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Strategy for New India at 75:Inclusion- Higher Education

  • On 15th August 2022, independent India will turn 75. In the lifespan of nations, India is still young. The best is surely yet to come. India’s youthful and aspirational population deserves a rapid transformation of the economy, which can deliver double-digit growth, jobs and prosperity to all.
  • The purpose of this, ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’, is to define clear objectives for 2022-23 in a  diverse range of 41 areas that recognize the progress already made; and challenges that remain; identify binding constraints in specific sectors; and suggest the way forward for achieving the stated objectives. 
  • The Strategy document has disaggregated the 41 sectors under four sections: drivers, infrastructure,  inclusion, and governance. 
  • The first section on drivers focuses on the engines of economic performance – in macroeconomic terms with chapters on growth and employment.
  • The section also discusses strategies for the doubling of farmers’ incomes; boosting Make in India; upgrading the science, technology and innovation ecosystem; and promoting sunrise sectors like fintech and tourism.
  • An annual rate of growth of 9 per cent by 2022-23 is essential for generating sufficient jobs and achieving prosperity for all. Four key steps, among others, have been spelled out for achieving this GDP growth rate. These are:

a. Increase the investment rate as measured by gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) from present 29 per cent to 36 per cent of GDP by 2022. About half of this increase must come from public investment which is slated to increase from 4 per cent to 7 per cent of GDP. Government savings have to move into positive territory. This sharp increase in the investment-to-GDP ratio will require significantly higher resource mobilization efforts as elaborated in the chapter on Growth.

b. In agriculture, emphasis must shift to converting farmers to ‘agripreneurs’ by further expanding e-National Agriculture Markets (e-NAMs) and replacing the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee  (APMC) Act with the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act. The creation of a unified national market, a freer export regime and the abolition of the Essential Commodities Act are essential for boosting agricultural growth.

c. A strong push would be given to ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) techniques that reduce costs,  improve land quality and increase farmers’ incomes. This is a tested method for putting environmental carbon back into the land. Therefore, ZBNF allows India to significantly contribute to reducing the global carbon footprint.

d. To ensure maximum employment creation, codification of labour laws must be completed and a massive effort must be made to upscale apprenticeships.

  • The second section on infrastructure deals with the physical foundations of growth. A lot of progress has been made across all infrastructure sectors. This is crucial to enhancing the competitiveness of Indian business as also ensuring the citizens’ ease of living. Three key steps, among others, are:

a. Expediting the establishment of the Rail Development Authority (RDA), which is already approved. RDA  will advise or make informed decisions on an integrated, transparent and dynamic pricing mechanism for the railways. Investment in railways will be ramped up, including by monetising existing railway assets.

b. The share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways will be doubled. Initially,  viability gap funding will be provided until the infrastructure is fully developed. An IT-enabled platform would be developed for integrating different modes of transport and promoting multi-modal and digitised mobility.

c. With the completion of the Bharat Net programme in 2019, all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats will be digitally connected. In the next phase the last mile connectivity to the individual villages will be completed. The aim will be to deliver all government services at the state, district, and gram panchayat level digitally by  2022-23, thereby eliminating the digital divide.

  • The section on inclusion deals with the urgent task of investing in the capabilities of all of India’s citizens. The three themes in this section revolve around the various dimensions of health, education and mainstreaming of traditionally marginalized sections of the population. While there are multiple dimensions and pathways  contained in the chapters in this section, four key steps, among others, are:

a. Successfully implementing the Ayushman Bharat programme including the establishment of 150,000  health and wellness centres across the country, and rolling out the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya  Abhiyaan.

b. Upgrading the quality of the school education system and skills, including the creation of a new innovation ecosystem at the ground level by establishing at least 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs by 2020.

c. As already done in rural areas, affordable housing in urban areas will be given a huge push to improve workers’ living conditions and ensure equity while providing a strong impetus to economic growth.

d. Implementing strategies to achieve regional equity by focusing on the North-East region and successfully rolling out the Aspirational Districts Programme.

  • The final section on governance delves deep into how the tasks/business of government can be streamlined and reformed to achieve better outcomes. It involves a sharp focus on ensuring accountability and a shift to performance-based evaluation.
  • The government will revamp its data systems and analysis so that all policy interventions and decision-making are based on evidence and real-time data. This will yield efficient and

targeted delivery of services and justice to those who need them the most.

