities to charge variable fees. The United States, which takes more than 180,000 Indian studentsevery year, has one of the largest education industries in the world with valuations going up to $400 billion. While they are home to the some of the expensive universities in the world, they also have a robust public education system – enshrining that particularly American right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

    Without idealizing America in any way, let me state that I’ve always been fond of that phrase, even before Will Smith came out with his tribute to bad spelling. Education has always been a tool for betterment – a key to unlock doors and achieve aspirations. India is still at a stage where a large percentage of graduates are first-generation college-goers. There are a raft of fake colleges and fake universities lying in wait. Or real universities with fake facilities. An ICRIER Working Paper on Higher Education states that ‘the average enrolment in a higher education institution in India is only about 500-600 students while a higher education institution in the United States and Europe would have 3000-4000 students and in China this would be about 8,000-9,000 students’. What does such a low average enrolment mean? Does it mean that this is a fractured system that doesn’t economize on infrastructure or a decentralized system that boosts accessibility? Honestly, I don’t know.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the inexorable flow of history. In 1835, Lord Macaulay decisively stated in his Minute on Education that despite having “no knowledge of either Sanscrit (sic) or Arabic… a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”. With that unshakeable belief in his own ignorance, he effectively introduced English as the medium for instruction. (He then went on to draft the Indian Penal Code.) In 1854, Charles Wood, the President of the East India Company, wrote to Lord Dalhousie, the Viceroy-General, making sweeping proposals for the education sector in India. Directly out of that, the Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were formed in 1857 based on the London University model.

    And on that note, let me introduce you to the central part of this post. The following interactive map visualizes the entire history of the Indian university system on a timeline from 1850 to the current day. You can learn about our methodologies and the limitations of the information at the end of the post. But for now please feel free to play with it as much as you want. I’ve listed out some basic observations later on in the post but I’m very interested to hear about what you see looking at the map. You can find a button on the top right that toggle the heatmap so you can see clustering. There’s a filter on the bottom right that allows you to filter out certain types of universities or see only one particular type. Or if you’re too lazy, you could just hit the ‘Play’ button and sit back.

    What we talk about when we talk about India’s higher Education

    Here is some necessary context on the bureaucratic structure that governs higher education. At the very summit of the system, lies the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The MHRD is divided into two departments – Primary & Secondary Education and Higher Education. The functions of the Department of Higher Education are executed through a number of different autonomous bodies such as the UGC, CABE, AICTE and so on.

    The University Grants Commission is a yet another victim of poor naming convention. While it is the body responsible for the dispersal of government funding, it is also the apex regulatory body of the entire university system. The UGC system consists of universities empowered to award degrees and colleges that cannot provide degrees in their own name and must be affiliated to a university.

    There are four types of universities.

    1. Central: Public universities formed by passing a Central act.
    2. State: Public universities formed by passing a State act.
    3. Private: Universities established through a state or central act by a sponsoring body which can be a registered Society, Trust or Non-profit Company. Unlike public universities, they do not have the powers to affiliate colleges but they do have license to set their own criteria for admission, syllabus, etc.
    4. Deemed: The UGC website defines a Deemed University as “a high-performing institution, which has been so declared by Central Government under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, 1956”. They can be either public or privately-funded. An example of a public deemed university is the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and an example of a private deemed university is Manipal University near Mangalore.
    There are other categories of institutions outside or only partially within the ambit of the UGC. These include Institutions of National Importance (IITs, NITs, AIIMS, etc.) and Premier Institutes of Management (IIMs) which come under the direct control of the MHRD as well as Polytechnics, Teacher Training Institutes under NCTE and Nursing Institutes under INC. I’ll be making a separate post about these organizations.

    The quality assurance and governance councils were established for accrediting the institutions in their field and for formulating standards. The largest such council is AICTE whose approval is needed for starting technical departments, offering new technical courses or increasing intake in those courses.

    The research councils were established to promote research and aid in policy formation in their particular areas.

    [​IMG]
    Flowchart of the higher education bureaucracy.

    Observations

    As per the UGC information, there are currently 46 Central Universities, 330 State Universities, 207 Private Universities and 128 Deemed Universities.


    State universities seems to be growing quite consistently through the whole timeline. Deemed Universities begin to be really pick up around 2000 and and peak in 2008. This is possibly a result of incomplete data. Please refer to the Limitation section. Deemed Universities have been plagued with controversy ever since the status began to be given out to various private players. In 2009, the Tandon Committee recommended 44 be blacklisted but in 2014, this decision was reversed by the UGC. But the sharpest rise is clearly private universities and we can get a better look at it with the next graph.


    Here, the rapid growth of private universities is even more clear. From 2008, more than 15 universities were created every year with more than 30 universities started in 2013. To analyze whether these universities are clustered around particular cities or areas, we generated a heat map.

    [​IMG]
    Heatmap of Indian universities.

    The area around Delhi and then further north around Chandigarh are by a clear margin the largest education hubs in the country. The closest competitor seems to be a possible emerging hub on the highway linking Chennai to Bangalore. The next class of clusters all seem to be capitals of the various states like Lucknow, Patna, Guwahati , Kolkata and Bhuvaneshwar. Looking at south Madhya Pradesh or south Chhattisgarh and Orissa, you see the large white spaces. These areas look even emptier than the traditionally neglected North Eastern states.

    [​IMG]
    Maps of universities in the northeast region.

    The North East has typically been ignored in the larger story of India’s development for various reasons. This university data seems to bear that out. Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh don’t possess any universities in 1980 and by 2000, they each have exactly one. In fact, over 20 years only 5 universities are formed in the region.

    Looking at the 2015 chart, you notice that other than Assam, no other state has setup State universities.

    Arunachal Pradesh has a number of private universities that have been setup over the last decade but again they’re the exception.

    [​IMG]
    Private v. deemed: Dual strategies of north v. south.

    This chart throws up a really interesting question that I don’t have an answer to yet. What is it about Private universities that make them so popular in the north and yet completely unviable in the south (except for Bangalore)? What about deemed universities makes them so clear a strategy for southern states? I’m sure there’s a story here.

    [​IMG]
    1958 v. 2008: The changing intent of deemed universities?

    The first two deemed universities formed in India were IISc in Bangalore and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi, both in 1958. The intent of the government in deeming these research institutions seems quite clear. It fits well with the contents of Section 3 – the enabling of high-performing institutions to award post-graduate degrees in their area of specialization. Is that the same intent that is being manifested in 2008 when 25 institutions are upgraded in the same year? The Tandon Committee review that I mentioned earlier highlights how far the interpretation of that section has come.

    Methodology and limitations

    The lists of universities with their addresses and dates of establishment have been taken from the UGC website. The list of Central Universities is as on May 20, 2015; Private Universities, April 23, 2015; State Universities, March 31, 2015. The list of Deemed Universities is dated June 23, 2008, but contains institutions formed in 2012. We have the same count as The All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE)’s Provisional Report for 2012-13 so it seems likely that our information isn’t as outdated as the UGC website might make it seem. Also these lists display the universities recognized as on those dates, so our data does not reflect those institutions that were recognized and then subsequently derecognized of which I’m sure there are a few.

    Our real challenge was attributing a geographic marker to each university. To do this, we extracted the pin code from the addresses and generated a rough lat-long value. A number of universities didn’t have pin codes in their listed addresses so we had to manually capture it from their respective websites. There were certain universities whose websites didn’t even display a pin code and for those we just grabbed the lat-long off Google Maps. So these lat-long values come with a big disclaimer – they are not accurate by tens of kilometres and are only useful for the sort of cluster mapping that we’ve done.

    One of the possibilities that we could not fully guard against was that, in the case of universities with head offices in cities and campuses outside city limits, we had captured the head office’s pin code and thus biased the map towards urban centres.

