Chapter VII: Higher Education
7.1 Issues Affecting Quality of Higher Education
7.1.1 While the Indian higher education system is one of the largest in the world, the quality of universities and colleges and the education they offer is far from satisfactory. The number of institutions of high quality is limited. Even the top- most Indian institutions do not figure in the international rankings of universities in the world. This is an issue of major concern and the subject of frequent public discourse in India.
7.1.2 The quality and standards of Indian higher education institutions need to be upgraded systematically and sustained at a high level through rigorous screening, innovation and research, recognition of excellence and creativity. Currently there is no regular system of regular monitoring of educational outcomes.
7.1.3 Higher education and research institutions in India have evolved in divergent specialised streams, with each stream being monitored by an apex body. The UGC has an omnibus mandate, covering all aspects relating to recognition, accreditation, curriculum approval, permission to start courses, disbursement of grants to institutions, and management of scholarship programmes. The National Board of Accreditation (NBA) and the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) are autonomous bodies, which recognise and accredit programmes offered by professional and technical institutions in the disciplines of engineering and technology, management, architecture, pharmacy and hospitality.
7.1.4 In addition, there are a number of other professional councils established by statute as well as autonomous coordinating or regulatory bodies, many of which are authorised to perform the functions of recognition and accreditation of institutions and courses of study under their jurisdiction. These include the Quality Council of India (QCI), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Bar Council of India (BCI), the Medical, Pharmacy and Dental Councils of India (MCI, PCI and DCI), the Nursing Council of India (INC) the Central Councils of Homoeopathy and Indian Medicine (CCH and CCIM), the Institute of Management and Engineering (IME), the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the National Councils for Teacher Education (NCTE), the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), among other regulatory bodies.
7.1.5 According to UGC data for 2014-15, there were 329 state universities, 46 central universities, 128 deemed to be universities, 74 institutions of national importance, and 205 state private universities functioning in the country. Ther e were40,760 colleges (UGC Annual Report, 2014-15). The total estimated enrolment in all higher education institutions in year 2014-15 was 3.33 crore.
7.1.6 There is a large network of research institutions providing courses of advanced learning and research leading up to a Ph.D. in branches of science, technology, agriculture, social sciences, languages and other disciplines. Many of these institutions come under the umbrella of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Even though a very few of these national research institutions are referred to as islands of excellence, the overall impression about the quality of research, and the output and performance of most of these agencies over the decades has been not seen to be satisfactory.
7.1.7 The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), are among the most prestigious institutions in the field of science, technology, and management.
7.1.8 Technical education has grown rapidly in recent years, with the annual enrolment of scientists, engineers and technicians exceeding 20 lakhs. The break- up includes around 9.5 lakh engineers, who have undergone a 4-year undergraduate degree; 7 lakh diploma holders; over a lakh computer scientists with post-graduate degrees and 2.4 lakh Management Professionals, apart from about 30,000 architects and 50,000 B Pharma graduates.
(a) Variations in Quality
7.1.9 At present, there are wide variations in the quality of higher education institutions in India. Some institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), have been globally acclaimed for their high quality of education. Alumni from these institutions have made impressive contributions in science, technology, research, management, business and commerce both in India and abroad. However, barring a few, India still lacks universities and institutions that could be considered to be at par with the best universities in the world.
7.1.10 At the other end of the spectrum are large numbers of privately run‘teaching shops’ and so-called non-profit institutions, which are generally ill-equipped, and operating with unqualified staff. Such institutions seek to take advantage of the widespread demand for acquiring degrees. Many of these private universities, colleges and institutes operate under political patronage and take advantage of a lax or corrupt regulatory environment to run courses and offer'degrees' which are of little use in the employment market. Students mainlycoming from rural and semi-urban backgrounds often fall prey to these institutes and colleges.
7.1.11 The majority of higher education institutions fall in between these two extremes. These institutions vary widely in terms of infrastructure, library and laboratory facilities, quality of teachers and teaching-learning processes. Many universities and colleges have poor infrastructure facilities and face shortage of qualified teachers. In general, around 40 percent of the teaching positions remain vacant in many institutions.
7.1.12 A fundamental weakness is the lack of transparency and accountability in the system, which is exacerbated by the strength of teacher unions, threat of strikes and the affiliations of student bodies with different political parties.
(b) Teacher Availability
7.1.13 With the rapid increase in the number of higher education institu tions, the availability of quality teachers has emerged as a major constraint. This has implications for maintaining the quality of higher education even as the sector expands. Teacher availability in higher education depends upon enrolment in post-graduate courses and research programmes. Currently, students at post- graduate level and above constitute less than 12 percent of the total enrolment. Private institutions rarely focus on education and research at the post graduate level. Moreover, for most students, teaching is not the preferred choice and comes only after private sector and government employment.
7.1.14 A related issue is the need to ensure that good candidates enter the teaching profession. Teachers in higher education are currently either selected to individual institutions, as in the case of university departments, aided colleges and private colleges, or to a system or cluster of institutions, as in the case of government colleges. There is merit in recruiting and attaching teachers to institutions so that they develop institutional loyalty and commitment to improve the quality of that institution. However, whether the teachers are selected for an institution or for the system, the recruitment process should be so structured as to ensure the entry of quality of teachers into the system.
7.1.15 It was brought to the notice of the Committee that there are several reasons for faculty posts remaining vacant. First, there is reluctance on the part of some states to fill posts on a regular basis with the aim of saving the outgo on salaries of full-time faculty. Second, the recruitment process through the public service commission is often time-consuming. A large number of teaching positions are lying vacant, especially in state universities and affiliated colleges. The process of recruitment also gets delayed due to litigation. However the alternative of recruiting ad-hoc and part-time faculty impacts adversely on the quality of teaching and research. It has been found that wherever the states have invested in permanent, qualified faculty, the outcomes are generally far superior – a lesson has to be taken from the benefits of proper recruitment of faculty.
7.1.16 A system of screening has been established at the national and state levels to ensure that teachers meet a common minimum standard to enter the teaching profession. In 1989, the UGC had introduced the National Eligibility Test (NET) for prospective teachers in higher education. Similarly, State Governments conduct their own State Eligibility Tests (SET). The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has an eligibility test for teachers entering the science stream. At present, qualifying for the NET or SET is mandatory for entry into the teaching profession in higher education institutions. The NET examinations are conducted twice every year. More than 3 lakh candidates appear for each session of the NET examination, with success rate of less than 5 percent. The Committee noted that there has been improvement in the quality of candidates joining the higher education institutions as teachers as a result of NET examination.
7.1.17 During 2012-13, the UGC had established Faculty Induction Development Cells (FIDC) in select Universities. The FIDC would prepare a Calendar of recruitment / promotions of faculty and a service Training Module for the newly inducted teachers. Teaching-learning centres are being set up for this purpose, in addition to the existing administrative staff colleges.
7.1.18 Another dimension of the problem is that there is little research on teaching learning in higher education in India. There is a need for establishing special centres, either in existing university departments or as separate institutions or academies, in order to promote research in various aspects of teaching-learning processes in the higher education sector. These centres should promote research on pedagogical practices, provide professional support to promote the development of teaching skills, encourage the use of modern technology, evolve methods to assess quality of teaching and learning, develop instruments to measure teaching effectiveness and create feedback mechanisms for sharing the results of studies on teaching effectiveness.
7.1.19 The Committee was informed that at present, a Ph.D. degree is virtually perceived to be a necessity for teachers in higher education institutions. This has in turn spawned a large number of institutions promising Ph. Ds on a commercial basis, which have little real worth or utility. The Committee is of the view that the real need is for high quality and motivated teachers, and that a Ph.D. is not necessary for every teaching position in every college.
7.1.20 In government colleges in the states, teachers are recruited to the system and are seen as civil servants. They can be transferred from one institution and region to another at any time. They have neither opportunity nor keenness to develop institutional attachments and attune themselves to the social context and cultural mores of an institution. To the extent possible, teachers should be recruited and attached to institutions, as in the case of university departments.
(c) Appointment of Vice-Chancellors
7.1.21 A Vice Chancellor as the academic and administrative head of a university plays a definitive role in promoting institutional leadership and academic excellence. The efficient management of a university depends very largely on the Vice Chancellor’s professional standing and administrative acumen. The present system of appointing Vice Chancellors has often been manipulated to such an extent that it no longer results in the appointment of competent persons as Vice- Chancellors.
7.1.22 A university Vice-Chancellor is expected to be the embodiment of scholarship, wisdom and high academic stature. In the past, this position had been occupied by persons of the eminence of Dr. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Laxman Swami Muddaliar, Pandit Amarnath Jha, Dr. Zakir Husain, Dr. Amrik Singh, among others. Unfortunately, one cannot easily identify people of such outstanding calibre, in general, in the Indian universities.
7.1.23 The appointment of Vice-Chancellors is generally made on the basis of the recommendations of a Search Committee. The membership of the Search Committees, with representatives from Government and academia, is ostensibly independent, but in actual practice it is usually not so. In most cases, the Chairman is a Government nominee and amenable to suggestions about the choice of selection. The other members are usually also selected from among those with a similar inclination. The Search Committees goes through the motions and process of selection, but their recommendations are unfortunately generally pre- determined. The result is that, in fact, most Vice Chancellors are political appointees, and often quite willing to follow the official line in the management of the universities. Over a period of time, Governments have come to effectively control Universities by appointing people who are beholden to them as university officials.
7.1.24 It is imperative that the selection of Vice-Chancellor should be done on merit. Appointment of the Vice-Chancellor on the basis of academic merit will ensure that the VC has credibility in the eyes of the faculty and students. Several committees in the past have made recommendations for making the process of selection of VCs transparent and objective. It is high time that these are implemented in letter and spirit.
