Need a collaborative policy and action crowdsourcing

A decade back, when a leading government institution’s efforts to establish an overseas campus was curtailed, with unmet demand in India being cited as one of the reasons, a former Director of a leadi

Published: 08th April 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th April 2017 11:27 PM   |  A+A-

A decade back, when a leading government institution’s efforts to establish an overseas campus was curtailed, with unmet demand in India being cited as one of the reasons, a former Director of a leading Indian Institute of Management sarcastically asked, “Why should India export textiles when there are so many people still naked?” Globally, there is considerable rise in the demand for higher education, which will see a minimum 10 per cent compound annual growth rate for the next five years, and for a country like India, the demand is a problem of plenty that needs to be handled with utmost care, as education is about socio-economic wealth creation. The advancements in technology and the rapid integration of institutions across the globe make the next growth wave ride on quality and  this could not have come at a better time  for India as the demographic dividend needs new levels of quality higher education.

HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar
releasing NIRF 2017

The release of an improved National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2017 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to rank universities, engineering, management and pharmacy institutions and colleges is a significant move to qualitatively rank all members of the higher education ecosystem with an Indian touch. All the reputed global ranking efforts are not aligned to suit the Indian academic narrative and realities. NIRF is an Indian response to qualitatively identify progressive higher education institutions for policy encouragement and continuous improvement. With the release of NIRF 2017, the identification exercise is complete and the entire country waits for the agenda for action to put an end  to classification done by a committee of second innings academics using third class standards,  which stifled the growth of deemed universities.

The agenda can be channelised into three dimensions - adopt, share and lead. There is an urgent need to adopt global best practises to compete globally, share expertise for local improvement and take leadership roles for helping smaller nations in trouble. The NIRF rankings serve as pointers in this direction and through a collaborative and coherently synergistic model, all the three can be achieved.

The Education Policy Outlook 2015, compiled by the OECD countries, studied the broad education policy reform processes adopted by these nations between 2008 and 2014 to raise student outcome, enhance institutional quality and achieve effective systemic governance. It identified critical stakeholders - students, institutions and systems with each having two policy levers of action. Student: Equity (quality) and preparing students for the future, Institution: school improvement, evaluation and assessment and Systems: Governance and funding. There is no doubt that these six policy levers are equally, if not more, applicable to the Indian discourse on higher education and the next logical step is the action mode.

The NIRF ranking has created a heterogeneous pool of institutions drawn from various categories – public and private, engineering, management, pharmacy and university types. The surge of  private institutions in the Top 50 or 100 is clearly a clarion call to the policy makers, who can no longer afford to discriminate between public and private institutions. There is a need to collaboratively engage with the top 50 institutions that can take a proactive lead in addressing the six policy levers in three operational modes. A policy roadmap with action plan needs to be prepared with significant regulatory freedom and funding with a promise to expand this participative base to 100 in the next three years. Such collaborative policy and action crowdsourcing are unavoidable for a vibrant knowledge driven Indian economy. Let the process begin.                                                      

S Vaidhyasubramaniam

Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University

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