    With regard to the chronological information, the date displayed for private and deemed universities are dates of notification of that status by the government. The dates displayed for central and state universities are the years of establishment. A few central universities only attained that status after 2000 even though they had been operating as state universities for decades. These points have been displayed as central from their initial date of establishment.

    http://thewire.in/5792/demystifying-higher-education-in-india-part-one/
     
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    So Who Decides What an Institute of National Importance is?


    Despite the budgets they command, the faculties they boast and attention they get from the Centre, India’s so-called Institutes of National Importance aren’t well defined

    [​IMG]
    IIM Ahmedabad. Credit: k_krishnan/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

    Last fortnight, I stated that I’d be writing further about certain institutions that seemed to operate outside the ambit of the UGC called ‘Institutes of National Importance’. You can see that the full list of these special institutions contains some of the premier academic bodies in India. This short post adds data about them to the main map and introduces you to the major subdivisions of the list. To see just the new data added, use the filters and skip to the 1920s.

    Definitions

    One of the things I wanted to do for this post was to find the definition of an ‘Institute of National Importance’. It was easy enough to locate – an institute ‘which serves as a pivotal player in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the country/state’. But the source for these words remain elusive. When quoted, they are usually preceded by the phrase ‘as per the UGC/AICTE/MHRD’.

    But these bodies aren’t people. They can’t speak except through legal statements. I hunted for the act or notification or circular that acted as the primary source of the term but I haven’t been successful. The first reference to the phrase that I found was in the founding document of IIT-Kharagpur, the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act, 1956 which was repealed with the passing of the Indian Institutes of Technology Act, 1961. In both the acts, the term is referenced without being defined implying that it has been previously defined somewhere else. I’ll keep looking but this post will have to do without a definition.

    Looking at the list, one organisation stands out for being the only non-technical institution. The Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha in Chennai which was formed by Mahatma Gandhi to facilitate the spread of Hindi among the non-Hindi speakers of south India. I can say from shouting out the name at my office that this organisation is well-known, primarily for conducting certification courses in Hindi. Without putting down their good work in homogenising the country, I have to say they do look out of place in a list of ‘pivotal players’ developing ‘highly skilled personnel’.

    There are 4 major subdivisions within the list of INIs:

    • Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)
    • National Institutes of Technology (NITs)
    • All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)
    • Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT)
    Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT)

    There are currently 16 IITs in India. The first 5 were built between 1951 and 1963. Then, in the next 44 years, only 2 were added – one in Guwahati and one in Roorkee. Then in 2008, 7 were launched at the same time with another 2 added in 2009. (2008 was generally a huge year for higher education with 80 universities being founded.)

    The first IIT was built in Kharagpur, the brainchild of several members of the Bengali intelligentsia who saw the need for a premier technical education institution. Before the report of the panel constituted to explore the issue could be finalised, Nehru was convinced and with the offer of Hijli Jail in Kharagpur as a ready-made location, he pushed through a special act to form the first IIT. For the second IIT, to counteract the Bengali hegemony, Bombay was proposed and was built with Russian support. The Cold War equation meant that the US was more than willing to support the third IIT in Kanpur. The fourth IIT was built with German support in erstwhile Madras and then since Kanpur was technically in the central region, Delhi got an IIT, thus covering all five geographic zones in India.

    [​IMG]
    INIs formed in 2008.

    Interestingly enough, Wikipedia (you might have heard of it) has a citation-free paragraph about the formations of IIT Guwahati and IIT Roorkee. IIT-Guwahati was formed after student protests in Assam wrung a promise out of Rajiv Gandhi who didn’t expect a 1500 crore bill. IIT-Roorkee seems to have been formed apropos nothing except Murli Manohar Joshi’s (Union Cabinet Minister, Human Resource Development, Science & Technology and Ocean Development from 1999-2004) mandate to boost technology education in the country. I haven’t been able to find corroborations though so if anybody does know the story of how these institutions were formed, please write to me.

    For more information about the history and politics of IIT, this Frontline article is dated but still remains an excellent overview.

    National Institutes of Technology (NIT)

    Before 2002, NITs did not exist. They were called Regional Engineering Colleges (RECs) and were operated by their respective state governments. The purpose of the REC scheme was to increase accessibility of technical education with a presence in every state. In 2002, the 17 RECs that had been formed were converted into NITs, effectively making them deemed universities. The rationale behind this major move isn’t very clear but it definitely involved Murli Manohar Joshi. The next major event in the story of the NITs is the passing of the National Institutes of Technology Act of 2007, declaring them as INIs and formalising an organisation structure with a council at its head like the IITs.

    This same act also effected the formation of the 5 Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research (IISERs). NITs receive their regular funding from the central government and expansion funding from a World Bank program called TEQIP-II which I’ll explore in greater detail in a separate post. In 2010, the government formed 10 new NITs covering all the missing states, most of which were in the North-Eastern Region.

    [​IMG]
    INIs formed in 2010.

    All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) For more than 50 years, there was only one AIIMS which was situated in Delhi. But keeping with the trends, in 2012, the government announced 6 new AIIMS, located around central and north India.

    [​IMG]
    INIs formed in 2012.

    Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT)

    There are currently 4 IIITs (pronounced: triple-eye-tee) that have been granted INI status. Prior to the passing of theIIIT Bill in December 2014 (after a previous version failed to pass in 2013), they were simply deemed universities with the institute in Allahabad granting degrees since 2000. Even then, this makes it a recent innovation by the MHRD. Its stated goal as per the IIIT-Allahabad website is to “strengthen the indigenous capability necessary for exploiting profitably and harnessing multi-dimensional facets of IT at all levels, and attaining expertise to enable the country to emerge as a leading player in the global arena”.

    Apart from the four institutes mentioned above, there are 20 new IIITs that have been proposed to be established. 15 of them have sites finalised with 11 having MOUs signed. These are being operated on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with the investment being shared 50:35:15 between Centre, State and Private Industry. The future of these IIITs is unclear as the government has setup a panel to see whether they become INIs or just Deemed Universities.

    Insights and future questions

    The politics of location. It’s probably not news to you that given the prestige that these organisations carry, their locations are a matter of great political weight. The history of the IITs is a history of political wrangling and point-scoring starting with the very first one in Kharagpur. Given that fact, the foresight of the founders to insulate their operations from interference is commendable. Researching these premier academic bodies, it is clear that the simple act of founding an institution is seen as a victory. The actual operations are never trumpeted about in the same way. In fact, once founded they seem to only become centres of controversy.

    As previously mentioned, the huge number of universities (80, to be precise) formed in 2008 is extremely interesting. Is it just a co-incidence? Or is it tied with the end of the first tenure of the UPA? There isn’t information enough to say, but the question is worth exploring.

    [​IMG]
    Universities and INIs formed in 2008.

    Indian Institute of Management (IIM)

    You might have noticed that IIMs are not included in the list of Institutes of National Importance. That’s because they’re not INIs or even universities. As autonomous bodies directly under MHRD without an affiliation to any university, they can only offer diplomas certified by AICTE. A Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) is strictly not a Master’s Degree. It is not (automatically) globally accepted by universities or employers. IIMs have to undertake separate steps to give them equivalency to a Master’s degree.

    So it’s quite baffling that IIMs weren’t just bestowed Deemed University status and given the power to grant degrees much earlier. There has recently been talk of IIM Bill 2015 that will grant them this status but it’s still up in the air. This is a topic that I’ll have to revisit once I’ve explored how UGC and AICTE creates and approves courses because I definitely do not see the full story here.


    http://thewire.in/7014/demystifying-higher-education-in-india-second-of-a-series/
     
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    India Produces 50,000 Doctors a Year. If Only Medical Education Were Better Regulated.

    In the first post of this series about demystifying higher education, we looked at universities in India and the administrative bureaucracy around them. In the second post, we built on the first post by adding information about Institutes of National Importance. With today’s post, we move away from universities to the components that make up the second tier of higher education – colleges. We’ll also start discriminating between subjects and courses so that we can get deeper in and focus on colleges offering an MBBS, the basic medical degree.