7.1.25 The above is possible only if the process of appoint of VCs is depoliticized. This needs national consensus. Central and State Governments have to come together and agree on a common agenda for appointing persons of academic eminence only as VCs. Unless this is done, there is little hope of improving the education standard and management efficiency of our universities.
(d) Ensuring Quality in Higher Education
7.1.26 Policy interventions have generally tended to focus on the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education, which is currently around 23% and sought to be increased, through the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) to 30%. However, the GER does not track the wide variations and uneven quality of the education being imparted to students. According to one industry association study, less than 20% of those graduating from higher educational institutions are rated as immediately employable by industry. The quality of higher education needs to be urgently upgraded, particularly at the lower end of the spectrum dominated by the private sector. It is perhaps time to pay attention to a different type of GER – the Gross Employability Ratio of graduates.
7.1.27 An effective system for assessing the quality of higher education institutions would need to distinguish between recognition, accreditation and evaluation of the institution under review. Recognition is a minimal, legal threshold which essentially ensures that the institution offers courses and degrees which fall within the purview of the recognised higher education system. Accreditation is a higher threshold of minimal quality assurance; it validates and provides assurance that the quality of education provided by the institution meets a common standard.
7.1.28 Accreditation is important for the institution, the student and for prospective employers. For assurance of quality and adherence to academic standards, accreditation enhances the reputation and acceptability of the institution and the degree conferred by it. It increases the employability and worth of the student in the job market by enabling prospective employers to filter and grade individuals on the basis of a common standard of accreditation. It reassures recruiters that the student has received quality education and will add value to the establishment when he joins it.
7.1.29 Until recently, accreditation was voluntary and institutions of higher education had to approach the accreditation agencies to get their institution or programme accredited. However, in 2013, stemming from the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission (2007-08) and the Yashpal Committee (2009) the UGC notified new regulations (the Mandatory Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions Regulations, 2012) making accreditation mandatory for all institutions of higher education other than those in the technical and medical streams. Without accreditation, no general-stream university or college was to be eligible for grants from the UGC.
7.1.30 Thus, the current position is that accreditation is mandatory only for general stream higher education institutions receiving grants-in-aid from the UGC. Technical and medical institutions are not required to go through the accreditation process. This is an anomaly and lacuna which needs to be corrected. A detailed recommendation to this effect has been made elsewhere in this Report.
7.1.31 Of the 164 universities recognized by the UGC, 140 have got themselves accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), with only 32% percent being rated as A grade or above. Among the 4,870 colleges,2,780 are accredited by the NAAC, with barely 9% making the A or above grade.Among the accredited institutions, 68% of the universities and 91% of the colleges are rated average or below average in terms of the quality parameters specified by the NAAC. Quality and excellence in colleges clearly leaves much to be desired.
7.1.32 Apart from accreditation, ranking of higher educational institutions is another useful indicator of institutional performance. There is no official ranking system for higher education institutions in India. The MHRD has recently announced an official ranking system for higher education institutions in India. However, several publications (India Today, Outlook, Business Standard, etc) bring out lists of rankings from time to time, which generally do not have any rational acceptance or basis for the rating methods; these are more like surveys or opinion polls.
7.1.33 Recently, a joint initiative has been launched by directors of IITs, IIMs, NITs and representatives of CII and FICCI to work out a ranking system suitable for India. It has been reported that six groups of outcomes, including academic performance, teaching-learning, learning resources, graduation outcome, global MoUs and impact/innovation will be used as bench-marks by which institutions will be ranked. Ranking for science, engineering, liberal arts, social sciences, medicine, law and business administration will be done differently.
7.1.34 The Committee is of the view that a credible ranking system covering all institutions of higher education without exception needs to be instituted, building on the recent initiative of the MHRD.
7.1.35 The proliferation of privately run ‘teaching shops’ and so-called non-profit institutions, ill-equipped and operating with unqualified staff, is a disturbing development and needs to be urgently addressed through appropriate measures.
7.1.36 The first step is to confront the reality that many private universities and colleges, professional and otherwise, flourish under the patronage of influential people backed by money power with little interest in education, taking advantage of a lax or corrupt regulatory environment.
7.1.37 It has to be recognised that the higher education institutions are proliferating but there is neither a structured system nor adequate commitment to provide quality teachers commensurate with the increasing demand for higher education. A manpower-needs study must be undertaken every five years at the central and state levels to determine the need for faculty positions in institutions of higher education. The recruitment needs have to be forecast well in advance to ensure that the recruitment action is taken in time. The scope for making appointments based upon subjectivity has to give way to rigorous merit based selection, preferably through the Public Service Commission or an independent body set up for the purpose.
7.1.38 There is a need to ensure that competent and motivated teachers enter the profession. Innovative options have to be offered to talented students at the class 12 stage from amongst, say the top performers (depending upon projected manpower requirements of specific subjects at college and university level). They could be offered admission in a 5-year integrated course in those disciplines, which would include an emphasis on nurturing teaching skills, research methodology along with subject specialisation. This total period should be fully sponsored from public funds so that the best people are motivated to join the teaching profession in higher education.
7.1.39 It was brought to the notice of the Committee that the reasons for faculty posts remaining vacant were several. First, there is reluctance on the part of some states to fill posts on a regular basis with the aim of saving the outgo on salaries of full-time faculty. Second, the recruitment process, through the Public Service Commissions is often time-consuming. A large number of teaching positions are lying vacant, especially in state universities and affiliated colleges. The process of recruitment also gets delayed due to litigation. However the alternative of recruiting ad-hoc and part-time faculty impacts adversely on the quality of teaching and research. It has been found that wherever the states have invested in permanent, qualified faculty, the outcomes are far superior and a lesson has to be taken from the benefits of proper recruitment of faculty.
7.1.40 Overdependence on ad-hoc and guest teachers militates against the quality of teaching. Learning from the experience of states that have invested in the recruitment of permanent faculty, which has reflected in better performance at the college and university level, it is recommended that all state higher education departments devote utmost attention to ensuring that permanent faculty is in position in all their institutions. For this, recruitment action has to start well in time and the absence of regular faculty should become a negative indicator at the time of accreditation.
7.1.41 For most undergraduate programmes, it should not be necessary to insist upon for teachers to possess a doctoral degree. Instead, it should be mandatory for such teachers to attend appropriate training programmes in teaching and communication skills, and the use of ICT.
7.1.42 Budgetary allocations should be increased and facilities for carrying out research should be improved in order to support good researchers. Policy-makers needs access to good research – however, this element is not usually factored into most research projects; equally policy-makers in general seldom reach out to universities to suggest appropriate research themes on issues of significance, that call for a nuanced understanding.
7.1.43 To the extent possible, teachers should be recruited and attached to particular institutions, rather than be part of an organised service where they are subject to frequent transfers. This will help in developing institutional attachment, identification and commitment.
7.1.44 At present, accreditation is mandatory only for general stream higher education institutions receiving grants-in-aid from the UGC. Technical and medical institutions are not required to go through the accreditation process. Accreditation should be made mandatory for all institutions of higher education, including technical education, medicine and agriculture, both in public and private sectors.
7.2 Role of State in Management of Higher Educational Institutions
7.2.1 There are different types of institutions of higher education across the country. These include central and state universities, private universities created under state laws, ‘deemed to be universities’, autonomous colleges, and other types of education institutions.
(a) Government (Public) Universities
7.2.2 The so called Government universities were created through Central or State legislations. Technically a university is autonomous; it is not a Government institution, nor a grant-in-aid institution. In reality, Governments exercise extensive control. Vice chancellors are invariably nominees of Government, more often than not politically acceptable. By law Government appoints several nominees on the Syndicate and Senate; statutes and ordinances need to have Government approval. Since these universities depend almost entirely on funding from Government, even in academic matters they have no real autonomy as no new course can be started or faculty position created without approval of State Finance authorities. Governments do not readily allow fee increase, and universities do not try to check expenditure. Release of Government funds is irregular and erratic, salaries often do not get paid in time, universities often accumulate deficit forcing them to take overdrafts.
7.2.3 A university cannot be truly autonomous unless it has assured sources of funding. While Government will have to be a major source of funding for many years, universities must be incentivised to raise additional resources by starting new programs on cost recovery basis, employment of part-time and contractual staff on market-determined salaries, optimum use of buildings and other assets, and regular increase in fees without Government approval. The standard of Government universities will improve only when Governments see the need to detach themselves from management control, and empower universities to be financially responsible and academically respectable.
7.2.4 Most of the older universities are affiliating universities. These universities approve curriculum and courses, conduct examinations of and award degrees to students of affiliated colleges. They also carry out inspections and exercise general oversight on the functioning of affiliated colleges. In case of many universities the number of affiliated colleges is quite large; the Committee was informed that one university has as many as 800 colleges affiliated to it. In many educationally advanced countries there is no system of affiliation and each college functions as an autonomous entity. The 1986 policy made a reference to mixed experience of the system of affiliation and recommended greater autonomy to colleges and university departments. As a result of this some colleges have been granted autonomous status in accordance with UGC guidelines. Most private universities are non-affiliating but the older universities continue to be burdened with the academic and administrative responsibilities of affiliated colleges, not allowing them to concentrate fully on teaching and research.