  • Three key steps, among others, are:

a. Implementing the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission as a prelude to appointing a successor for designing reforms in the changing context of emerging technologies and the growing complexity of the economy.

b. A new autonomous body, viz., the Arbitration Council of India, maybe set up to grade arbitral institutions and accredit arbitrators to make the arbitration process cost-effective and speedy, and to pre-empt the need for court intervention.

c. The scope of the Swachh Bharat Mission may be expanded to cover initiatives for landfills, plastic waste and municipal waste and generating wealth from waste.

  • To achieve the goals of New India in 2022-23, it is important for the private sector, civil society and even individuals to draw up their own strategies to complement and supplement the steps the government intends to take. With the available tools of 21st-century technology, it should be possible to truly create a mass movement for development. With the Sankalp of all Indians, India will have Siddhi.

Check out our previous blogs on the Strategy for New India at 75:

Objectives

  • Increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education from 25 per cent in 2016-17 to 35 per cent by 2022-23.
  • Make higher education more inclusive for the most vulnerable groups.
  • Adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework and have multiple highly reputed accreditation agencies for facilitating the process.
  • Create an enabling ecosystem to enhance the spirit of research and innovation.
  • Improve the employability of students completing their higher education.

Current Situation

  • India has 864 university-level institutions, 40,026 colleges and 11,669 stand-alone institutions. The number of university-level institutions has grown by about 25 per cent and the number of colleges by about 13 per cent in the last five years. The private sector accounts for a large share of these institutions, managing 36.2 per cent of universities, 77.8 per cent of colleges and 76 per cent of stand-alone institutions in 2016-17.
  • India’s higher education GER (calculated for the age group, 18-23 years) increased from 11.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 25.2 per cent in 2016-17. However, we lag behind the world average of 33 per cent and that of comparable economies, such as Brazil (46 per cent), Russia (78 per cent) and China (30 per cent). Korea has a higher education GER of over 93 per cent.
  • In addition, regional and social disparities continue to exist in higher education: GER varies from 5.5 per cent in Daman & Diu to 56.1 per cent in Chandigarh. Figure 24.1 indicates GER in terms of gender and social groups. GER is 26.0 per cent for males and 24.5 per cent for females, with females constituting 46.8 per cent of the total enrolment of 35.7 million.
  • While the GERs for scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), other backward castes (OBCs) and minorities have been increasing, these are still below the overall average in most cases.
  • Quality is a challenge in higher education in India. Few Indian institutions feature in the top 200 in world rankings. In comparison, China has seven universities in the top 150 (3 in top 50) of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world rankings. These rankings did rank three IITs and the IISc amongst the top 20 BRICS universities in 2018.  Another issue is the employability of graduates.
  • Recognising the need to improve access, equity and excellence in higher education in the country, the government has taken significant steps, including the following:
  • Implementation and continuation of the centrally sponsored scheme, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA): This scheme seeks to improve access, equity and quality in state higher education institutions through a reforms-based approach and links funding to performance. The continuation of RUSA was recently approved until March 2 with an almost three-fold increase in allocation compared to that in its first phase (2013-17). The second phase of RUSA puts a premium on quality enhancement and addresses concerns of access and equity in the aspirational districts identified by the NITI Aayog.
  • National assessment and accreditation re-form: While making accreditation of higher education institutions mandatory, the reforms move away from an intrusive system to a more enabling, mixed method of assessment and accreditation. The process of accreditation has been fast-tracked and made more transparent. The emphasis is more on self-assessment, data capture, validation by third-party evaluation and objective peer review. This is a paradigm shift from the subjective assessment parameters ad- opted earlier. Ongoing reforms could lead to the empanelment of multiple accreditation agencies.
  • Regulations for graded autonomy to universities and autonomous colleges: A three-tiered graded autonomy regulatory system has been initiated, with the categorization of institutions as per their accreditation score by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) or other empanelled accreditation agencies, or by their presence in reputed world rankings. Category I and Category II universities will have significant autonomy as shown in Figure 24.2. Similarly, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also issued new regulations for granting autonomy based on accreditation scores for colleges. These colleges will have the freedom to conduct examinations, prescribe evaluation systems and even announce results but are not allowed to grant degrees.

Constraints

  • Outdated and multiple regulatory mechanisms limit innovation and progressive change.
  • Outdated curriculum results in a mismatch between education and job market requirements dampen students’ creativity and hamper the development of their analytical abilities.
  • Quality assurance or accreditation mechanisms are inadequate.
  • There is no policy framework for the participation of foreign universities in higher education.
  • There is no overarching funding body to promote and encourage research and innovation.
  • Public funding in the sector remains inadequate.
  • There are a large number of faculty posts lying vacant, for example in central universities, nearly 33 per cent of teacher posts were vacant in March 2018; faculty training is inadequate.