    The entire institution of medicine, like the institution of education, is widely seen as a public good. Medical education is therefore doubly burdened with noble responsibility. It bears this responsibility to educate well and wisely to both the student and to the student’s future patients whose very life might depend on it. So to safeguard against dilution of standards, the criteria for imparting a medical education have always been stricter and more demanding than other streams.

    But in a country such as India where the demand for health infrastructure far outstrips the supply, a compromise of commercialisation might be unavoidable. The assumption being that any medical attention is better than none, something which does not always have to be true. There is also a powerful case to be made for the quality of private healthcare being higher – which is great, if you can afford it. And affordability of health care is a matter of life and death as P. Sainath has reported, chronicling the rise in medical debt and related suicides in rural India. And since the price of medical care cannot be separated from the price of medical education, it becomes imperative to have greater understanding of what’s driving this sector.

    There are currently 370 medical colleges in the country that offer 49,840 MBBS seats between them. This makes India the largest creator of doctors in the world. In comparison, the United States only produces 18,000 doctors a year. Roughly half of India’s medical seats are in private colleges whose habit of collecting capitation fees is an open secret. According to an interview by a senior member of the Medical Council of India—the apex regulatory body for medical education—gave to the Business Standard, no one has ever formally filed a complaint. Here’s a statistic for you though: doing a back of the envelope calculation, if 24,260 seats are allotted with a Rs 50 lakh capitation each, that totals up to 12,130 crores a year in shady fees.

    And the Medical Council of India hasn’t had time to look into this?

    In fairness to them, they are a relatively effective organization. The Council frames rules, regulates the formation and continuation of medical colleges and maintains the Indian Medical Register (IMR). The IMR is a database of all licensed medical practitioners in the country. It is accessible online and you can use it to verify whether your doctors have the credentials they claim. Just a caveat, it might be out-dated so don’t be too quick to pull the trigger. Each state also has its own medical council and state medical register from which information is aggregated to form the IMR. But probably the most interesting part of the MCI’s duties is the yearly inspection that they do of every single medical college in the country. This inspection settles whether the college is given permission to continue taking admissions or not – so it’s a pretty big deal. These inspections are no rubber stamp though. The MCI has been known to brutally slash seats if standards of quality are not maintained. For the year 2014-15, the Council denied permission for renewal to 45 colleges offering 3,820, seats citing lack of infrastructure and shortage of staff. We should be relieved; they initially threatened to cancel 15,000 seats.

    The lack of qualified staff seems intuitively correct but the MCI lists almost 1.2 lakh registered teachers on its website, and with only about 75,000 MBBS and post-graduate seats, the problem seems to be one of distribution or pay-scales rather than straight out lack of supply. Or the website is wrong or contains repetitions, which is also possible.

    [​IMG]

    The information in this post is taken from the latest data available on the MCI website, after removing the colleges that failed inspections this year. The geographic distribution of these colleges shows a noticeable southward slant with 44% of all medical seats distributed between the states of Karnataka, Andhra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Undivided Andhra Pradesh had the most number of seats in the country but after division, Karnataka holds that title. Maharashtra has the most colleges but has a lesser number of seats when taken cumulatively.

    [​IMG]

    But despite having the most number of seats, when averaging over population data from the SECC 2011, we see that the South Zone has a worse ratio than the North Zone (UP falls in the Central Zone). Both the East and West zones do worse than the North East and Central zones, which is very surprising.

    [​IMG]

    (Y-axis: fraction of share of government and private colleges.)

    The national distribution between government and private colleges is almost exactly 50%. There are 187 government and 183 private colleges. Looking at the breakup across states, the states with more than 20 colleges are biased towards private entities. The notable exceptions being Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh that almost mirror the national distribution. On the flip side, states that possess less than 20 colleges tend to be heavily biased towards the government institutions. The notable exceptions here are Pondicherry and Punjab, both of whom possess nine colleges but of which only two and three respectively are government-operated. Government colleges usually charge fees as low as 11500 per year as against 7-9 lakhs at a private college. That’s not taking into account capitation fees that range from 50 lakhs to 1.5 crore. (Remember my Rs 12,130 crore calculation?)

    High capitation fees are one of the reasons that, as per The Hindu’s sources, more than 9,000 Indians are enrolled in medical colleges in China as of 2013. The MCI actually regulates which Chinese colleges are recognised in India and publishes a list of eligible institutions every year. The latest one has 45 colleges with 3,470 seats. Despite being cheaper to study abroad, the odds are stacked against you if you want to work in India. The MCI conducts a screening test for returning graduates that has pass percentages of less than 25%. With 14,476 graduates appearing in 2012, that’s a lot of doctors stuck in limbo. The official reason is to verify their skill level but with the lack of transparency andaccusations of excessive difficulty, the screening test does seem suspicious.

    An RTI request for a copy of an answer sheet was rejected, but the reply did reveal officially that the questions are the ‘same as that conducted by AIIMS for candidates desirous of admission to post-graduate courses in the Institute’. Considering that most medical graduates in India don’t get into AIIMS, asking every foreign graduate the same questions doesn’t seem fair. The only exception to the test is if the student has completed both a graduate and post-graduate degree from either Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK or the US and has been recognized as a medical practioner there.

    Part Two – What does it take to start a medical college?

    As one of the things I wanted to do in this series was to study the complexity of forming a college or university, I’ve conducted the exercise with medical colleges which is ideal considering they’re probably the most regulated. As I learned, the MCI has come under criticism for both being too strict and too lax with their assessment of applications for the formation of new medical colleges. They only accept applications in the month of August and only recently launched an online application portal. The law that governs the qualifying criteria to form a college is the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999. The main criteria are possession of adequate land, an essentiality certificate, consent of affiliation, an operational hospital and submission of financial guarantees.

    The specifications for the land required have undergone the most number of changes. There have been eight amendments since November 2008, some of them drastic modifiers of the previous regulation. Initially, to start a college the applicant needed to have an unbroken 25 acres of land. Then, exceptions to this hard and fast rule begin to crop up, probably because acquiring an unbroken parcel of 25 acres anywhere near large urban centres became practically impossible. But some of the changes are less sensible. In 2011, there was a relaxation in prerequisites for a period of 5 years for the setup of colleges in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. But looking at the numbers, there were 20 colleges formed since 2011, but there were 22 formed in the five year period before 2011. So the land relaxations don’t seem to have had the intended effect and these states still suffer from a glaring lack of service.

    [​IMG]

    An essentiality certificate is issued by the government of the state in which the college aims to be located. It’s a statement by the government that a medical college is required in that area. This is interesting for two reasons: one because they assume a medical college isn’t required in every area, and two, because they think the government is the best arbiter. In 2002, four private medical colleges were started in one year. On further digging, I learned from an article in The Hindu that P. Sankaran, the Health Minster of Kerala in 2002, had issued approvals to 48 applicantsthat year. Out of which only 4 had received permission from the Medical Council of India. The reason for the large number of approvals? 2000 crores that supposedly left the state as capitation fees to colleges in other states. Now take into account that five medical colleges were started in Karnataka in 1999 under J.H.Patel, and another five in Maharashtra in 1989 under Sharad Pawar, and in Andhra in 2002 under Chandrababu Naidu and you realise that maybe this step can be skipped as states don’t seem to be in the habit of saying no.

    Consent of affiliation is a certificate issued by a university affirming that the college can issue degrees in its name. Private parties must submit two bank guarantees: The first is based on the number of admissions, one crore for the first 50 admissions and fifty lakhs more for every additional 50 admissions. The second is based on the number of beds in the hospital starting with 3.5 crore for 400 beds. Governments just have to show that their budgets have the necessary funds allocated, but that doesn’t seem to have helped them. I could go on and on about the legal hoops to jump through to expand a college’s quote of seats.