(b) Private Universities
7.2.5 Most states, in recent years, have statutorily allowed the creation of private universities; in some states, a separate Act is required for creation of each private university, and in others, an umbrella Act is available permitting creation of private universities through delegated legislation. In all these cases, these universities are unitary without any affiliating unit, and are largely free fr om state control in management. There are restrictions on these universities to open branches or Chapters in other states, or provide distance education. These universities come under the purview of UGC/AICTE; and also conform to their requirements and follow their instructions. However, as noted elsewhere the UGC/AICTE were established decades back; the number of higher education institutions have multiplied manifold all over the country – neither the UGC nor AICTE has the numbers and quality of human resources to supervise so many institutions under their purview. Thus the approval of curriculum and other related clearances from UGC/AICTE is a matter of great uncertainty, time consuming and unduly tedious. The Committee was informed that this has led to widespread malpractices. Informal discussions around the country have indicated that these ‘regulatory’ agencies mostly have no time, inclination, energy, or capacity to perform legitimate regulatory duties. Their intervention is viewed as being generally of a rent-seeking nature. The Committee notes that the higher education system continues to suffer the negative aspects of a favour-granting system, without making a corresponding beneficial contribution in terms of academic quality, or process efficiency. Expectedly, this has resulted in severe loss of credibility of regulatory bodies.
7.2.6 With regard to admission of students, particularly to technical courses it is noticed that in general, demand far exceeds the supply of seats, particularly in sought-after technical and medical institutions. Most states, based on their board examinations or on a special examination conducted for the purpose, prepare seniority lists for sponsoring students to the ‘state quota’ – especially in engineering and medical colleges. This quota ranges from 50% in many states up to 80% in others – the remaining seats are left to the college management to fill up under their own discretionary quota. In other words, these are the ‘capitation’ fee seats; for which the premium varies according to demand. In some of the post- graduate medical courses, the premium can be as high as a few crores; till recent times, when the demand for engineering seats was extremely high, the capitation fee for a management quota of a middle quality institution could be as high, in some cases going as high as Rs. 5 lakh.
7.2.7 In most states, college fees are determined by the government, and are kept very low, ostensibly to provide opportunities for higher education to poor and socially disadvantaged students. The quantum of fees is not related to the quality or facilities available in the colleges; but is generally based on unspecified arbitrary criteria. The Committee noted that the tuition fees thus fixed are reportedly below the minimum operational requirements of the concerned institution to meet its expenditure. The unspoken underlying understanding is that the institution can make up the deficit through capitation fees and other means. Looked at differently, the present system assumes that the institution’s management resorts to black-money transactions, and keeps two sets of books. In other words, there is a tacit acceptance of the prevailing system of charging capitation fees by private institutions.
7.2.8 To sum up, the present system encourages non-transparent financial management of the higher education institutions, indirectly supporting parallel economy operations. There is hardly any check or control on academic matters; nor any support or guidance in upgrading standards, available from any quarter. The Central level regulatory institutions have failed to control the situation; the state is generally not interested in anything more than sponsoring the admission quota or in fixing the college fees. The system has no built-in levers to upgrade quality, provide guidance and support – while keeping a check on the sub- standard institutions, of which there is no shortage.
(c) The Contours of Reforms
7.2.9 Major reforms are required in addressing the issues listed above. Firstly, full academic freedom needs to be given to universities and their affiliated colleges to fix their curriculum, create new courses based on demand and relevance. Secondly, the finances of the education institutions should become open, and transparent. The state will have to sponsor through loans and sch olarships a substantial number of admissions in each institution, for which a fair and open methodology for selection needs to be adopted. Private institutions should be allowed to charge fees which would enable them to meet all their legitimate expenses. A realistic pattern of fee structure will help eliminate the pernicious practice of charging capitation fees. A simple working principle would be that each university/college will be appraised and evaluated periodically (say once in two or three years) through a transparent, credible evaluation mechanism, outlined elsewhere.
7.2.10 As part of the accreditation process, the Committee has recommended elsewhere that each institution will be evaluated every three years or so. It has also been recommended there should be different criteria of evaluation for different categories of institutions. Within each category, an institution will be ranked on a scale, say of, I to VII – VII representing the highest and I the lowest in the category. Those in the top two rungs of the scale should be given total operational autonomy in all academic and administrative matters; those in category VI would be provided incentives, guidance and advice to move to category VII. Those on the bottom of the scale, in category I, would be put on notice for immediate closure. Those in category II would be given a warning that they are under close watch, and could be considered for closure unless they move up the scale. The institutions in the categories in between would be generally assisted and advised to improve their standing.
7.2.11 Every institution would have to place periodically, on a dedicated website, details of number of teachers and their qualifications; examination results; placements; and a report on academic and extra-curricular activities, as well as other relevant information relating to the institution.
7.2.12 The Committee recommends extensive use of ICT to monitor performance of higher education institutions. As a part of Digital India programme, database should be created to monitor the performance of teachers and students.
7.2.13 The Committee also recommends that a longitudinal survey of higher education would help create a database for further policy and programme planning in higher education.
7.2.14 The effective and timely implementation of the above reforms would require a comprehensive new legislative framework. At present, the management and regulation of higher education institutions is the responsibility of national level regulators like UGC, AICTE, NCTE, NAAC, NBA, etc., each one of which is created under a separate Act. The Committee has elsewhere recommended that a new national level regulatory body should be set up, which will subsume all the existing regulators. The Committee recommends a new National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act. The new law will lay down norms and standards for recognition, accreditation and evaluation of higher education institutions (elaborated elsewhere). The underlying principle would be to provide assistance, guidance, and mentorship to institutions which wish to improve themselves; to provide full academic and management autonomy to institutions which are in the highest scale; and finally, to weed out institutions which are on the lowest rung of the scale.
7.2.15 The Committee feels that no university should have more than 100 affiliated colleges, and therefore recommends that universities which have more than 100 affiliated colleges should be split for achieving better academic oversight and management efficiency.
7.2.16 The Committee is convinced that the present institutional and policy instruments of the Central and State governments to encourage, support, manage and help regulate the higher education institutions in India are largely inadequate and ineffective. The present arrangements do not encourage high quality institutions, nor do they discourage the non-performers. The present policy also hides many undesirable features – it is almost as if all stakeholders understand that the present approval, accreditation and evaluation procedures implicitly accept that every private higher education institution, if it needs to survive, needs to resort to open violation of the financial laws of the country and perform in the black economy– those which follow the laws and the rules totally, have to suffer financialconsequences – this regressive policy structure needs to be reversed; sunshine policies in opening up the transactions in the sector to transparency are now required.
7.2.17 The Committee recommends a revamp of the higher education promotion policies, procedures, structures and institutions. The starting point would have to be creation of a new National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act, supported by state-level laws and institutions, establishment of new systems for recognition, assessment and evaluation (elaborated elsewhere). The underlying principle would be to provide assistance and guidance and mentorship to institutions which wish to improve themselves; to provide full academic and management autonomy to institutions which are at the highest scale; and finally, to weed out institutions which fall below an accepted benchmark of performance.
7.3 Need to Revamp the Regulatory Regime
7.3.1 There are nearly 40,000 education institutions in the country, belonging to multiple categories and with large variation in activities and performance. While there are a few which can be identified as ‘Centres of Excellence’, both in the public and private sectors, there are a large number which are mediocre, some of them could well be described as ‘degree shops’. While there is a constant cry for more ‘autonomy’, it is not always recognized that autonomy has to co -exist with accountability. Indeed the good institutions are over-supervised, and not given adequate autonomy; on the other hand the bulk of the low-end colleges and institutions are allowed to continue without much check or hindrance or pressure to correct themselves. There clearly cannot be one single method of catering to the management requirements of such a diverse variety of institutions.
7.3.2 While at the top, there are a few institutions of high quality, alas too few, most of these are in the public sector, and a few established through private investment; an index as to how they have fared in recent years has been seen by the total absence of any Indian university or college in the top 200 in the world. In very recent years, a small number of new universities of high quality have emerged, mainly through philanthropic initiatives – they are still finding their feet, and yet to be fully established.
7.3.3 There has been rapid expansion in the past decade or so, mainly in the engineering and management areas, as well as in teacher training institutions. Most of these institutions are of poor quality, with weak faculty, primarily aimed at meeting the market demand – their objective is to extract a capitation fee, and in due course deliver a degree, whether deserved or not. The fact that the major business federations of the country have found only about 20% of these engineering graduates of adequate quality to be provided employment is an index of the quality of output in these institutions. Without being unfair to the limited number of relatively high quality institutions, the run-of-the-mill new colleges are really intended to be a money-making machine in exchange for a diploma or a degree. The Committee also notes that the rapid expansion of poor quality technical and management institutions has also been accompanied, in recent times by the phenomenon of many such institutions having large number of seats vacant or even closing down, reflective of the market’s response to their poor quality.
7.3.4 Elsewhere we have seen that due to paucity of funds and competing claims on available funds, the ability of government to invest in higher education is circumscribed. Indeed, the growth in this sector in the past decade or so has been fuelled by private investment. It is inevitable that at least in the higher education space, the private sector will continue to play an increasingly important role in the future, to meet the national needs for accessibility and increased education avenues.
7.3.5 The Committee was informed that the overall quality of academics and managements of universities in general in India has declined even though there are no authentic studies; this is the common refrain heard all over India from various stakeholders. The Committee recommends periodic evaluation of quality of education in higher education institutions by independent agencies. Necessary corrective measures should be taken on the basis of findings of such assessments.