Way Forward

  1. Regulatory and governance reforms
  • Ensure effective coordination of roles of different higher education regulators, such as the UGC, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), and restructure or merge these where needed.
  • Amend the UGC Act to provide legislative backing to the tiered regulatory structure.
  • Create a framework to allow foreign universities of global repute to operate in India, in collaboration with Indian institutions to offer joint degree programmes.
  • Ensure that the selection process of Vice-Chancellors of universities is transparent and objective.
  • Link at least a proportion of the grants to performance and quality.
  1. Curriculum design
  • Domain experts in each educational field should be asked to develop a basic minimum standard in curriculum that will serve as a benchmark for institutions at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Institutions should be given the freedom to innovate and expand curriculum beyond this basic minimum standard. Curriculum and pedagogy at all higher education institutions should be updated continuously through mandatory feedback from domain experts, faculty, students, industry, and alumni.
  • Diverse post-secondary career options should be provided through skills/vocational training that should be integrated seamlessly with higher education and the skilling mission.
  • Internships by students in undergraduate courses should be encouraged and potentially mandated in all professional and technical courses. This would help with the practical orientation of students.
  1. Reforming accreditation framework
  • All higher education institutions must be compulsorily and regularly accredited. Despite a two-fold increase in accreditation levels in the last five years, accreditation coverage is still inadequate. One way to bridge this gap by 2022-23 is to allow credible accreditation agencies, empanelled through a transparent, high-quality process, to provide accreditation. Accreditation must give adequate weightage to outcomes rather than inputs only. Public information material brought out by institutions and their websites should prominently display the accreditation status and grade.
  1. Creating ‘world-class universities
  • Twenty universities – 10 each from the public and private sector – are being selected as ‘Institutions of Eminence’ and are helping to attain world-class standards of teaching and research. The funding of INR 1,000 crore over a 5-year period to each institution, planned for selected public universities, could be further increased. Further, a graded mechanism to ensure additional funds flow to the top public universities should be developed. This is similar to the model adopted by Singapore and China to develop their top two public universities.
  1. Performance-linked funding and incentives
  • Only two out of 47 central universities have NAAC scores of above 3.51, despite generous funding available to them. An evaluation may be undertaken to understand the challenges faced by these central universities, and they should be asked to develop strategic plans for getting into the top 500 of global universities rankings in the next 10 years.
  • Going forward, funding to these institutions should be linked to performance and outcomes through the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the newly constituted Higher Education Funding Agency.
  • RUSA may be continued beyond March 2020, subject to a credible third-party evaluation. This reform-based scheme has already made significant headway in getting state public education institutions into the mainstream. Continued support, linked to performance, will go a long way in pushing some of India’s leading state public universities up the ranking ladder.
  1. Development of teacher resources
  • Develop stringent norms for faculty recruitment in universities and colleges. A rigorous and transparent process of identifying the best talent for the higher education sector should be put in place. An ecosystem should be created where the most deserving talent is hired and retained. This should include eligibility tests of a high standard, such as existing UGC- recognised NET, as a minimum eligibility criterion for faculty recruitment, to ensure recruitment of candidates with academic and/ or research aptitude.
  • Quality teaching skills are in short supply across disciplines. A central scheme may be launched to attract teachers of Indian origin.
  • Enable and encourage the recruitment of practitioners with distinguished experience from professional bodies/industry as faculty. This can be achieved through the creation of a separate parallel track, on which the mandatory Ph.D qualification for faculty may be relaxed. These industry practitioners may also be encouraged to join as adjunct faculty in higher education institutions.
  • Introduce pre-service faculty training (3-6 months), including faculty exposure to the latest tools/techniques of quality teaching and research. Continuous faculty training and updating process should be introduced and made mandatory.
  • Develop a system of outcome-based faculty evaluation in higher education, which is flexible across different categories of institutions.
  • Conduct regular quality checks of journals, especially those that are used for evaluating faculty on academic performance indicators (APIs).
  1. Distance and online education
  • There is a need to broaden the scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and tap their potential to provide access to quality education beyond geographical boundaries. Universities with high accreditation scores may be permitted to offer online education programmes. In regular courses, technology could be leveraged to overcome faculty shortages.