    There’s a Planning Commission report on the steps to achieve universal health care in India that makes for very interesting reading if you can brave the 343 pages. The UN/WHO describe the ideal doctor-population ratio as 1:1,000, and India is approximately at half of that. To attain the ideal ratio, the report lays down the need for 59-187 (depending on strategy) more government institutions before 2022 at an estimated cost of Rs.100 crore per medical college, along with suggestions for new courses like the 3-year Bachelor’s in Rural Health that was started in 2013. We might need 600,000 more doctors and one million nurses along with lakhs and lakhs of primary, community and rural health workers. What are we doing to get there?

    http://thewire.in/9427/medical-colleges-mci-mbbs/
     
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    India’s Engineering Education Story, With an Eye on Tamil Nadu’s Colleges

    Last time, we discussed medical education and with this post, the first of a three-part mini-series, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the other grand old Indian cliche, engineering. The national love affair with the profession of Engineering can be easily rationalised if one is the mood – students of science with a focus on practical application? Of course that’s the kind of human capital that a country in the process of building itself would need! But somewhere along the line, aided by the BPO, IT and other miscellaneous booms, engineering stopped being seen as the bedrock for development, but rather the minimum qualification for the acquisition of seemingly any job whatsoever. Or so common wisdom goes anyway. The data tells a different story. According to the AISHE 2013-14 Provisional Report that I’ve mentioned before:

    • The largest number of Students are enrolled in B.A. programmes followed by B.Com and B.Sc. programmes. Only 15 Programmes out of approximately 150 cover 83% of the total students enrolled in higher education.
    • At Undergraduate level the highest number (40%) of students are enrolled in Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences courses followed by Engineering & Technology (17%), Commerce (15%) and Science (12%).
    It seems to be mostly an upper-class myth that most people do Engineering. It ignores the high cost of technical education in the country – the true cost of which can’t be accurately ascertained because of the pernicious capitation fee system. That is not to say that there isn’t a large quantity of sub-par engineering education as there was news recently that as much as 600,000 seats were going to be cut.

    So, maybe some context is needed, for a truer, broader understanding of engineering.

    An overview

    The governing body responsible for the oversight of Engineering education in the country is the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Like its name suggests, AICTE has a broader mandate than just engineering. It also looks after pharmaceutical, architecture, urban planning, tourism and management courses such as the MBA.

    The following chart sourced from data available on the AICTE website shows the distribution of engineering colleges across the six main zones of the country. I’ve not included information on the Union Territories and Islands so one caveat to be kept in mind is that the North Zone does not include Delhi/NCR and Chandigarh.

    [​IMG]

    The South zone has a clear majority in the number of institutions. This looks very different, just as it did in our study of medical colleges, when we factored in the population of the respective zones. It must be pointed out here that I did not use the AICTE’s breakup of ‘Regions’, but rather, as I did for medical colleges, divided the states into Zones as per the classification used in the SocioEconomic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 so the population data could be comparable to my count of colleges. There is a difference in classification as the SECC2011 puts Uttar Pradesh in the Central zone as against the Northern zone.

    [​IMG]

    The distribution instantly becomes more equitable with the West, South and North Zones having comparable ratios. The East and North East zones still suffer from an extreme lack of access to technical education. This lack of domestic access means that students in these zones end up traveling much greater distances to access technical education, which leads to ‘brain drain’ as it’s commonly known which only perpetuates the slow development of these areas.

    What are the causes for the current anomalies in distribution? The answer might lie in the early 1980s according to a 2010 National University of Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA) paper which states that “during the Sixth Five Year Plan (1980-85), when the central and state governments were finding it difficult to expand technical education in the country, a few state governments, especially the governments of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh took a bold decision to permit private registered societies and trusts to establish and run technical institutions on a self-financing basis”. Ah, privatisation, it took long enough for the word to appear!

    Looking at the following chart, it’s clear that it was the states that took the bold step to allow private institutions that saw a huge growth in technical education.

    [​IMG]

    Prior to splitting, united Andhra Pradesh would’ve had the highest number of colleges but currently that position is held by Maharashtra with Tamil Nadu in second and Uttar Pradesh in third.

    Tamil Nadu: A case study

    In an ideal situation, I would’ve been able to collect and analyze data for the the whole country but that wasn’t possible for this analysis and I’ve had to take the case study route and focus on my home state of Tamil Nadu, for which information is available on the AICTE website.

    This dataset includes 992 different engineering institutes in Tamil Nadu, 467 of them being diploma level institutions. We don’t normally think of diploma courses when we think of engineering but there are a huge number of polytechnic colleges, both in TN and the country as a whole, that act as a vital link to higher education for certain sections of society.

    [​IMG]

    There a couple things to point out in this chart other than the sheer number of Diploma seats in Tamil Nadu. First, Post Diploma isn’t a zero category, there are exactly 532 Post Diploma seats in various subjects across the whole state. Second, post-graduate options in engineering are marginal and clearly not in demand. There could be a number of reasons for this but the intuitive one is that typically engineers pick MBAs as their post-graduate degree of choice. I don’t know enough about the structural aspects of the engineering profession and industry to tell you why further technical specialisation in engineering subjects isn’t valued in the job market but that seems to be the case.

    In fact, a recurring pattern in the data set, is that engineering colleges tend to have polytechnics attached to them. Another pattern that is obvious from the data is a peculiar naming convention. I’m not talking about the fact that 232 out of 992 colleges and polytechnic colleges in the state begin with S. A result of the respectful Sri or Shri prefixed to the name of the founder or a favourable deity. No, there is a more puzzling trend – colleges routinely come in pairs, such as ADHIPARASAKTHI COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING and ADHIPARASAKTHI ENGINEERING COLLEGE. This gets repeated hundreds of times.

    National Engineering College and National College of Engineering. Coimbatore Institute of Engineering. Coimbatore Institute of Engineering and Technology. The Dhanalaskhmi Srinivasan group takes this to fine art, boasting an Engineering College, a College of Engineering, a College of Engineering and Technology, an Institute of Technology and an Institute of Research and Technology. This could be a harmless naming pattern when done within common ownership, a natural result of wanting to utilise brand value. But it becomes much more questionable when a newer college mimics the name of a much older institution such as Rajalakshmi Engineering College, whose name shortens to REC, the acronym that usually refers to the government-run Regional Engineering Colleges (now called the National Institutes of Technology).

    Along with the polytechnics, there are 534 colleges in Tamil Nadu offering undergraduate degrees. These colleges typically offer five or six core courses: Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Civil Engineering, Electronics and Communication, Electrical and Electronic Engineering and last, Information Technology. Information Technology is an offshoot of Computer Science and is generally lighter on the hardware and architectural aspects of the latter.

    [​IMG]

    These five or six courses dominate the entire field of engineering. All the other varieties (like Chemical, BioTech, Marine, etc) put together add up to less than half of the the seats available in just Civil Engineering. So it would make sense to believe that most colleges offer these five or six courses.

    [​IMG]

    About 200 colleges offer exactly five courses while 339 colleges offer more than five, with the majority of them stopping with six or seven. PSG College in Coimbatore offers the most with 19 separate courses in engineering available for study.

    Engineering in Tamil Nadu is regulated by Anna University, a state university formed in 1978 in the city of Chennai. All engineering colleges in the state whether government or self-financing are affiliated to the university. We used the University’s website to populate our dataset with the years of formation for each college and built our trademark interactive timeline. But the dataset is sadly incomplete: some colleges lack the date, and for others we couldn’t pinpoint a geographic location on the map. We’re missing approximately 40 colleges, which is rejection of less than 10%, but even then hopefully we find an alternative source and are able to complete it later.

    Looking at the above graphic, the spurt of colleges within the last decade becomes extremely apparent. In 2005, Tamil Nadu had 211 colleges affiliated to Anna University, but by 2015, this number has more than doubled to 495. That’s an increase by 135% in ten years.