7.3.6 The prevailing theory has been that education cannot be commercialized; this indeed is true – education is too sacred a field for it to become totally an uncontrolled business. However, the harsh reality in the ground is that capitation fees, akin to rent-seeking, is rampant. The Committee was informed informally that large amounts, at times unbelievably high, are the ‘going rate’ for appointment of a Vice Chancellor. Even if such horror stories are exaggerated, the situation on the ground is disturbing. The Committee also notes that investments in professional institutions frequently have the blessings or sponsorship or patronage, indeed ownership, of politicians of various hues – imagine their potential collective power and vested interests in ensuring that no reforms can be pushed through. In short, the ground reality is diametrically opposed to any notion of the ‘purity’ of education. Drastic changes are imperative to clean up the system.
7.3.7 In these circumstances, a regulatory system for higher education should be highly nuanced, should have the capability to deal with different categories and qualities of institutions with appropriate discrimination, understanding, effectiveness, and wherever required the necessary bark and bite. While the best institutions need to be left alone to flourish and bring out their own potential, most of the institutions have to be managed or regulated with sensitivity; however having said that, a number of institutions at the bottom of the pile need to be ruthlessly weeded out. Thus the creation of a regulatory system to meet the diverse needs is the new challenge; the existing methods of ‘one regime being applied to all’ needs to be remodelled appropriately, to yield a new regulatory system. Total laissez-faire in this important area should evoke zero tolerance.
7.3.8 The prevailing situation often forces the potentially good institutions to back off, for want of finance. The checks and conditionalities imposed on all, ostensibly to counter malpractices, in fact adversely affects the better quality institutions, while giving full freedom to the unscrupulous ones.
7.3.9 The present evaluation methods are input based, rather than realistically based on outputs or potential outputs. The accreditation/evaluation systems need to be revamped, as suggested elsewhere. Equally importantly for institutions adjudged as ‘quality’, much greater freedom has to be given in terms of determination of student fees, or faculty salaries. In short, the new management paradigm should encourage quality by offering total autonomy; should discourage the poor managements with appropriate checks and controls; equally, when an institution is assessed to be below minimal standards, it should be closed down without ado.
7.3.10 In other words the regulatory regime needs to be flexible and nuanced. This concurrently also means that the accreditation/evaluation systems need to be sharply upgraded, with fairness, predictability, clearly laid down principles and transparency. All the above are attempted in other segments of this chapter.
7.3.11 The Committee notes that the reality on the ground is that ‘capitation’ fees and extraction of rent from the student is rampant – for some specialized courses in certain fields, the amounts mentioned as capitation fee is very large. The prevailing situation often forces the potentially good institutions to back off, for want of finance; the checks and verifications imposed on all ostensibly to counter malpractices, adversely affects the good, quality institutions, while giving full freedom to the unscrupulous ones. The present evaluation methods are input based, rather than realistically based on outputs or potential outputs. The accreditation/evaluation systems need to be revamped, as suggested elsewhere – for institutions adjudged as ‘quality’, much greater freedom has to be given in terms of fixation of student fees, or faculty salaries. A new management paradigm should encourage quality by offering autonomy; should discourage poor managements with appropriate checks and controls, leading to closure where required.
7.3.12 The new regulatory regime needs to be flexible and nuanced. These issues are elaborated elsewhere.
7.4 Research and Innovation in Indian Universities
7.4.1 The quality and also quantity of research and innovations emerging out of Institutions of higher education and research leaves much to be desired. Quality has been a casualty because of several factors that include slow induction of younger faculty members and researchers at the entrance stage. Further, the resource squeeze often demoralizes those who are sincerely inclined towards serious research and innovations. Over the years, frequent changes in recruitment qualifications have led to poor quality research at the level of Ph. D by those interested only in getting a job. In addition, introduction of time-bound promotion schemes and the manner these are implemented has considerably diminished the quality of output at the post-doctoral stage. Promotions are now a matter of right and suitability is judged by ‘numbers of publications and attendance in seminars’ and not by quality. The introduction of the latest pre-promotion assessment-indicator – the Academic Performance Index (API) has led to low quality publications and organization of national seminars with the sole intention of giving the participants a chance to enhance their API score. Not only seminar reports, but even books brought out as compendiums of such events clearly indicate the extent of deterioration. Mushrooming of so-called peer-reviewed Journals, ready to accept and publish practically every paper is another distressing phenomenon. Such developments have considerably damaged the zeal for serious and original research initiatives among the younger faculty. The system has permitted low quality research output to be treated as acceptable.
7.4.2 During the past decade India’s overall share of research publications in the world has risen from 2.8 to 3.4 per cent. However, Indian higher education continues to have limited research capacity and the research output is generally of low quality. India’s nearly 800 universities and 40,000 colleges employ 8 lakh faculty and teach almost 3 crore students – but not many significant scientific or technological innovations have emerged from an Indian institution since independence. Despite a few pockets of excellence (alas, too few), the system is marked by mediocrity.
7.4.3 Even the National Laboratories of the CSIR and others do not appear to have had any major success over the decades in the field of research, innovation and quality output. Indeed, barring some spectacular achievements in the field of Space and Atomic Energy, there is not much to talk about research emanating from India.
7.4.4 It is estimated that the total spending on research in India is of the order of US $ 6 billion. The higher education institutions in India spend about 8% of overall research spending i.e. about US $ 500 million. Only a few universities conduct research of any significance – even these are concentrated in the IISCs and IITs; in short, very little is achieved by the country’s higher education institutions in research and innovation. Most private universities pursue no research programmes to speak of; while state universities are generally starved of funds.
7.4.5 There is a shortage of doctorates, which is significantly impacting research institutions – IITs and IIMs currently face around 41% and 22% faculty shortages respectively. Central universities have around 38% vacancies of faculty positions. Many IIMs and other institutions are even considering giving up the Ph.D. requirement for faculty positions; this shortage extends to every institution of higher learning and research.
7.4.6 Indian researchers of high quality generally prefer to go abroad for research; this is reflective of the conditions in India not being conducive for research. Many of India’s best and brightest students, nearly 3 lakh annually, prefer to go to study in the world’s best universities, spending in the process over US$ 10 billion a year (practically double what India as a whole spends on R&D annually; or in other words, nearly 2% of India’s GDP). In other words, India’s students spend nearly 20 times as much to study and do research abroad, than what all our higher education institutions spend on research collectively – this amounts to twice as much as the allocation for higher education in the Union Budget. These telling figures need to be taken seriously, as they describe the current state of research in the country. In recent years, a few private sector institutions have emerged, with potential for conducting quality research and teaching; these are, however, hampered by a challenging regulatory environment and lack of access to research funding from government agencies.
7.4.7 The culture in India is for each major institution to function as an isolated silo, basically depending on government finance for existence. Institutional networking remains perennially neglected though the need for revitalizing it has been repeatedly emphasised. The Committee has also noticed that the public sector institutions like IITs and IIMs do not interact with each other on R&D issues; in general the IITs and IIMs have only sporadic collaboration with the Indian industry. The Committee also heard that the interaction between the National Laboratories of CSIR and industry in India is limited. In developed countries for instance, there is extremely close interaction and cooperation between the teaching/research institutions and industry, leading up to significant mutual benefit. Internationally, the current model of R&D is through a networking system between centres of excellence and industry; our public sector institutions generally are insular, look inwards and do not see the need for creating alliances and networks for research. To foster a climate for development of high quality research, this situation needs change.
7.4.8 Since the first decades after independence, when the IITs and IIMs were established, for long periods few higher education institutions of quality and excellence have been established in India and these too only recently. Partly due to paucity of funds, the government is unable to invest in such centres of quality higher education.
7.4.9 The Committee suggests that over the next decade at least 100 new centres for excellence in the field of higher education need to be established. If this is successfully accomplished, it will pave the way for India to host major research and innovation initiatives. A climate needs to be created to facilitate establishment of 100 such institutions in both private and public sectors over the next 10 years. This may include brand new institutions, as well as existing institutions upgrading themselves to levels of excellence. To achieve this, a liberal and supportive regulatory environment will need to be put in place.
7.4.10 If a sponsor is willing to invest, say Rs.1,000 crore over a five year period and the proposal is accompanied by abroad credible plan of action, full autonomy should be offered for choice of subjects, location, pedagogy, recruitment of faculty from India or abroad as well as freedom to fix tuition fees – with the proviso that over a 5-year period the new venture will be subject to careful scrutiny by the official accreditation/evaluation agency. The institution needs to figure in the highest quality bracket; failing which the approval is subject to be withdrawn. Subject to this stipulation, these new initiatives should be totally free from any regulation from national or state agencies, except the obligation to accept a state- sponsored student quota, based on a formula, stipulated elsewhere. Such entities could be established as Section 8 companies under the Company’s Act, which will facilitate full information disclosure and compliance to the provisions of the Company’s Act. Where the Regulator, proposed in the next para agrees, it could also be a corporate entity under Company Act, with perhaps the added stipulation (at least in early years till the system settles down) for the state/regulator nominating at least two independent directors on the board of management.
7.4.11 As suggested elsewhere in this chapter, the Committee proposes the establishment of a Council for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE) by the MHRD to create policies to foster the establishment of Centres for Excellence, both in the public and private sectors. Identified existing institutions, both private and public, based on an evaluation could be brought into the purview of this Council. The guiding principle would be excellence, coupled with no interference in the management of these institutions, along with full autonomy to each institution to chart its own way forward. The Council would foster cooperation and collaboration among these units, and provide guidance and help rather than exercise any control over the management of such institutions. Based on periodical evaluation, say every five years, new institutions could be inducted into the pool, while those who have deteriorated in quality for any reasons could be downgraded, and taken out of the pool of excellent institutions.
7.4.12 The Committee recommends that over the next decade at least 100 new centres for excellence in the field of higher education need to be established. If this is successfully accomplished, it will pave the way for India to host major research and innovation initiatives. A climate needs to be created to facilitate establishment of100 such institutions, both in public and private sectors over the next 10 years. To achieve this, a regulatory regime conducive to encourage/ establishment of such institutions of excellence needs to be put in place.
