In the words of one of the world’s most influential thinkers in higher education, “India is a world-class country without world-class universities. It deserves some world-class institutions, as it is a very large and growing economy. There are a lot of smart people in India but they go away to other countries, as they do not find top-level institutions here.”
The truth is that though India is at a sophisticated level intellectually, at present it has virtually no representation in international rankings of educational institutions. But soon, this thought will undergo a change. How?
The government of India has finally woken up from its deep slumber to the need to create a qualitative improvement in the standards of higher education in the country. The UGC and the AICTE — the apex higher education regulators — will lose their powers to regulate 20 higher educational institutions that the Centre will project as Institutions of Eminence. These selected institutions are expected to break into the global top 500 in 10 years. An initiative to promote 20 universities to become world-class teaching and research institutions will comprise of both government and private institutions.
Diluting the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) power, To begin with, a search-cum-selection-committee comprising the Cabinet Secretary, the Secretary (Higher Education) and the UGC chairman will be set up to choose an empowered expert committee comprising prominent scholars and eminent persons. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has decided to leave minimum powers to the UGC and run educational institutions on autonomy mode. In this task, the first step of the empowered committee would be to select 20 institutes of national eminence, 10 each in public and private sector, which will further compete for global rankings.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) idea to set up 20 world-class institutions was cleared by the Cabinet; the bill is likely to be produced in Parliament in the coming week.
These selected 20 institutions would be given complete freedom to decide their curriculum, hire national or international faculty at variable pay and fix a fee structure of their choice. However, this does not mean the freedom has to be misused. The framework thus decided will also provide financial support…so that meritorious but poor students do not lose the opportunity to study.
Only those institutions that are among the top 50 in the NIRF [National Institute Ranking Framework] rankings and have a consistent A-plus score in the National Assessment and Accreditation Council grading are eligible to apply for this scheme.
The world is home to somewhere around 17,000 universities, amongst which only the top 100–200 can be described as world class, whereas only the top 25 could be described as being truly world leading. Now, when India is planning to set out to become members of that elite group – instead of criticizing lets all stand together, and make this dream come true. As it’s said “Unity is Strength.”