    The majority of this growth happens over the course of two years – 2008 and 2009.

    [​IMG]

    A total of 163 institutions were started in these two years alone. What were the factors that influenced such a huge growth? I’m not sure but if you remember our first post that studied universities in India, it was these same years that saw a large increase in the number of deemed and state universities. These were big years for the story of education in India!

    Another insight from this information is the formation of geographical clusters – Coimbatore and Chennai are clearly large educational hubs. There are smaller hubs such as the belt between Erode and Salem, the Trichy highway and area around Kanyakumari.

    An interesting analysis for the next post will be whether these clusters are retained when we filter the data according to metrics of quality such as their ranking and pass percentage. But that exceeds my goal for this post in which I’d hoped to introduce the broad contours of engineering education in the country with a focus on the state of Tamil Nadu. Over the next two posts, I’ll look at first the data around admissions, rankings and enrolment and then secondly at the funding and financing of engineering colleges, of which capitation fees are sure to play a major role. As always, please write to me at thomas@supportivecities.com with comments and clarifications.

    http://thewire.in/13061/indias-engineering-education-story-with-an-eye-on-tamil-nadus-colleges/
     
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    It’s Not Wise to Trade in Higher Education


    A clumsy commitment to GATS could be disastrous for India’s long-term growth. The resultant marketisation would prioritise employability as the main criteria for the evaluation of an education.


    Unknown to most people in the country, government servants speaking in measured tones will sit behind closed doors in Nairobi, Kenya for three days beginning December 15 and take steps to radically and permanently alter the face of the Indian higher education system. This would include removing barriers to setting up foreign universities in India, allowing foreign distance education and teacher exchange programs, lowering the barriers for foreign textbook and exam testing companies and, lurking behind all these individual proposals, the destruction of the very idea of public education itself.

    The forum for these negotiations is the Tenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation, a part of its ‘Doha Development Round’ of talks. The WTO’s official purpose is the regulation of international trade but it is frequently criticized for being a tool for the advancement of policies that favour rich nations.

    In 2000, the WTO made the controversial decision to include education as one of the many services brought under the ambit of the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS). GATS considers education a tradable commodity, essentially reducing it to the same level as services like banking. But unlike banking and other commercial services, education is seen the world over as as a right, and one which societies (and states) have a moral responsibility to guarantee. Some countries like Germany and Sweden have embraced this ethic and provide free public education for all citizens. Others like the United States trust in the market and have a highly competitive privatised higher education system that outranks, with some exceptions, the country’s public universities. While the US system has created some of the greatest universities in the world like Harvard and Stanford (with the aid of massive public funds), it has other, less appealing aspects. For example, the cumulative unpaid student debt in the United States is more than a trillion dollars.

    India today finds itself at a crossroads between these two fundamentally different perspectives on education and it must make a choice.

    Oh, the humanities

    The possibility of a completely free, high quality public education system accessible to everyone in this country seems impossible to achieve at the moment, mainly due to the lack of political will. Thus, privatization in the field of education can be seen as a compromise for the sake of expedience. But letting this compromise become the basis of our new system would be an abdication by the state of its moral responsibility in guaranteeing the right to education to its people. How comfortable are we with abdicating the responsibility of our children’s education to the dictates of a rate of profit? In fact, how comfortable are with the compromises we have already made? Prof. Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, National University for Educational Planning and Administration, states in a UNESCO report that “the rules and procedures framed to regulate private institutions have actually helped the proliferation of cheap, poor quality, even dishonest and uncontrollable private institutions, which are crowding out the public institutions and the government is not able to do anything significant in this regard.”

    A clumsy commitment on our part to GATS could be disastrous for the people and for the long-term growth of the country. The resultant marketisation would prioritise employability as the main criteria for the evaluation of an education, to the detriment of the liberal arts and basic sciences. The liberal arts have always been a favourite punching bag for those who confuse narrow-mindedness with enlightened pragmatism. Can we really afford to dismiss the role of literature and history, the opening of vistas of perspective, in creating a wise, critical and humane society? What will a country with no place for these disciplines look like? In her book Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, the eminent philosopher Martha Nussbaum claims “the future of the world’s democracies hangs in the balance”.

    The basic sciences are similarly essential but for completely different reasons. While engineering might be more marketable, study and research in the basic sciences are strategically vital to the interests of a developing country. Ignoring fundamental research is tantamount to entering into voluntary intellectual serfdom to the western world; the steady stream of royalty payments constraining our actions as firmly as iron chains. This may seem simplistic and provocative but royalty payments have been rapidly rising and the enforcement of intellectual property rights (including limiting generics of lifesaving drugs) has been an explicit aim of all multilateral trade agreements initiated by the WTO. Yanis Varoufakis, former Minister of Finance for the Syriza government in Greece, puts it bluntly when he says free trade agreements “are nothing to do with free trade. Everybody wants free trade. Who wants enslaved trade? … It’s about who owns the right to the idea that will give rise to the good.”

    Foreign universities in India

    The Indian government seems to have no inclination to heed these statements. It has made two ‘offers’ to the WTO with regard to higher education under GATS. The first was under the BJP-led NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and a second, revised one was made under Manmohan Singh when the Congress-led UPA came to power in 2005. In WTO-speak, an offer can be withdrawn. Commitments, on the other hand, are like embarrassing teenage memories – they stay with you forever. While theoretically reversible after three years, the difficulty and penalty involved makes them “virtually guaranteed conditions” in the words of Tilak. The full texts of these offers are available online and they make for bleak reading. Where they could’ve displayed a clear and sharp vision that hedged against all possible means of exploitation, the near total absence of negotiation is a clear sign of the lack of political will and interest in the area of higher education. The formulation of the New Education Policy by the current BJP government could’ve been a sign of hope if they hadn’t been preceded by actions like the cancellation of non-NET fellowships,cutting the funding of CSIR labs and IITs, the historical revisionism, the appointment of non-academics to academic posts, etc. Allowing foreign universities in India through GATS could be similarly misguided.

    A 2007 World Bank report titled Trends in International Trade in Higher Education documents two of the main concerns. First, the negative effect on domestic public institutions, such as the poaching of highly-qualified staff. Second, the possible influx of low-quality foreign providers rather than the Ivy League giants we imagine. The report claims that the greatest asset of institutions like Harvard is their reputation and they can be expected to delay any expansion till quality standards can be guaranteed. What happens till then? In theory, individuals could find the least regulated state in America, setup a paper educational institution and then have all the bargaining power of Harvard when it comes to opening up a college here. Even the report by the Yashpal Committee on higher education reformnoted that “giving an open license to all and sundry carrying a foreign ownership tag to function like universities in India, most of them not even known in their own countries, would only help them earn profit for their parent institutions located outside or accrue profit to the shareholders”.

    Other concerns include the fact that as per the current offer, affirmative action policies based on caste and gender would not be applicable to foreign universities. In its initial offer, the NDA had included a provision to allow for affirmative action reservations in foreign universities but this was deleted in the revised offer by UPA-1. It would be unwise to underestimate the pressure a body like the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) could exert on the government to further deregulate, considering what we know from WTO negotiations in other areas like agriculture and healthcare. And last, but not least, signing up to agreements like GATS is an inherently undemocratic exercise. What else can you call decisions taken at secret meetings that the will of the people cannot reverse, except at a huge cost? No explanations have been made to justify this loss of domestic sovereignty.

