Vice President calls for achieving access, equity and excellence in Higher Education

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New Delhi: The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has stressed the importance of achieving the goals of access, equity and excellence in higher education.

Speaking after releasing the book titled “Quality, Accreditation and Ranking – A Silent Revolution in the Offing in Indian Higher Education” written by Dr. H Chaturvedi and his fellow authors, here today, he said the focus of successive governments for the past many years has been to achieve “access, equity and excellence”. Although substantial progress has been made over the years, a lot more needs to be done, particularly on the excellence front, he added.

Pointing out that quality assurance was important to improve higher education sector, he said the root cause of the problem in private and government-funded institutions was commercialization and poor governance respectively. The true quality of education should be assessed by its ability to foster responsible citizenship and social cohesiveness, and inculcate moral and ethical values in students. This important aspect of quality education goes beyond the contours of the course curriculum and the actual teaching–learning processes that take place inside the classroom, he added.

Shri Naidu said that higher education transforms an individual into a responsible human being with social, moral and ethical values embedded in him or her apart from making the person more productive. Thus, quality assurance and accreditation mechanism should acknowledge the transformative role of education in a broader sense, he added.

The Vice President said that quality assurance mechanism helps the students to choose courses and institutions on the basis of grades or ranks. It would enable them to make informed choice. From the perspective of the institutions, accreditation and ranking would help them to identify gaps in their delivery mechanism, the Vice President said.

Quoting the UNESCO Institute of Statistics data, Shri Naidu said that there were only 215 researchers per million inhabitants in India as on 2015 and women researchers participation was minimal. “We cannot continue with business as usual approach and there should be a paradigm shift in promoting research in higher educational institutions”, he added.

The Vice President urged HEIs to accord greater importance to research and innovation and promote an eco-system for creativity to thrive. He said that having a research facility at Post Graduate College level should become a criterion for obtaining accreditation by bodies such as UGC (University Grants Commission) or NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).

The Book released by the Vice President contains articles, essays and research papers authored by some of the prominent educationists, policy makers, researchers and a media person, presents an analysis of the past and present scenario in the Indian Higher Education. The book also focuses on how to raise the quality of our colleges and universities to enable them compete globally.

Following is the Text of Vice President’s address:

“At the outset, let me compliment Dr. H Chaturvedi and his fellow authors for compiling a volume on the theme of “Quality, Accreditation and Ranking – A Silent Revolution in the Offing in Indian Higher Education”.

The book containing articles, essays and research papers authored by some of the prominent educationists, policy makers, researchers and a media person, presents an analysis of the past and present scenario in the Indian Higher Education. The book also outlines the views of the authors on how to raise the quality of our colleges and universities to enable them compete globally.

Friends,

Indian higher education has expanded quite rapidly during the last three decades, which also coincided with the post-liberalisation era of the Indian economy. It is a fact that now at global level, on the basis of its size, expanse and enrolment numbers, India is ranked second after China.

Till 1947, higher education was accessible to a privileged few–mostly urban and elite class. The first three universities in India during the British rule were founded in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1856. Till Independence, the size of our higher education system was small. In the year 1950-51, there were only 27 universities, 578 colleges and a total enrolment of 2.4 lakh students. A decade later (1960-61), the enrolment has risen to a mere 11 lakh students and the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) was a poor 1.1 percent.

However, the situation has changed drastically in the last few decades with the expansion of higher education. According to the latest All India Survey on Higher Education (2017-18), there are 903 universities and the total number of colleges stands at 49,061. Currently, the total number of students enrolled in our colleges and universities is about 36.7 million.

Although our GER has improved to 25.8 per cent, it lags behind the global average of 33 percent and those of the emerging economies like Brazil (46 percent), Russia (78 percent) and China (36 percent).

Clearly the focus of successive governments for the past many years has been to achieve three important goals– ‘access, equity and excellence”. Although substantial progress has been made over the years a lot more needs to be done to achieve all the three goals, particularly on the excellence front.

According to the latest data of accreditation of colleges and universities provided by NAAC, only 341 universities and 7,695 colleges have achieved NAAC accreditation so far, which is barely 20 percent of our total number of universities and colleges. It means that around 80 percent colleges and universities are still not accredited! It is really a matter of concern that out of 5 institutions, only 1 institution has so far been accredited and whose quality can be relied upon by students, parents and recruiters.

The Ministry of HRD and regulatory bodies like UGC, AICTE, MCI and NCTE have initiated a series of reforms and have also introduced several schemes to bring “quality” to the top agenda of Indian Higher Education.

Some of the significant measures undertaken in this regard include linking state funding to public universities with quality assessment under Rastriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), proposal to set up 20 eminent institutions or universities and introduction of 3-tiered graded autonomy system. Besides, the “Quality Mandate” issued by the UGC has to be achieved by all higher education institutions by the year 2020.

Quality assurance is important for improving higher education sector. The root cause of the problem in private and government-funded institutions is commercialization and poor governance respectively. While the problems have to be tackled differently, a single standardised solution may not ensure improvement in quality across Higher Education institutions.

Any quality assurance mechanism should not ignore the fact that education generates externalities. The true quality of education should be assessed by its ability to foster responsible citizenship and social cohesiveness, and inculcate moral and ethical values in students. This important aspect of quality education goes beyond the contours of the course curriculum and the actual teaching–learning processes that take place inside the classroom.

Higher education transforms an individual into a responsible human being with social, moral and ethical values embedded in him or her apart from making the person more productive. Thus, the quality assurance and accreditation mechanism should acknowledge the transformative role of education in a broader sense and facilitate in widening the horizons of the Indian higher education system.

When it comes to choosing courses and institutions, students suffer from “information asymmetry”, which makes it difficult for them to assess the quality and arrive at a decision. Accreditation and ranking would therefore provide them with information as to which institution conforms to well-defined standards set by the regulatory authority.

Ranking also provides information about the performance of Higher Educational Institutions within a competitive set up. Further, the quality assurance mechanism helps the students to choose courses and institutions on the basis of grades or ranks. It will enable them to make informed choice.

From the perspective of the institutions, accreditation and ranking would help them to identify gaps in their delivery mechanism. It encourages the HEIs to put in an extra effort and improve their ranking, which indeed is the need of the hour.

Our higher educational institutions must accord greater importance to research and innovation and create an eco-system for creativity to thrive.

According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics data, there are only 215 researchers per million inhabitants in India as on 2015 and women researchers’ participation is very nominal. We cannot continue with business as usual approach and there should be a paradigm shift in promoting research in higher educational institutions.

Every educational Institution must have a dedicated research wing. Having a research facility at Post Graduate College level should be a criterion for obtaining accreditation by bodies such as UGC (University Grants Commission) or NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council).

In the end, I once again congratulate Dr. H Chaturvedi and his co-authors for bringing out this book which will be a useful a compendium for all Indian institutions and Universities in charting out their future road map for becoming quality institutions.

I also appreciate initiative of the Educational Promotion Society for India (EPSI), Bloomsbury India Pvt Ltd and BIMTECH for organizing this function and inviting me for the release of the book.

Jaihind!”