7.4.13 Based on a commitment from the private philanthropist/entrepreneur full freedom should be given to establish such units. Subject to a promise of a minimum investment in the first five years of say Rs. 1000 crore each, and on the basis of his announcing a broad credible plan of action, full autonomy should be offered to the sponsor to decide choice of subjects, location, pedagogy, recruitment of faculty from India or abroad as well as freedom to fix tuition fees – with the proviso that over a 5- year period the new venture will be subject to careful scrutiny by the official accreditation/evaluation agency, and the institution needs to figure in the highest quality bracket available; failing which the approval will be withdrawn. Subject to this stipulation, these new initiatives should be totally free from any regulation from national or state agencies.
7.4.14 The Committee proposes the establishment of a Council for Excellence in Higher Education (CEHE) by the MHRD to create policies to foster the establishment of Centres for Excellence, both in the public and private sectors. Identified existing institutions, both private and public, based on an evaluation could be brought into the purview of this Council. The guiding principle would be excellence, coupled with promoting independence and freedom in the management of such institutions, along with full autonomy to chart its own way forward.
7.4.15 India must strive hard to find a respectable place in the field of research and innovations. Towards that faculty induction and promotion procedures must be transparent, rigorous and designed to accept only the intellectually inclined. The API must be replaced by more scientific procedures of assessing the quality of contributions which need not necessarily be only publications and attendance in seminars. Towards this, a task force of seasoned experts and scholars be appointed to study recruitment, promotion and retention procedures are followed by internationally renowned universities and institutions. It should redefine recruitment and promotion procedures for professionals in higher education.
7.4.16 Existence of vacant posts leads to deterioration in institutional climate and must not be permitted under any conditions. This is a pre-requisite for quality improvement in higher education.
7.5 Recognition, Accreditation and Quality Assurance
7.5.1 The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was established by the University Grants Commission in 1994 pursuant to the National Policy on Education 1986/1992 in which the need for evaluation of the quality of higher education had been emphasized. A two-step process is followed, whereby an institution seeks eligibility and subject to that being given, its quality assessment and accreditation are undertaken by following seven criteria. These include (i) the curricular aspects;(ii) teaching-learning evaluation; (iii) research and consultancy; (iv) infrastructure and learning resources; (v) student support systems and their progression; (vi)governance and leadership; and(vii) innovative practices. NAAC accreditation is mandatory; but the backlog is enormous –there is currently no penalty in continuing as an ineligible and un-assessed/unaccredited institution.
7.5.2 The purpose of assessment and accreditation was for enhancement of quality, recognition of excellence, fostering accountability, providing information and to facilitate benchmarking of institutions. In practice, as the system has evolved over time, there are many qualitative and procedural gaps in the implementation process. The same template is currently applied to all units, irrespective of their specialized characteristics, which renders the approach largely imprecise.
7.5.3 Internal quality assurance (IQA) mechanisms have also envisaged to be established at the institutional level to address issues related to quality and teaching-learning in each institution. In practice, the IQA cells remain more as a unit to collect data on various aspects of teaching-learning and prepare reports than functioning as an effective mechanism to monitor and improve quality.
7.5.4 Apart from NAAC, the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) is established by the AICTE to undertake periodic evaluation of technical institutions. The difference between AICTE approval and NBA accreditation is that the former regulates whether the institution meets the initial requirements of functioning, whereas the latter monitors whether the institution has proved its ability to sustain and improve upon assessment criteria and has earned credibility by the end users. NBA came into existence as an autonomous body in 2010.
7.5.5 The country has about 40,000 Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs). Total number of institutions accredited by NAAC till now is 6446, including 253 universities. NAAC has estimated that around 25,000 institutions will be eligible in2016 for assessment. Until now the concept of quality evaluation andaccreditation was essentially to consider eligibility for grants of different kinds. There is need to reorient the approach towards accreditation, as one involving assessment of the quality of an institution, and to bring public awareness of the position of each institution in relation to its intrinsic quality and potential.
7.5.6 The ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ categorization, as is being done now, serves only a limited purpose and fails to rank the best along with their special attributes or provide a ranking between Universities and colleges based upon the result of evaluation. In another segment of this report, the need for categorizing higher education institutions and giving autonomy and freedom to those that are placed in the highest category to decide their own curriculum and patterns of teaching among other features has been referred to. But unless the accreditation system measures up to the need to distinguish between different levels of academic attainment, institutions may acquire the label of accreditation without applying the rigour needed to separate those that qualify for and therefore deserve to be given autonomy to invent new patterns for delivering higher education. A broad-brush approach to all can stifle competition, innovativeness and the willingness to experiment. The fallout could be that Indian institutions will not succeed in breaking barriers and coming into their own, not to speak of excelling on a global platform. New methods of undertaking assessments and accreditation are urgently called for.
(a) Anomalies and flaws pointed out in current procedures
7.5.7 The Committee was informed of systemic anomalies, apart from conspicuous delays, lack of inbuilt capacity to handle large volumes and generate qualitative assessments, exacerbated by a shortage of competent assessors. The present system has difficulty in deploying serving academics of standing to undertake short term evaluation assignments. The existence of bias stemming from the background from which the accreditation Committee members are drawn – (public sector or private sector is one example) – may not encourage institutions of high calibre. The absence of discernment results in a lack of appreciation of the fundamental ethos of the institution e.g. one that places highest emphasis on research output compared to others where there is no such requirement. It is frequently noticed that routine non-essential NAAC/UGC requirements are treated as non-negotiable and given primacy over evidence of academic attainment.
(a) Structure, Processes, and Practices of assessment and accreditation.
7.5.8 NAAC has not yet opened the assessment and accreditation sector to external players. That may now become necessary. The existing NAAC systems are not geared to meet the huge backlog and new demands for accreditation. There is a need to introduce a more nuanced approach to dealing with differentiated requirements, as between institutions that claim to be primarily research oriented; institutions that claim to be incubators for innovation; institutions that claim teaching excellence; those with a high track record of placements and employability; those possessing superior infrastructure and faculty; or those that consciously promote social consciousness and equity.
(b) Alternative Models for Accreditation
7.5.9 Because of the backlog and the addition of hundreds of universities and thousands of colleges seeking accreditation and alternative model of undertaking assessment needs to be promoted. If the task of accreditation of the individual institutions is entrusted to empanelled, external agencies, it can expedite the process and hasten the closure of sub-standard colleges. While the idea of “for profit” external assessment bodies could rightly invite criticism, measures need to be found to encourage experts with domain knowledge and interest to establish consortia or networks which can respond to a call for becoming assessors.
(c) Creation of a National Accreditation Agency
7.5.10 Elsewhere the Committee has recommended the enactment of a Higher Education Law which will, inter alia, cover the question of accreditation and evaluation, and giving relevant statutory powers to a National Accreditation designated agency (which could be a revamped NAAC or with an alternate designation as National Accreditation Agency). The revamped NAA can become the supreme and only recognised body which is permitted by law to register competent agencies and authorised assessors. A new category of professional bodies (akin to section 8 companies), or an association of experts and professionals, which could even include corporate education specialists, could be encouraged to be formed which can apply in response to a request for proposals for expert evaluation bodies.
(d) The New Approach to Accreditation
7.5.11 Hitherto, the concept of accreditation and quality evaluation was essentially to consider eligibility for the devolution of Government grants. There is need to reorient the approach to accreditation as one which assesses the quality of the institution, and brings public awareness about the position of each institution in relation to its peers; also its intrinsic quality and future potential. This will provide a snap shot of the standing of each institution in the hierarchy of the higher education structure in the country and also provide a degree of choice to the student and other stake-holders in identifying the qualities of a preferred institution.
7.5.12 The Key tasks that lie ahead include the following:
(i) To develop a Quality Assurance Framework for Higher Education such that it is easily implementable, operationally feasible, has a large measure of credibility and acceptability, in-line with local requirements but also alive to international developments and best practices.
(ii) To encourage self-evaluation, accountability, autonomy and innovation in higher education with an emphasis on high quality research.
(iii) To involve all competent stakeholders in the higher education sector to join in creating a system to undertake quality evaluation and help institutions realize their academic objectives.
(iv) Place each higher education institution in a category-wise hierarchy of institutions according to the evaluated level of achievement.
(e) Main Features of the Proposed Accreditation System
7.5.13 Every higher education institution shall be accredited.
7.5.14 The overall process of accreditation shall be governed by a National Accreditation Board (NAB), which will provide oversight function, define methodology, undertake research on accreditation and set standards. This Board will licence accreditation agencies based on norms to be prescribed.
7.5.15 The actual evaluation/assessment of institutions will be undertaken by a number of licensed/approved agencies, preferably non-profit organisations, or section 8 companies, which have adequate expertise in evaluating quality and assessing the attributes of a higher education institution. The policy shall foster creation of such agencies to meet the fast growing need for qualified accrediting agencies.
7.5.16 Selected universities, public and private, may be encouraged to hold one- year or other suitable courses to train accreditation personnel by creating a suitable curriculum and establishing standards.
7.5.17 All institutions may not be assessed in the same manner; the institution may choose categories in which it could be placed – for example as a large university, a technical college, or a general degree college. Likewise categories can be created relating to pure research institutions, or mainly teaching institutions.
7.5.18 In each category according to the preference of the institution, it will be ranked based on an objective examination, in numerical or alphabetical ranking (where category A or I represents the highest level, and G or VII represents the lowest level). The institutions assessed at the lowest level should be served notice for immediate closure; whereas the level just above shall be warned to improve its position lest it may be asked to close down.