    Mind the door

    As far back as 2001, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the American Council of Education, Council for Higher Educational Accreditation (also American) and the European University Association made a joint declaration advocating their respective countries stay out of GATS. And oddly enough, the United States, Canada and most of Western Europe have made no commitments under higher education. So either these countries are hypocritically pressuring India to do something that they aren’t willing to do themselves or the pressure is coming from countries like Australia and New Zealand where educational services are a major export or, most terrifying, India has taken up this bizarre initiative of its own accord. The last explanation seens quite plausible considering the evidence that this is primarily an initiative of the Department of Commerce, and not the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

    What changes does the government expect to see with the arrival of foreign universities? Not more employment opportunities for Indian faculty,because the increase will be negligible. Not an increase in access because they’ll primarily be catering to the upper middle class for whom education opportunities have never been scarce. Not a decrease in the $3.6 billion dollars of foreign exchange that is spent by parents sending their children abroad as the primary objective for these students is the international exposure and the potential for landing jobs in those countries. At best we can hope that these institutions will provide a higher standard of education and domestic institutions will improve to compete. But if this is achieved with steep hikes in fees that are justified by the logic of ‘low-interest’ loans that increase the debt burden on students and their families, will it be worth it?

    The biggest concern about the Indian system today is the lack of equitable access to high quality education. This is a large and complex problem but it can be solved and foreign universities having a place in the solution cannot be ruled out. But the solution surely does not lie in blindly turning to foreign profit-maximising universities. It would be like trying to clean your house by leaving the front door wide open. Sure, it’s possible that the stranger who enters might have your best interests at heart. But let’s be honest, you’re more likely to get cleaned out than cleaned up.

    http://thewire.in/17295/its-not-wise-to-trade-in-higher-education/
     
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    Architecture of world-class institutions

    The Indian government recently announced its intention to create world-class educational institutions (WCIs)—10 in the public sector and 10 in the private—with an investment of Rs500 crore, spread over five years, in each. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is expected to coordinate the deployment of funds, set up monitoring systems, and assess progress. Based on public feedback, this announcement may be modified, but the desire of the government to create WCIs is evident.

    WCIs are evolved social organizations, either promoted by the state or supported by private funding. The core of any WCI is a group of distinguished academicians. If we go back in time, formal institutions did not exist. But the state created and nurtured learning centres. The scholarship and leadership qualities of the academicians who created the centres influenced their social impact. History is full of several examples of global learning centres in India, China, Greece, and Europe. The life cycles of these learning centres were influenced by the fortunes of the state, but the funding was unconditional. The state took pride in letting academicians pursue what excited them, without regard to the immediate applicability of the knowledge created.

    As civilization evolved and formal social systems developed, there was a need to develop formal mechanisms to nurture learning centres. The university/institution is a consequence of this. The academicians who were the core of a WCI had some defining traits. They were individuals with great curiosity. They devoted their lives to what excited them intellectually. Their curiosity was complemented by a desire to explain a phenomenon in its totality. Consequently, there was very little focus on the relevance and the application of the knowledge created. Plurality was the rule of the game. Accordingly, WCIs promoted a range of disciplines that included theatre, literature, music, art, science, medicine and philosophy. As funding was liberal, the pursuit of excellence was purely left to the dreams, curiosity, and creativity of academicians.

    As time progressed, the source of funding became broad-based (public, private, and industry). Apart from prestige and brand extension, industry desired a reasonable return on investment. Also, the government sought help and guidance from subject experts to solve challenges faced in managing important public affairs. These ideas shaped the chemistry of WCIs. The attributes that defined WCIs in these times were (a) generous funding by the state, (b) ability to attract and retain top class academicians, and (c) established processes to assemble a set of researchers. This ecosystem contributed to knowledge creation and its application to societal problems. This in turn led to more funding opportunities, thus perpetuating a virtuous cycle. By leveraging the ensemble of outstanding academicians, WCIs enabled their students to realize their full potential in their chosen areas of study.

    India, in spite of its rich heritage of learning centres, has not kept pace with changes in global university systems. Some key features of the latter include (a) zero political interference in the appointment of scholars; (b) a fair, transparent and liberal ecosystem for the pursuit of knowledge and its application; (c) opportunity to qualified individuals to pursue their areas of interest; and (d) freedom for students to select the WCI (and a subject) of their choice.

    What can India do to enhance the quality of its educational institutions? Knowledge creation and application of knowledge are two paths towards creating WCIs in India. Rapid exposure to world-class knowledge and collaborative research networks with a focus on applying knowledge in the Indian context would be meaningful ways of leveraging state funding and the intellectual capital in our institutions.

    Creating WCIs ab initio would need huge investments and a gestation period of at least two decades. One promising alternative is transforming some existing institutes, but this would require effective processes to attract talent, create an ecosystem for knowledge creation and its dissemination, promote meritocracy, offer opportunity to deserving candidates, depoliticize the academic environment, create sustainable global academic networks, forge effective industry collaborations, and bring about change in the attitude of the existing staff. This is easier said than done.

    The second alternative is to broad-base the nationally important institutions in terms of their disciplines, provide them liberal funding, encourage them to pursue excellence in research and teaching, and support operational autonomy with well-articulated accountability. The advantage of this option is the ready availability of infrastructure, a well-established reputation in India, reasonable acceptance in the global context, a vibrant set of academicians, and a competent student population.

    Yet another alternative is to identify about 100 centres of excellence across the country in various disciplines based on the availability of able academicians with proven records. Such centres may be funded to the tune of about Rs20 crore per year for a period of five years. These centres, housed in existing institutions, would be free to pursue their activities, academically, financially and administratively. The host institutions would provide house-keeping support. The centres would be administered by a peer group created by them, with minimal government interface. They would pursue research, train researchers, deliver graduate and undergraduate courses, create and maintain a global network of researchers pertaining to their specialty, and establish symbiotic relationships with industry and society. A merit-based review of these centres after five years may be used to restructure them. If federated at the national level, the centres will become a structure to create world-class researchers, excellent teachers and scientists who can apply the knowledge created to the problems of relevance to India and the world. Needless to emphasize, these centres would benchmark themselves against the best in the world. In our opinion, such a federation should be considered seriously by the government.

    http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/68BIeZXMZyLgetwmLAp3SM/Architecture-of-worldclass-institutions.html
     
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    Our failed education policy needs urgent reform

    We end the year with the Narendra Modi government just completing the first half of its tenure. A good time for a midterm review. But any such review will inevitably be dominated by the consequences of the demonetization shock (see my previous column, Mint, 18 November). Moving beyond these short-term preoccupations, what is the single most important policy reform the government should address during the remaining half of its tenure? I would submit that it is the need to reform our failed education policy. The rest of this article explains why that is so.

    Two overarching challenges face the Indian economy over the long term. One is the challenge of a rapidly deteriorating environment, including the scarcity of fresh water, which I leave aside in this article. The other is the spectre of unemployment or, more accurately, underemployment. There are multiple factors that account for the slow growth of productive jobs, ranging from poor infrastructure to poor governance to the anti-employment bias of a whole slew of economic policies. But the binding constraint on growth of high-productivity employment is the failure of India’s education policy. Only a small proportion of the workforce has the educational foundation required for skilled high-productivity jobs. Barely 5% of the workforce in India has had any skill training. Only 2% have any formal skill certificate compared to over 70% in advanced European countries like the UK or Germany, and as much as 80% to 90% in east Asian countries like Japan and South Korea.

    Building on some initiatives of its predecessor, the present government introduced a National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 to address India’s enormous skill deficit. Several programmes have been launched under this policy, including the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) that aims to train roughly 400 million workers in the 15-45 age group over seven years. The results so far are disappointing. In its submission to a parliamentary committee, the government indicated that of the 1.76 million candidates trained under the PMKVY till 25 April, only 580,000 could be certified as having successfully completed the training. Less than 82,000 were actually placed in jobs. Why is the success rate so low? The answer is quite simple. No skill development programme, however well designed, can succeed without an underlying foundation of basic education. But India’s long-standing neglect of primary and secondary education has greatly limited the access to quality basic education.

