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Improving Higher Education (21 October 2020)

Improving Higher Education (21 October 2020)

Why in News:

PM Modi recently said that a lot of focus has been put into the development of infrastructure and structural reforms in higher education.


Continuous efforts are being made to make India a global hub for higher education. Over the last 6 years many structural efforts have been made in higher education. PM Modi on Monday said that several higher education institutes like IITs, IIMs and AIIMS have been established in recent times. The prime minister also lauded the increased participation of girls in higher education.


As per the 2018 All India Survey of Higher Education data, there are 903 universities, 37.98% of them are privately managed.

The GER (Gross Enrolment Ratio) for the male population is 26.3%, and for female population it is 25.4% (Department of Higher Education).

Summary of the Debate

Five major pillars of a good Institution and a quality education:

  1. Infrastructure: Whether it is the government or the management whichever is there.
  2. Human Resource: Recruitment, Appointment, Promotion and nurturing the talent.
  3. Governance: Kind of leadership given to these Institution.
  4. Maintenance or Financing: Government owns them, so it is the duty of government to continue to finance them so that they continue to grow.
  5. Responsibility with Autonomy: National Education Policy 2020 talks about this as one of the major pillars for the first time because it talks about accountability and affordability by bringing Public-Private partnership also and bringing them at par.

Steps taken by UGC/MHRD to improve the quality of education:

  • UGS came out with a quality mandate which says that you have to have curriculum whiCentre to bring sweeping reforms in education sectorch is learning outcome based so we can define what is coming out of education.
  • It also says that not more than 10 percent teaching position should be vacant in the University which is required for improving the environment for research.
  • It talks about ‘Paramarsh’ that is Mentor-Mentor relationship.
  • There is a School Education Quality Index, where all the states are ranked on various parameters and they are measured on outcomes.
  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the new National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 with an aim to introduce several changes in the Indian education system - from the school to college level.

Challenges in becoming knowledge hub:

  • One of the other major challenges is that millions of students want to get in to higher educational Institution portals but because of the infrastructure limitation the University cannot admit all of them.
  • In many developed countries such as South Korea or Germany, Vocational training and education are given top priority, unfortunately in India, many people think that anybody who does vocational training is a kind of second-class person.
  • Introduction of quality towards excellence is the major challenge because still now we have expanded and there are more than 1000 Universities and more than 50,000 colleges and as many Institutions.
  • Bringing industry in to the research system is a major challenge. In USA or in the western countries, mostly the research units are funded by private sector.

Addressing the Issues of Research Ecosystem:

  • India has been a service economy for larger period of time but gradually it is moving towards a product economy and to move in to a product economy a country need lots of research.
  • There is need of providing vocational training by the top Universities like JNU, IITs, etc.
  • The formation of the National Research Foundation to improve the research ecosystem across the country in the Universities and the emphasis on multi-disciplinary and holistic education, for example: The Institute like IITs has become multi-disciplinary Institute so that there is holistic and multidisciplinary education is given to the students.
  • There is a lot of talent among the students who come from the towns and small villages and it is important to reach out to them and this is where the National Education Policy plays a major role in providing Aganwadis, training the teachers at the local level so that the education that is imparted to the kids is good and then only the next step can be taken to improve the higher education and the research in the Indian Universities.

Private sector Participation:

  • Most of the Universities are not capable in offering online education and this is where private public partnership can play a major role.
  • National Testing Agency is conducting nationwide entrance examination through a Public-Private kind of partnership and similar kind of model can be tried out by the Universities offering digital education to millions of people across the country.

Way Forward:

  • Not every student wants to become a PhD. holder, many of the students want to develop some skills so that they become employable and this is the right time for Universities to expand and go beyond what they are teaching and introduce skill-based education in the Universities.
  • There is a need to introduce accountability and health competition in higher educational Institutes. NEP 2020 talks about bringing top Universities of the world in to the country so that there is healthy competition to improve.
  • The research funding should be outcome based and performance based.
  • There are several aspects of National Education Policy which actually do not require any funding, it just require an attitudinal change and that is where the educational Institute has to come forward.


  • For too longer, most of the Indian University focused on research in terms of publishing in journals, but time has come to move towards research which is socially relevant and locally need based, nationally important and globally significant. And that can be done only if the base at the bottom of pyramid is strengthen.
  • Unless the education at the school level and also the higher educational research and education are not strengthened, it will be very difficult to build a ‘’Self-reliant India’’.

Important points made by the Guests

Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar,Vice Chancellor,JNU 

  • Higher Education in India is looking upwards for the simple reason that during last several years government has established many new IITS, IIMs and other research Institutes and there is increased interest among the students to take up higher education particularly research.
  • In terms of number of applications JNU receives for admission in higher education, there is a clear indication that many students like to take up higher education.
  • The approaches that government is adopting towards the education policy in the country is as a groundwork for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’, because the students who are educated and skilled in higher educational Institutes, ultimately, they will go in different sectors which will contribute to the Indian economy.
  • It is important to fund top Universities where excellence is there, but unless the base is strengthened, the excellence cannot be retained and that is the reason why National Education Policy 2020 talks about strengthening the ecosystem in 100 of Universities such as State University, Private University that are spread across the country.
  • 90 percent of Indian students are actually study in state and private Universities, less than 10 percent of students study in top Universities like JNU and IITs. That is the reason why National Education Policy has come up with an idea of first strengthening the school education because if the school kids are not trained well in terms of being innovative, creative and being experimental and when they come to the college or University level, it becomes difficult to impart these qualities to them suddenly.
  • The National Education Policy emphasis on mother tongue and teaching the kids in local language because there is enough research to show that kids will become more creative and innovative in the formative years if they taught in the local language or mother tongue.

Piyush Prakash, Senior Associate, Education, NITI Aayog

  • Be it school education or higher education, we need to provide a platform to have some creativity around.
  • There is something called Academic Performance Index where all the professors are graded and that has a component of research as well. So, if a professor is doing a research, the students could accompany the professor to assist the professor in the research and that is the structural change India is moving towards.
  • National Education Policy 2020 creates an enabling framework for Universities to follow by clearly segregating the roles of different regulators and assistors. So, earlier the role was done by UGC largely where it is also the regulator as well as accreditation body, but here is the new ecosystem where there are 4 verticals with very clear regulating system, then accreditation council which will create certain parameters, so there is no conflict of interest.
  • At the same time the system creates an environment where the Institutions are asked to prepare an Institutional Development Plan.

Prof. Sushma Yadav, Educationist & Vice Chancellor, Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalya, Haryana

  • The idea before the higher education growth in India since independence has been increasing the access, reaching to larger youth.
  • The two target of Indian education system are ‘Access and Quality’. That has paid well, there are good number of students but still in higher education, India has not reached beyond 23 percent and that remains aim and New Education Policytargets reaching 50 percent by 2030.
  • As soon as it becomes 50 percent, the girls or women target in the policy will surely be reachable.
  • The Indian education system is as plural as its culture is and as diverse as the country is and therefore, India have all kinds of Universities, the University which are state own, University which are Centrally governed, University which are privately funded, etc. and the major work before the higher education system is to take care of all these varieties of Institutions.
  • In the Gender inclusion fund, which the National Education Policy 2020 talks about is going to help the gender inclusion and also encouraging the girls and women who are still behind. India cannot become superpower in knowledge sector or a ‘Vishwa Guru’ without bringing this better half of the population in to the knowledge creating house.


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