7.5.19 On the upper end of the scale, A or I represents the best in its class in India. The institutions in this bracket would have total autonomy in all respects, including fixing faculty salaries, fee structure, entering into collaborations, etc. The only conditionality would be to provide for a limited number of seats to be filled by sponsorship by the Centre/State, according to criteria to be notified. In other words, there shall be a direct positive correlation between the quality of institution and the grant of autonomy, along with which there would be collateral responsibility to sustain that quality.
7.5.20 Each institution shall be evaluated after 3 years but no later than a span of5 years. The category and ranking within the category shall be available to the general public through a dedicated website of the NAB.
7.5.21 Each institution would establish an Internal Quality Assurance mechanism, as broadly defined by the NAB; each affiliating university would also have such a mechanism, which will monitor on a continuing basis quality issues within the university as well as within the affiliated institution.
7.5.22 A key challenge would be to ensure that the accrediting agencies perform their task with enormous understanding of the academic ethos and with honesty. This should be carefully fostered by the NAB.
7.5.23 The measurement templates should not be routine and mechanical; the assessing agencies would need to be analytical, giving due place to the logic of processes adopted by the institution as well as demonstrated efforts to define and devise methods of imparting education. While some standardisation in each category would be inevitable there will be considerable flexibility in the approach in order to respect the academic freedom of the assessed institution.
7.5.24 The NAB shall keep a close watch on the evaluation agencies, to ensure that they perform their task with diligence, sincerity, and integrity. On no count should the current general reputation of the present accrediting agency be allowed to prevail, that merit is no criterion – other factors are the only relevant ones – the NAB should take great care to ensure full integrity of the process.
7.5.25 Till such time as a new higher education act is enacted, the NBAA would continue to be designated the national authority for accreditation of institutions of higher learning. As and when the new law is passed, the proposed National Accreditation Agency/may be empowered under the Act, and designated as the regulatory body for accreditation/evaluation of institutions of higher learning.
7.5.26 The Committee recommends an overarching management board, the National Accreditation Board, which will oversee the entire process, set standards and define guidelines, as also license private (preferably not for profit) agencies in adequate number, who will do the actual evaluation process.
7.5.27 In the process of evaluation due importance has to be given to establishing benchmarks in respect of research or teaching competencies as well as capacity for innovation, applied research with industry, and factors like industry/ employer perception, absorption of the graduates/postgraduates into pursuits which lead to employability and the ability to promote inclusiveness among other attributes.
7.5.28 In each category according to the preference of the institution, it will be ranked based on an objective examination, in numerical or alphabetical ranking (where category A or I represents the highest level, and G or VII represents the lowest level). On the upper end of the scale, A or I represents the best in its class in India. The institutions in this bracket would have a large measure of autonomy in respect of its management and operations. Those in the lowest end of the scale would be identified for closure.
7.5.29 The initiative recently taken to rank top Universities in the country is commendable. The need to take up the rating and ranking of all higher Education Institutes must be recognized and introduced uniformly. All the existing institutions of higher learning need to be ranked over a given period and their ranking revisited every three years or so; all the information should be available to the general public, including the main stakeholders and students, through public platforms.
7.6 International Linkages in Indian Higher Education
7.6.1 Around the world, nearly 50 lakh students travel outside their country to pursue higher education, spending approximately $100 billion annually. Most of them go to US or Europe; in the last decade China has emerged as an important destination. About 75,000 foreign students come to India, including for short duration study programmes; less than 20,000 international students are en rolled in degree programmes in the country, most of them in under -graduate programmes, largely coming from South Asia. In contrast nearly 3 lakh Indian students study abroad, mostly in post-graduate and doctorate programmes, spending about Rs.60,000 crore per year. The annual spending by Indians for studying abroad is twice the amount allocated in the Union budget for higher education, and nearly 20 times what the Indian higher education institutions spent on research collectively. Many of those represent the best in our academic system.
7.6.2 The migration of some of our best students to foreign universities can be reduced if we create educational institutions and research facilities of comparable quality, with employment opportunities commensurate with their qualifications. The Committee believes that encouragement to selected foreign universities to establish their presence in India through appropriate collaborations with their Indian counterparts would help.
7.6.3 Encouragement should be given to high quality foreign universities and educational institutions to collaborate with Indian partners, and establish an Indian presence. While the nature of cooperation and collaboration may vary, the foreign university should be in a position to offer their own degree to the Indian students, studying in India, which will be valid in the country of origin. How this is to be structured is to be settled between the collaboration partners. The key essential would be the collaborating foreign partner would be among the top 200Universities of the world.
7.6.4 The Committee feels that indiscriminate opening of Indian education field to foreign universities will be counter-productive – there is a danger that foreign degree shops (of which there is no shortage), will exploit the Indian demand for higher education, and ‘craving’ for a foreign degree.
7.6.5 The opportunity is now available to for India to be considered a serious player in the education field in the international arena. To achieve this, student and programme level initiatives, as well as institutional and research focus initiatives, using the latest technology are to be harnessed to attract Indian students to pursue studies and research in the country, as also to attract foreign students to see India as an education destination.
7.6.6 Encouragement should be given to ‘high quality’ foreign universities and educational institutions to collaborate with Indian partners, and establish an Indian presence. While the nature of cooperation and collaboration may vary, the foreign university should be in a position to offer their own degree to the Indian students, studying in India, which will be valid in the country of origin. It is recommended that the top 200 universities should be facilitated to have collaboration arrangements with Indian universities.
7.6.7 The opportunity should be used to ‘globalize’ Indian higher education without compromising the basic needs of access, equity and quality for the Indian student.
7.7 Need for a National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act
7.7.1 As seen in chapter 3, education was transferred to the concurrent list in theSeventh Schedule in 1976. Entry 66 of the Union List in the Seventh Schedule vests the Central Government with the power to legislate ‘for coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education and research and scientific and technical institutions’. State governments through their own acts have the authority to establish universities within their territories. The Government of India has also created, through individual statutes a number of central universities like the BHU, AMU and Delhi University. Various national organizations such as University Grants Commission, the NAAC, AICTE, NCTE, the NAB and others have been established from time to time through legislation. It is noted that there is no national law relating to management and regulation of higher education institutions.
7.7.2 The existing major national institutions in the Education sector were set up at different times, with individual mandates as envisioned at the time of their formation. Some were established through Acts of Parliament, while others were through executive orders. With the passage of time, with new developments in the Higher Education sector there is a need to review their mandate keeping the emerging trends that are seen as also to update the existing legislation, and make it more relevant to current and future needs.
7.7.3 The proposed Higher Education Management Act is expected to provide the legal framework which would confer the authority to promote, manage and stimulate the higher education sector, backed by a national mandate. Following the new proposed enactment it is presumed that the separate legislations governing individual agencies would lapse and the new legal regime would assign fresh roles and obligations on the existing bodies, redefine their roles and nomenclature, and facilitate coordination and cooperation between them for their optimal contribution to the sector. Until that happens the existing agencies would continue to perform their present roles, and whatever interim reforms are immediately required would be introduced.
7.7.4 It is envisaged that above proposed new legislation will lay down directions for establishment and standards for institutions of higher education in the country. It will also set modalities designed to evolve and recommend curricula for different types of academic courses, particularly in new areas of knowledge, for the guidance of universities and colleges. It will create a legal framework for setting up independent testing and accrediting agencies. It will also lay down a framework for financing of universities and educational institutions.
7.7.5 In the past two decades, the higher education scene has seen rapid expansion of private investment, particularly in technical institutions. UGC and AICTE have limited resources to effectively regulate such proliferation of higher education institutions, particularly those of indifferent quality The NAAC and the NAB are unprepared to handle the large volume of accreditation and quality evaluation, and have failed.
7.7.6 Elsewhere in this report reference has been made to a diverse number of factors which include need to coordinate the various regulatory agencies; need to provide autonomy to higher education institutions of quality; need to have rapid evaluation at entry point and compulsory continuing evaluation of an institution from time to time, etc. Besides, a proposal has been made to address the political and other types of activities found potentially harmful to the maintenance of the congenial academic environment in the campuses of higher learning. In the absence of a general legislation, the necessary periodical instructions from the MHRD are perforce to be issued as administrative directions, which frequently could attract cumbersome litigation. In short, there is need for an Umbrella Act which will cover the multiple needs of promotion of higher education, and generic and special steps required for management of the same nationwide, whether they are constituted by the Centre or a State.
7.7.7 The Knowledge Commission had in 2006 recommended the umbrella legislation Indian Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE). The UGC study report referred to above has proposed the National Higher Education Authority Bill to meet the same objective.
7.7.8 In line with the above recommendations, the Committee recommends, as part of the new legislation, under the ambit of the MHRD, the creation of appropriate coordination systems, to facilitate the various agencies perform with optimal coordination to support, encourage, manage, and regulate the higher education sector in the country.
7.7.9 It is proposed that a National Higher Education Promotion and Management Act may be enacted, to meet the above objectives. Its scope, purpose and broad details will be outlined in the framework for action.
7.7.10 The Committee recognises that in a country of India's size and diversity, it is not possible or practical to have central regulators control the entire gamut of regulatory functions. The Committee feels that State Governments and Universities will have to play a critical role in regulating higher education institutions in their jurisdictions. It is proposed that recognition of all new universities and colleges, strictly in accordance with standards set by NLHE, will be done by an autonomous statutory Council of Higher Education to be set up by each State. Approval of new courses will be within the competence of concerned University. The Council will also lay down a framework of financial assistance to universities and monitor release of funds by State Governments in accordance with that framework. The Council will arrange to monitor periodically the academic standards of universities and colleges in consultation with approved accrediting agencies. All the decisions of the Council should be in full public domain to create confidence and credibility in the system.