    The elitist bias of India’s approach to education is evident not in the stated policies, but in the manner of their implementation and the outcomes. After decades of lofty policy goals, India’s poor performance stands out when compared to that of some of our Asian neighbours and other emerging market economies. India is finally approaching the goal of universal primary education, more than a hundred years after it was originally mooted in the famous “Gokhale’s Bill” of 1911. China had achieved this goal by the 1970s. South Korea achieved it even earlier, by the 1960s, and had more or less achieved universal secondary education by the 1970s.

    As of 2012, over 26% of India’s population was still illiterate compared to 5% in South Africa, 4% in China and only 2% in Turkey. About 50% of India’s population had only primary education or less, compared to 38% in China, 24% in South Africa, and only 20% in Turkey.

    Oddly, the 13% of population with tertiary education at the upper end in India is quite comparable with 10% in China, 14% in South Africa and 15% in Turkey. This peculiar top-heavy structure of India’s education profile, neglecting basic education and attaching priority to higher education, starkly captures the elitist bias in the implementation of India’s education policy. Half the population is still crowded at the bottom, either illiterate or with only primary education. Meanwhile, a disproportionately large segment is also bunched at the upper end with tertiary education.

    Even these statistics, depressing as they are, do not fully reflect the depth of India’s education policy failure. For that, we have to look at the shocking learning outcomes reported in the 2015 Annual Status of Education Report (Aser). About 52% of class V students could not read a simple text meant for class II students. Similarly, about 50% of class V students could not do a simple subtraction meant for class II students. Sadly, these outcomes have shown no improvement over successive Aser surveys. Such deficits in foundational reading and arithmetic skills are cumulative, leaving students grossly handicapped for further education.

    In 2008, 6,000 students from Odisha and Rajasthan participated in the well-known global Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study test for mathematics and science. They were ranked 43rd and 47th out of 49. Their average performance was three standard deviations below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. In 2009, students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, educationally two of India’s best-performing states, took the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test conducted by the OECD. The two states were at the bottom, ranked 72nd and 73rd out of 74. The average standard of the Indian students was comparable to that of the bottom fifth percentile of OECD students. The Indian authorities have been too ashamed to participate in subsequent PISA tests, allegedly Western-style tests not suitable for Indian students. But the top three positions in 2009 went to Singapore, South Korea and Japan, and Asian countries have continued to rank at the top in subsequent PISA tests. So much for the official fig leaf.

    Why has India’s school education policy been so ineffective? Among many factors, I believe the following are the most important. First, education policy in India is focused on inputs rather than learning outcomes, which is what matters. Second, education policy has a strong elitist bias in favour of higher education as opposed to primary or secondary education. Among Asian countries, the ratio of per student public expenditure in tertiary relative to primary education is less than four in Malaysia, two in Indonesia and one in Thailand and Korea. In India, it is over nine. Finally, and most importantly, the incentive structure for government school teachers is highly distorted, virtually guaranteeing poor performance.

    Teacher salaries in government schools are relatively high in India at three times per capita income compared to China, where it is about the same as per capita income. Moreover, teachers are guaranteed lifetime employment as public servants regardless of performance. They have no accountability to students and their parents. Their only limited accountability is to the education department bureaucracy. Teachers are rarely reprimanded for non-performance, let alone fired. High absenteeism is routine, around 25% according to some surveys. Even when present in schools, teachers often engage in activities other than teaching. Poorly paid and less qualified contract teachers actually do a much better job than permanent teachers. Learning outcomes are also generally better in private schools where average teacher salaries and costs per student are less. The student share of private schools is already over a third and rising fast even though private schools have fees while government schools are free.

    The failure of India’s education policy has far-reaching consequences. Given the fragile foundation of basic education, the large majority of our workforce cannot be trained for highskill, high-productivity jobs. The 2016 “India Employment Report (IER)” estimates that India needs to employ an additional 16 million persons every year in properly paid productive jobs. But the IER also points out that only five million of the incremental jobs could be for high-skilled work. Given the low education profile of the presently underemployed workers, they would mostly have to be employed in low- or medium-skill jobs, but would be better paid in the organized sector than in the unorganized sector.

    Unfortunately, neither is the demand for such workers growing fast enough, nor is the supply of such suitably skilled workers who can move from the unorganized to the organized sector. A recent report celebrated the fact that the employability of Indians looking for jobs had gone up in the last four years from around 34% to over 40%. Ironically, it also implied that nearly 60% of those looking for jobs are unemployable!

    Because of space constraints, I have limited this discussion to the instrumental value of education in enabling the workforce to get properly paid, high-productivity jobs. However, the intrinsic value of a sound education system in enabling the citizenry to enjoy fulfilling lives and participate in robust democratic processes is at least as important. For both its intrinsic value as well as its instrumental value, reforming our dysfunctional education system is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states are currently dominating the political space. Moreover, the general election is just two and a half years away. Hence, unless statesmanship trumps political expediency, the room for serious policy reforms that can pay off only in the long term seems quite limited. But that is precisely why building a constituency for long-term goals like education reform should remain high on the agenda of an informed public.


    http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/0t7...led-education-policy-needs-urgent-reform.html
     
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    Budget 2017: IITs corner over 40 per cent of higher education increase

    School education continues to be low on the government’s priority list, with the midday meal scheme — aimed at improving attendance in government schools — getting a paltry hike of Rs 300 crore this time, even though the HRD Ministry had sought Rs 2,200 crore more in 2016.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday announced a 10 per cent increase in the overall Budget for education — from Rs 72,394 crore in 2016 to Rs 79,686 crore this year — with a bigger thrust on higher education. Of the Rs 7,292 crore hike, a large chunk of Rs 3,000 crore will go to the IITs.

    The school education budget went up by 6 per cent, with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan getting Rs 23,500 crore as against Rs 22,500 crore last year. Allocation for the midday meal scheme went up from Rs 9,700 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. In 2015, the government slashed the budget for this scheme from Rs 13,215 crore to Rs 9,236 crore. In 2016, when only Rs 9,700 crore was provided, the HRD Ministry had protested and sought Rs 2,200 crore more. The Finance Ministry did not relent at the time of finalising revised estimates.

    “Last year, the scheme didn’t get a single penny more, because of which the Centre couldn’t build additional kitchen sets and increase honorarium for cooks. The midday meal cooks have been working for Rs 1,000 a month since 2009. There was a three-month delay in revising cooking costs by 7.5 per cent,” said a source.

    Interestingly, most of the education-related announcements made by Jaitley while presenting the Union budget on Wednesday had little or no financial implications.

    The government announced its intention of setting up a National Testing Service (NTS), which will be an independent body dedicated to conducting all entrance tests for higher education, on the lines of the Educational Testing Service in the US. The HRD Ministry has already moved a Cabinet note on this. NTS, according to officials, will only need a one-time capital grant of Rs 50 crore.

    Jaitley also announced restructuring of the University Grants Commission, autonomy for good colleges, thrust on outcome-based learning in schools and launch of the Swayam platform with at least 350 online courses. Swayam already had a soft launch last year and is not a new education scheme or programme. Jaitley had allocated Rs 75 crore for this last year. According to sources, the remaining announcements are not expected to cost much to the exchequer.

    http://indianexpress.com/article/bu...-per-cent-of-higher-education-outlay-4503341/
     
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    Perceptions and Reflections on the Union Budget 2017-18 for Higher Education Sector

    The First Education Minister of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad said – “Many people plant trees but few of them get fruit of it”.

    I tried to see the Union Budget 2017-18 presented by Finance Minister from two lenses. One lens says that the Mr. Prime Minister is trying to make the primary building blocks of quality education at different levels with which we can build the country of our dreams in the coming decade. Another lens looks at it entirely different and comes out with the judgement that higher education has been forgotten except few passing references.

    It is upto you – which lens to wear. One argument can be that the system has reached this stage from last 70 years and someone needs to mend it by taking hard decisions which may not look good to the people who are looking for some immediate benefits. Another argument can be that we don’t want to be fooled by this ‘long term theory’ perspective.

    Let us first examine it in detail from the First lens.

