In the backdrop of fee protest hike in JNU, critically analyse the state of Higher Education in India.

The uproar over fee hike at New Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University has given rise to more deeper questions about the quality of university education in India and are we getting the desired returns with the money we are investing in this sector. A vibrant higher education system is critical to achieving excellence in innovation and human capital.

Anyone with any interest and experience in the higher education sector can confirm that the status quo in higher education is not a sustainable option for India. India must act now and act fast if it wants to ensure the full potential of its demographic dividend is reached.  

Higher education sector faces several problems. 

  • Substandard quality-Over the last 3 decades, higher education institutions of various kinds have managed to mushroom all around the country, but a vast majority of them are of substandard quality and established with an intention to make money. Over the years various studies have concluded that almost 80 per cent of our engineering graduates are unemployable and in other disciples, the figure is at only 5 per cent.
  • Lack of Faculty- A study involving deans from top institutions of the country revealed that 80% of those listed lack of quality faculty as their biggest concern. Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. With the number of students doing their PhD remaining constant despite increasing demand for them since the 2000s the problem has only worsened. The problem has an easy solution which involves attracting talent with top-dollar salaries as there are over a 100,000 India-born PhDs in universities around the world.
  • Separation of teaching and research- The insistence of Indian universities to separate teaching and research activities deprives students of exposure to new ideas. With Indian R&D expenditure being just 0.62% and monetary incentives for academia practically being non-existent, its no surprise that Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching

If these problems persist India’s very future could be in peril. The worker force of tomorrow’s India needs to transition to the formal, organized and non-agricultural sector. An excellent higher education system is critical to achieving that dream.

The government needs to be proactive and needs to recognise the systemic decay in the sector. It needs to ensure that higher education sectors role in developing human capital is not ignored. The government released the Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) in June 2019, it must ensure that this policy can overhaul the sector and bring a culture of innovation and diversity to India’s higher education institutions.


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