7.7.11 The existing major national institutions in the Education sector were set up at different times, with individual mandates as envisioned at the time of their formation. Some were established through Acts of Parliament, while others were through executive orders. With the passage of time, with new developments in the Higher Education sector there is a need to review their mandate keeping the emerging trends that are seen as also to update the existing legislation, and make it more relevant to current and future needs.
7.7.12 The Committee proposes the enactment of a new Higher Education Management Act, which is expected to provide the legal framework t o confer the authority to promote, manage and stimulate the higher education sector, backed by a justiciable national mandate. Following the new proposed enactment it is presumed that the separate legislations governing individual agencies would lapse and the new legal regime would assign fresh roles and obligations on the existing bodies redefine their roles and nomenclature, and facilitate coordination and cooperation between them for their optimal contribution to the sector. Until that happens the existing agencies would continue to perform their present roles, and whatever interim reforms are immediately required would be introduced.
7.7.13 It is proposed that recognition of all new universities and colleges, strictly in accordance with standards set by NLHE, will be done by an autonomous statutory Council of Higher Education to be set up by each State. Approval of new courses will be within the competence of concerned University. The Council will also lay down a framework of financial assistance to universities and monitor release of funds by State Governments in accordance with that framework.
7.8 Creation of a National Higher Education Fund
7.8.1 The UGC currently distributes about Rs.1050 crore annually as higher education tuition/fellowship to about 82,000 beneficiaries covering 35,000 fellowships each year. This represents around 200 scholarship schemes of the MHRD as well as other ministries. These numbers do not include the fellowships from a large number of other agencies/departments of the Government of India, including agriculture, defence, science & technology, CSIR etc., whose fellowships focus on specific research or application-related areas. Since there is no overall countrywide reliable database available it can be estimated that there are between40 and50thousand fellowship slots available every year in the country.
7.8.2 With the objective of encouraging merit and promoting equity, the Committee recommends the establishment of a National Fellowship Fund, primarily designed to support the tuition fees, learning material and living expenses for about 10 lakh students every year. These scholarships should be made available to students belonging to the economically weaker sections, specifically those below the poverty line.
7.8.3 In addition to the on-going National Talent Search Examination being conducted by the NCERT at class 10 stage, the Committee recommends that there should be another national level talent search competitive examination at +2 level for all categories of students, and those who achieve prescribed criteria should be provided scholarships covering tuition fees, learning material and living expenses to pursue higher education.
7.8.4 A large part of this could be covered by bank finance, with the FellowshipFund covering the interest part as subsidy.
7.8.5 The criteria for selection need to be well spelt out, based on objective and transparent procedures. It is suggested that a national examination at class 12 levels should be annually organized, available to all candidates, to become eligible for a merit or rank position, thus qualifying for the fellowship.
7.8.6 A National Higher Education Fellowship Fund may be created, which will offer 10 lakh new fellowships annually for qualified students belonging to economically weaker sections to pursue higher study. The Committee is satisfied that this step will improve equity and accessibility in the higher education sector.
7.8.7 A separate national talent scholarship scheme to be administered after class12 may be set up for meritorious of all categories selected through a national levelexamination.
7.8.8 A corpus of funds is to be generated, partly funded by government, and partly through contribution from the private and corporate sectors, with appropriate tax and other concessions as incentives; as well as opening the fund for contribution from alumni of various institutions that have benefited in their careers through free or supported education in the past.
7.9 Entrance Examinations to Professional Courses
7.9.1 The gross enrolment ratio in higher education in India has been steadily increasing, improving access and equity to a great extent. Despite this, admission to engineering, management, and medical institutes, especially the reputed ones is highly competitive – i.e. entrance examinations of all varieties have proliferated. A couple of decades ago, admissions to such institutes used to be through the performance of students in their class XII Board Examination in the respective states;entrance examinations were held only for national level institutes of excellence such as IITs, IIMs and AIIMS. However, with the liberalization in the higher education sector, a large number of private institutions have mushroomed– most of such institutions, either individually or in a group, resorted to their own entrance examinations. Many State Governments too started their own common entrance tests for admission to the colleges in their respective states, without relying on their own class XII Board Examination results. One of the reasons for this, as projected by the states, was to provide a level playing field for students belonging to their state, as well as those interested from other states through a common entrance test. Thus, along with the rapid growth of the number of institutions, the number of entrance examinations in engineering, management and medical disciplines also multiplied. This has unfortunately resulted in a confused national scenario and affected the higher education system adversely in many ways, inter-alia forcing candidates to prepare simultaneously for more than one set of examinations.
7.9.2 While selection of students through an aptitude based examination is in order, the highly competitive system of examinations designed for elimination of candidates, rather than selection of candidates as it ought to be, has confused and complicated the system. Students have been caught in a web of coaching classes, which promises much, and often puts enormous pressure on the students – not so much in giving them knowledge or understanding, but focusing on shortcuts to crack the various examinations – the more prestigious the examination like IIT, JEE, etc., the more the pressure on the students.
Proliferation of Coaching Centres
7.9.3 The factors referred to above has resulted in coaching centres like the ones in Kota, Hyderabad, Patna, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, where students gravitate soon after their class X examination, often to the neglect of education in Class XI and XII. The ‘coaching’ sector has blossomed to a huge ‘industry’. Of late, there have been several reports of suicides by students undergoing coaching in these centres, unable to bear the pressure. Further, with limited means, many cannot even afford the fees to be paid for a single entrance examination, not to speak of the multiple tests or coaching classes. In sum, the multiple entrance examinations scenario has strongly polluted the education system, adversely affected the innovative spirit in the child.
7.9.4 The counter argument in favour of multiple entrance examinations has been that, if a student does not perform well in one test, he can always look for a better score in other tests. Even if this argument is to hold water, each candidate could summon the energy to deal with two or three such tests and no more. On the other hand, if there is a single test, but is based on randomly generated examination questions, and the examination could be taken on the day of ones' own choice (and possibly couple of times, and with best score being considered), many of these issues could get resolved. Naturally, there has to be a large question‘bank’ for creation of such an examination scenario – the number and difficulty level of questions for any examination on any given day needs to be a similar order. With computer software, such a mechanism can be established, providing level playing field for candidates, irrespective of when they take examination. Moreover, if the questions are set in such a manner that they test basic aptitude, analytical ability, the necessary mathematical ability, encourage critical thinking with less reliance on memory, the damage being done through coaching classes could be controlled.
7.9.5 Thus ideally, there could be one entrance test for each discipline, held multiple times in a year, with difficulty level of each randomly generated question paper being the same. Basically, the questions have to be designed to test the aptitude and not memory.
7.9.6 Overtime, with the vast expansion of professional education institutions in engineering, management, medical and other fields, the number of entrance examinations to these courses has multiplied manifold. While examinations like JEE, etc. address the issue of admission to the best institutions, most states and educational institutions have resorted to a multiplicity of entrance tests, often placing much stress and pressure on the students aspiring for admission. There is clear need to rationalize the system of entrance examinations to professional courses. A note needs to be taken of the recent decision of the Supreme Court to have national common admission tests for medical institutions in the country.
7.9.7 There is need for one unified national level examination for admission to each type of professional course, carefully designed, giving the facility to the applicant to prepare for it and apply at his own convenience, to advance his opportunity for admission to any institution across the country. For students from each state where the institution located, either the benchmark performance in the state board, or a state level examination meant for local aspirants needs to be created. Thus the aspiring student need not have to prepare for a large number of examinations, with different standards and norms, and local variants. The reform process should take into account and provide for entrance through a unified national examination for each type of professional course or a state level similar examination. There is need to rationalize the entrance examination scenario, in the overall interest of the development of professional courses in the country.
7.10 Open and Distance Learning - Dual Mode Universities and thePromotion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
7.10.1 Open and Distance Learning (ODL), which envisages a system as an alternative to conventional classrooms is gaining acceptance in many parts of th e world; it provides flexibility to continue such learning from distant places, as well as alongside job commitments. Until recently the online system in India consisted of courses offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and some State open universities (SOUs); in recent years a range of institutions and universities as well as ‘institutes’ have sprung up, to cater to varying needs.
7.10.2 In another chapter, the pioneering work done by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has been referred to. While IGNOU has increased enrolment substantially, it remains only one among many new institutions providing Open Direct Learning (ODL).
(a) Distance Education and MOOCs
7.10.3 In recent years, strategies like MOOCs have been introduced in some of the best universities abroad, and increasingly in India to some extent. The growing, unmet demand for education has opened the possibilities that dual mode universities and institutions would be able to supplement conventional courses, and yet maintain parity between regular students and ODL students by adopting common syllabi, curriculum, examinations and degrees.
(b) MOOCS and the Global Experience
7.10.4 The concept of MOOCS is relatively new and is increasingly popular. However, already fears have been expressed in many universities regarding ongoing problems with MOOCs–these include student discomfort with the procedures, questions about pedagogical rigour and other technical hitches. Research undertaken at the University of Pennsylvania shows that course completion rates were low (only some 5% of the students in the University of Pennsylvania actually finished their classes).
(c) Implementing MOOCs in India
7.10.5 The scope is undoubtedly immense and the interest evinced by proponents in the IITs and different universities has been enthusiastic. A reference may be relevant to SWAYAM, which is an indigenous IT platform set up under the aegis of the Ministry of HRD. The Indian MOOC availability envisages covering a wide range of courses, besides teachers training as well as teaching and learning aids for children. Skill-based courses which cover both post-higher secondary school skills (polytechnic level) as well as industrial skills certified by the sector skills council are also envisaged to be provided.