    It is the first time in the history of India that we will have a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our education system. Until now, Indian education has not gone beyond content based education; while the world has moved to project based experiential learning. Welcome step of the Government in creating the innovation Fund for backward districts will be appreciated by all academicians and researchers.

    During my visit to any panel discussion or seminar or conference, the only recommendation was autonomy. It was a good feeling when I heard the following line in the budget, “Good quality higher education institutions to have greater administrative and academic autonomy”. This is a step in the right direction, which will pave the way for broad ranging improvements in the system because the institutions want to break the shackles of moribund affiliating university system.

    In line with the vision of recently announced Padamsree Award winner Sh. Anant Agarwal, AICTE has come up with the Swayam platform similar to Coursera, edX and Udacity. In the coming year there is a plan to launch 350 courses. However, everyone associated with it must be cautious regarding the quality aspects related to these courses.

    “My concern is only due to the fact that many big initiatives taken during previous regimes have failed due to lethargic and inefficient implementation of projects.”

    Another pain point in the education system is the number of tests after 10+2 and Graduation. A National Testing Agency outlined in the budget speech is a step in the right direction. My only advice here is that it should be manned by people with high professionalism and integrity.

    Some of you may have missed a very subtle initiative by our Prime Minister named as DigiGaon. If we see this in combination with STRIVE and SANKALP schemes, then the impact becomes clearer.

    “The Fruits of this initiative will impact the country in a wider and substantial manner. It has the potential to increase the enrolment ratio in the higher education sector.”

    Last year also, the Govt announced big funding for setting 10 private and 10 Govt institutions to be taken the world class level. Intentions are very good, but we will need people with passion and drive to take these initiative to their success. It has taken complete one year to just set the norms for selecting these 20 institutions.

    So in nutshell, view that comes out of first lens is that we are on the highway to become a major education hub.

    Now let us see from the second lens which looks for some immediate and tangible results in the short term.

    Well… Every critique will say that the amount of funding allocate to education sector is very low. Even the ABVP (Student Wing of Sangh Parivar) is raising this issue from many years that the allocation of funds to education needs to be enhanced in terms of percentage of GDP.

    Next point can be that while the Govt wants to increase quality of education, there is no funding allocated for setting of Teaching Support Units or Education Research Centres in the Universities which can come with new pedagogy models and lead the whole ecosystem of quality education. There has been some funding by DST and other funding agencies in creating some Academic Teaching Learning Units, but that is too meagre to cater to vast country of ours.

    Critiques are also asking where the plan to fill the vacancies in higher education is. Where is the plan to set up Research facilities in the niche areas? Where is the plan to have proactive engagements with international Universities and Research Labs?

    But from my deep and active engagement with higher education, I know that if you have good ideas and proposals then there are Govt Schemes from where you can fund your ideas. But the catch is that there is no free money available in the name of research, because the historic data says that there has been a low output in proportion to the expenditure done on research grants in last seventy years.

    Universities, Institutions and Colleges need to rise up to the occasion and so as to march ahead with the mission to take our education system to the ancient glory of Nalanda and Takshshila times.
    http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatime...tion-as-an-enabler-for-uplifting-the-society/
     
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    Extreme Neglect of Primary Education in Budget 2017
    This Budget will benefit only a selected few children in higher education, depriving millions of children from their universal rights to education.
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    This budget lacks the political will to seriously implement universal right to education. Credit: Reuters/Files

    Budget 2017-2018 has been very disappointing for the education sector. A higher allocation of resources for school education from pre-school to secondary education was expected. But after a year of long waiting, school education has been totally neglected in the budget. The budget has ignored the effective implementation of the Right to Education Act (RTE) and a meagre increase in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget – by Rs 1,000 crores – is not going to help in any way to implement the RTE Act meaningfully. School education for children aged between six to 14 years is a fundamental right in India. However, from 2010, after the Act was passed, it has faced severe challenges in proper implementation.

    Two deadlines of 2013 and 2015 have elapsed and the concern of non-implementation due to inadequate resources continues to remain a major barrier to universal school education. In this Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has increased only Rs 1,305 crores for the National Education Mission which comprise of the SSA, the Rashtriya Madhayamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) along with teacher training and adult education. It shows that the government does not prioritise primary and secondary education along with teacher training and development, which form an essential component for achieving quality education. A nominal increase of Rs 300 crores in mid-day meals is also totally insufficient to combat malnutrition among the millions of school-going children.

    This neglect will severely impact universalisation of education from pre-primary till the secondary education. Even after a long drawn struggle, this continues to remain a distant dream even today. The education commission (1964-1966) popularly known as the Kothari Education Commission for the first time recommended a 6% allocation of GDP on education – which was never achieved. At present it is only 3.8%. He also talked about a diverse curriculum in tune with the life of the people and importance of qualified teachers. The commission also mentioned how to evolve a common school system on the basis of neighbourhood schools to enable equal access to all children. Successive plans and policies supported these recommendations and strived to achieve equal education for all children in the country.

    We have today reached at a stage where providing free and compulsory elementary education has become a fundamental right – a part of right to life. It is also widely recognised that the right to education is a pre-condition for a citizen’s ability to exercise other fundamental rights. After the recognition of right to education as a fundamental right by a Supreme Court judgment, the constitution of India was amended to insert Article 21-A in it.

    Unfortunately after six years of implementation of the Act, only 9.5% schools have been made RTE compliant across the country. It has been well documented that millions of children are still out of school and that thousands of additional schools are yet to be built while lakhs of teachers are yet to be recruited and trained. Low allocation is hampering the quality of education in government schools which have a teacher vacancy of more than 5 lakh and at least 6.4 lakh teachers are untrained. Ten percent of the schools are single teacher schools, 30% of the schools are without functional toilets for girls and 20% of the schools still lack safe drinking water.

    India failed to meet the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015. As per recent official data, around 63 lakh children aged between six to 17 years are working for more than 180 days in a year. These figures display how the ruling party ignores the promises made in their election manifesto to enhance financing education up to 6% – which if implemented could have made education accessible to each and every child.

    The finance minister also ignored the suggestions made by the RTE Forum and other civil society activists during the pre-budget consultation with him. How can digitalisation of education and skill training be possible without the universalisation of basic education?

    This budget will benefit only a select few children in higher education, depriving millions of children from their universal rights to education.

    The SSA, which is the vehicle for the RTE has got Rs 22,500 crore in 2016-17 (budget estimates), which was only 2.2% more than the allocation of Rs 22,015.06 crore in 2015-2016 (revised estimates). Of this total amount, 65% is financed through education cess, 29% as gross budgetary support and 6% through externally aided projects. The analysis of expenditure on education for select states show a devolution of 42% of the divisible pool – instead of the earlier 32% – which has not resulted in an increase in the share of the education sector in total states budget. Out of 10 states whose share in the education sector in the total state budget we have analysed, there have actually been declines in the shares of five states – Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa.

    The Budget 2016 allocated Rs 1,51,581 crore for the social sector – including education and health care. The then Budget included a plan for 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas to be opened and the SSA was meant to increase focus on quality of education. Regulatory architecture was to be provided to ten public and ten private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions, set up by higher education financing agency with an initial capital base of Rs 1,000 crores. And the digital depository for school leaving certificates, college degrees, academic awards and mark sheets was also supposed to be set-up.

    It was expected that the government should now set a new timeline for implementing the Act and get the financial implications of its implementation during the stipulated time frame. The government should have calculated on the basis of the norms incorporated in the Act and presented it to the parliament for approval. The Union budget should have provided for the resources to be spent during the first year of the revised time schedule. It goes without saying that this amount will be substantially higher than what has been recently provided in the central budget. However the neglect is evident in the union budget and has raised questions regarding the political will of the government in implementing RTE Act. This will further have serious implications in achieving universal and equitable education for children in the country.

    https://thewire.in/104976/budget-education-2017/
     

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