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Mains Answer Writing

27-March-2024

Q1) Indian institutions of higher education feature low in international rankings of universities. In this perspective, critically evaluate the need for minimal regulations and institutional autonomy in fostering the growth of Indian universities as global centers of knowledge production.

(250 Words/15 Marks)

ANS

In the 2024 QS world university rankings India has no presence in top-100, while US, UK, China have 27, 17 and 10 institutions respectively.

India’s higher education institutions are considered of poor quality, and highly regulated which harms the functioning of Indian universities in the following ways:

  1. Excessive control, regulations, and government intervention in institutions of higher education.
  2. Restrictive regulations lead to forced uniformity leaving little space for creativity and innovation.
  3. Multiplicity of control creates confusion, hinders decision making and dilutes accountability.
  4. As per critics, spoils system in universities is compromising the academic quality.

 Minimum regulations and institutional autonomy of universities can help develop them as global centers of knowledge production in the following ways:

  1. Academic excellence: Autonomy will allow universities to decide own curriculum and develop cross-disciplinary courses. It will build their niche competencies and emerge as center for excellence and innovations in particular fields.
  2. Financial independence: Financial autonomy allows universities to determine the fee structure, provide scholarships to deserving students, hire good teachers on competitive salaries, undertake sponsored research projects etc. All this would build knowledge capabilities in Indian universities.
  3. Administrative effectiveness: Universities are constantly subjected to governmental pressures and decisions especially at state level, often based on non-academic considerations. Administrative autonomy in management system would encourage best practices of governance based on academic considerations.
  4. Competitive environment: Currently, number of private institutions is almost twice that of government institutions. Higher autonomy would enable public universities to compete with private institutions.
  5. Changing nature of education:
  6. It is critical for universities to reinvent themselves and respond to new challenges, such as regular updates on curriculum.
  7. With changing nature of education and growing use of technology, universities need to adapt. Covid-19 highlighted the importance of e-learning.

 However, mere institutional autonomy will not improve quality of higher education. Following measures are also needed:

  1. Enabling regulations: Education cannot be improved merely by de-regulating universities, instead they need enabling atmosphere. For this, new framework to regulate universities is required.
  2. Implementing initiatives: Government initiatives like “graded autonomy” under NEP 2020, curriculum reform, anytime-anywhere learning through SWAYAM, teacher training is all aimed at improving quality. These need to be effectively implemented.
  3. Better curriculum: Curriculum should be developed continuously to incorporate innovation and creativity. The process of revision of curriculum should be reviewed, simplified and made less cumbersome.
  4. Devolution of powers: Devolution and decentralization of power should flow not from external environment only but should be delved at different levels within the higher education itself. Charter of responsibilities and delegation of authority should be well defined and monitored together.
  5. Funding: The higher education in the country is grossly under-funded. Government should provide more funds especially to state universities.

 Granting autonomy is essential for development of higher education. With the expansion, diversity, and complexity of higher education, the need to decentralize authority and to provide greater autonomy to universities has emerged as an inevitable approach. NEP has recognized the need of institutional academic and administrative autonomy. It should be effectively implemented

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