(d) Open & Distance Learning (ODL) Regulations
7.10.6 With the dissolution of the Distance Education Council, under the aegis of IGNOU, the University Grants Commission has been vested with the regulation of distance education in general (non-professional) programmes being run by Universities and Colleges. Professional courses through distance education are currently not allowed. The current plans envisage that the degree and diploma programmes (duration not less 9 months) at undergraduate level and postgraduate level, other than programmes in Engineering, Medicine, Dental, Pharmacy, Architecture, Nursing, and Physiotherapy will be covered subject to UGC approval. There is need to revisit the progress so far made; particularly the role of IGNOU which was hitherto a regulator, and its future role as a major player; as also the future role of UGC in the Indian education scene, as separately commented in Chapter VIII in the report.
(e) The Validation and Award of Credits
7.10.7 Perhaps the biggest challenge would be in finding systems to validate and give credits for the ODL degrees/diplomas so that they are treated at par with conventional degrees/diplomas awarded by the formal university system. Notably the process for awarding credits would have to be transparent and would need to be done with the involvement of professional assessment and accreditation agencies. Many preliminary steps need to be taken to bring uniformity and transparency in the systems that need to be adopted.
7.10.8 Open Direct Learning through dual mode universities and through MOOCs should be accorded appropriate priority because of India’s existing and latent strength in terms of IT capability, probability of near-term expansion of IT connectivity and enormous interest evinced by leading Universities and Institutions in promoting ODL education.
7.10.9 The Ministry of HRD and UGC have already moved forward to sponsor‘SWAYAM’, an indigenous MOOC platform.
7.10.10 The demand for ODL/MOOCs is bound to rise in future years, though which technologies will find favour from learners are still open issues; it is recommended that the developments in this field to be watched carefully.
7.10.11 Probably sooner than later under the aegis of the proposed Higher Education Act (proposed elsewhere in the report), a suitable ‘Regulator’ with adequate powers needs to be established.
7.11 Reforms in Medical Education
7.11.1 Currently there are more than 400 functional medical colleges in the country out of which about half find the government sector (including the new six AIIMS) and the remaining nine the private sector. The admission capacity of these medical colleges is around 57,000 at the undergraduate level and around 26,000 at the postgraduate level.
7.11.2 The majority of medical colleges are concentrated in the south and west of the country. The north-eastern region has comparatively still fewer facilities for medical education than anywhere else. The number of seats in the existing medical colleges falls short of the present demand for medical professionals. The growth postgraduate education has been very slow, which has an effect on the preparation of the next generation of medical teachers as well as the specialised doctors to undertake clinical practice and research.
7.11.3 The existing framework of medical education needs significant restructuring. Within the medical Council of India/dental Council of India/Indian medical Council (AYUSH) the work of setting standards, curriculum development, inspection and grant of permission for setting up new institutions, undertaking lies with the Councils subject to central government approval where defined. The Councils and in particular the Medical Council of India comprises of elected persons who have a strong vested interest in retaining their voting constituency over the larger interests of public health and medical education. Such entrenched interests of different kinds should be kept away from the functions of inspection, verification and standard-setting as well as approval for opening new institutions.
7.11.4 A recent Parliamentary committee has given significant recommendations about how various matters related to the running of the Medical Council in particular have to receive attention. The government will no doubt take action as appropriate.
7.11.5 In keeping with recommendations which have already been made in respect of assessment and accreditation through professional and technical bodies working under the supervision of apex level nonelected bodies, it is necessary to replicate the same approach here. The responsibility for Manpower planning, design of curricula and standard-setting needs to be done by a body which is conversant with the demographics of India, the prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, challenges connected with maternal and child health so that the production of doctors is planned keeping in mind the needs of specialised as well as general duty doctors. Medical education needs an umbrella body as recommended for the higher education sector representation from citizens and consumers who could address the concerns of the public.
7.11.6 More public investment is needed for starting medical colleges and different regions. The private sector needs to be encouraged to set up medical colleges, with appropriate incentives. The present minimum requirement of land for setting up a medical college needs to be reviewed.
7.11.7 The number of seats in the existing medical colleges falls well short of the present demand for medical professionals. The growth postgraduate education has been very slow which has an effect on the preparation of the next generation of medical teachers as well as the specialised doctors to undertake clinical practice and research.
7.11.8 The existing framework of medical education needs significant restructuring. Entrenched interests of different kinds should be kept away from the functions of inspection, verification and standard-setting as well as approval for opening new institutions.
7.11.9 More public investment is needed for starting medical colleges. The private sector needs to be encouraged to set up medical colleges, with appropriate incentives.
7.12 Reforms in Agriculture Education
7.12.1 As per estimates by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the share of agriculture and allied sectors (including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) was 16.1 per cent of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2014–15 at 2011–12 prices. About 52% of labour and 80% of rural population is dependent on agriculture. About, 58% of rural households depend on agriculture as principal means of livelihood.
7.12.2 However, agriculture and allied subjects form a negligible part of school syllabus in most states. Even in rural schools, in general there is no reference to agricultural and rural issues as part of the schools’ curriculum, even as an optional subject. Most students particularly those who study in urban areas in CBSE or ICSE affiliated schools have a superficial knowledge of rural India and even less exposure to agriculture and allied sectors. This ignorance is reflected in the discourse in media where coverage of rural issues, farming, agriculture, animal husbandry and horticulture etc is minimal. In general, urban India does not get related with issues/problems and challenges faced by the farmers and rural communities, which forms the bulk of the population.
7.12.3 There is a need to bring agriculture and rural India in the mainstream of our educational system, to familiarize the system with rural/agricultural issues, even though this may not be a compulsory subject in the school curriculum. The State Boards of Education, CBSE, ICSE, NIOS and Madrasa Boards etc. may consider incorporating segments relating to agriculture, rural issues, ecology in the school syllabi so that children can acquire basic acquaintance with these matters by the time they complete middle school. At high school level, students could be exposed to subjects like soil health, balanced use of fertilisers, water conservation, importance of seeds in agriculture and pest control, as an optional subject. NCERT need also to look into this aspect of curriculum reform.
7.12.4 In the past the country had paid considerable attention to higher education in agriculture; 63 agriculture Universities have been set up across the country. The extensive higher education system includes State Agriculture Universities, Deemed-to-be-Universities, Central Agriculture Universities and several ICAR Institutions. Many Central and State Universities also offer courses in Agriculture. ICAR has an independent education division which coordinates the activities of agricultural education in the country. The ICAR system had earlier produced top academics and scientists, who once brought green revolution to India – credit also has to be given to them for introduction of a large number of high yielding and disease resistant crop varieties. However, the Committee’s impression is that the high standards achieved earlier may not still be prevailing at the same quality levels. There is a question mark whether the National Agricultural Research Institutes/ICAR are adequately aware and abreast of issues relating to tackling of drought conditions, and the technological approaches required to handle periodical crises in the agri/rural economy. The Committee also notes that no major independent review or critical assessment of the ICAR/National Research Institutions has been conducted in recent years to highlight the specific reforms that need to be undertaken.
7.12.5 Besides, most State Agriculture Universities are poorly funded, large number of academic and extension positions have remained unfilled. The Committee notes that these state universities primarily catered to training of Block level agricultural and rural development staff – updating of the curriculum to meet new developments perhaps has not been attended to with enough importance. A review needs to be undertaken of the State Agricultural Universities to reorient and revamp them to become relevant to meet current needs.
7.12.6 Very few states have given any emphasis to diploma and certificate level education in Agriculture and allied subjects. Andhra Pradesh runs a two year diploma course in Agriculture for students who have completed +2 level of education. Most of these diploma holders find employment in seed companies, extension programmes, watershed schemes, MNREGS etc. Since these courses are mostly offered in colleges located in rural areas, the students continue to be closely associated with their local surroundings and they can relate to local agriculture economy. There is thus an urgent need to start para-professional courses in agriculture in all major states. The State Universities also need to pioneer new concepts, using digital India to spread agricultural information and knowledge to the farming community through digital applications and avenues. Thus the National field-wise Crop Testing Programmes need to be backed up through initiatives in these institutions.
7.12.7 A Committee constituted by ICAR (Report of the Committee constituted for developing policy for higher agricultural education in India, 2013) has also recommended a three-tier structure of agricultural education. At the top, the country should produce academicians, scientists and top professionals. The second tier should produce managers in agriculture who will provide a link between scientific advances and its dissemination at the field level. The third tier should train field level functionaries (e.g. diploma holders) who will directly provide required services to farmers.
7.12.8 There is a need to bring agriculture and rural India in the mainstream of our educational system, to familiarize the system with rural/agricultural issues, even though this may not be a compulsory subject in the school curriculum. At high school level, students could be exposed to subjects like soil health, balanced use of fertilisers, water conservation, and importance of seeds in agriculture and pest control, as an optional subject. NCERT need also to look into this aspect of curriculum reform.
7.12.9 An independent review or critical assessment of the ICAR/National Research Institutions may be conducted to highlight the specific reforms that need to be undertaken in the quality of research and information dissemination by the national institutions.
7.12.10 The State Agricultural Universities need to update their curriculum and pedagogy, to enable them to address the needs of their students. A review needs to be undertaken of the State Agricultural Universities to reorient and revamp them to become relevant to meet current needs. The State Universities also need to pioneer new concepts, using digital India to spread agricultural information and knowledge to the farming community through digital applications and avenues.