Col. Dr. G. Thiruvasagam
AMET Deemed to be University
The QS World University Ranking, Times Higher Education World University Ranking, Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) have recently published their rankings. Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and University of Oxford top the lists as they have done for many years.
Of the 1,100 Indian universities none rank in the top 100 of these rankings. This is attributed to the conditions of Indian universities. However, in recent years, some IITs and a few central universities have started figuring in these rankings under certain categories.
To understand the absence of Indian varsities in such rankings, we must first understand their basic aims. From the outset, while some specialised institutions were devoted to research and enhancement of knowledge, the constitution and various government committees laid emphasis on the importance of ensuring social justice and recommended the adoption of the reservation policy so that Indian higher education may provide employable education to a maximum number of citizens.
On the other hand, the aim of top-ranking western universities is, by and large, to further knowledge and allow deserving candidates to pursue higher education. While western universities receive funding for research and merit-based admission, our government policy is focused on promoting social and education equality and maximum outreach. Only a few highly specialised institutions can pursue the same agenda as western universities.
To compete with the top-ranked universities, we need the best infrastructure, research development laboratories, software, faculty, and research scholars. The appointment of foreign teachers, admission of foreign students and the reputation of the organisations, which offer employment to the graduates are all taken into account when rankings are made. The Kothari Commission of 1966 recommended that at least 6% of the Gross National Product (GNP) be allocated towards the development of education.
Even after 75 years of independence, the Indian government has not even allocated 4% of the GNP for education with less than 2% of GNP allocated for research in higher education. In western countries where top varsities are based, 6% of GNP is allocated to higher education, of which 4% is for research.
Meanwhile, many government universities in India do not even have sufficient funds to pay the faculty and staff their salary or pensions. According to the union government’s higher education department statistics, in December 2022, there were 11,000 vacancies in the central universities (900 in Delhi University alone) and 90,000 vacancies for teachers in the state universities. Can Indian universities attract faculty and students from foreign countries without the necessary funding and infrastructure? This is a point to ponder.
The path ahead…
Government authorities and scholars should be delighted to note that the Indian educational system has empowered people, especially those from backward and marginalised communities, economically, socially and politically.
At the same time, these commendable efforts to secure social equality through the reservation policy cannot be blamed for not achieving global rankings. We have to compete with international institutions and reach the pinnacle while embracing social justice.
The responsibility for the excellent quality of the end product of the university rests in the hands of every single faculty member who has to have the necessary and up-to-date knowledge to equip the students to compete at the global level.
As per the National Education Policy 2020, the government of India plans to permit 100 foreign universities to start academic campuses in India. The government should ensure the reservation policy is followed in admission of students and appointment of faculty to ensure a level playing field.
If we analyse the list of top-ranking universities, we see that they offer education and research programmes in their mother tongue. Indian universities should also provide quality education in the mother tongue of students.
Crucially, union and state governments should allocate 6% of GNP for higher education as per the recommendations of the Kothari Commission and the National Education Policy.
With the necessary funding and dedicated faculty at Indian varsities, the performance of students will rise to meet global expectations and India will soon be well represented in the global rankings.
Courtesy: The New Indian Express