During that period they not only have to survive a tough competition but also develop and maintain a high standard of education in each stream and build infrastructure like adequate building premises, libraries, laboratories, engage qualified and capable faculty; and create the system of conducting exams, assessing the answer sheets and awarding degrees. They also need to orient the syllabi according to the demands of various types of industries, business and services, bringing necessary changes off and on as per changing technologies.
Today, we talk about globalisation in education. But it is not easy to understand its implications. We are launching private universities on government university models. We may produce many PhDs but to what effect? Can these doctorates withstand international scrutiny? The new brand of graduates and postgraduates from unknown universities has to be really good to be branded as the new products of globalisation. If the market forces do not accept them, then much of the efforts will be wasted.
Private universities should ensure that they do not become mere machines for producing graduates and postgraduates like their government counterparts. The efforts and time of the students and the money of their parents should not go in vain. It has been experienced that the government universities can survive even if they do not meet the expectations of the students and the parents, but the same cannot be said about the private universities.
They must keep in mind that if their students are also destined to move from office to office in search of a job like a conventional common graduate, then these universities may not survive because the UGC and the respective state government will not come to their rescue. Private universities are more like business houses than educational centres. They run on the fee of the students. The expenditure of running the university is quite high-including high cost of building infrastructure, salaries of highly qualified teachers and other staff and day-to-day expenses and payment of electricity, telephone, water bills and taxes. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary for them to keep their courses so attractive that there is great lure among the students to seek admission in them.
The number of graduates, engineers, doctors per thousand of population in India is one of the lowest in the world. Their average quality is also suspect. At present their are 306 university level institutions in India, including 18 central universities, 18 state universities, 5 institutions established under State Legislative Act, 89 deemed universities and 13 institutions of national importance. Besides, 38 institutes provide education in agricultural sciences like forestry, dairy, fishery and veterinary; and 21 institutes provide education in medicine including ayurveda, and 4 in legal studies. There are also 9 open universities and 5 women’s universities.
The technical education system in the country covers courses in engineering, technology, management, hotel management, architecture, biotechnology and pharmacy, etc. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) caters to programmes of undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels. The technical education system at the central level covers the: (i) All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) which is the statutory body for planning and coordinated development of technical education system; (ii) Indian Institutes of Technology; (iii) Indian Institutes of Management; (iv) Indian Institutes of Science; (v) Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management; and (vi) National Institutes of Technology converted from Regional Engineering Colleges with 100 per cent central funding.
Thus, apparently there is a wide network of higher education through government universities. But when we consider the demographic factors, the inadequacy of educational institutions at higher level is revealed out of total population of about 107 crore, nearly 17 crore fall in the age group of 18 and 23, i.e. of the college going age. But out of these only about 1.5 crore students study in the colleges and universities specified above. There is obviously a great need to open more colleges and universities.
The Government of India brought the Private Universities Establishment and Regulation Bill way back in 1995 to encourage the setting up of private universities. Since then, issue has been discussed at various forums. The Ministry of HRD also set up a core group of six members drawn from private sector, reputed institutions and experts to obtain their views and recommendations on private sector participation in higher education. The group observed that there was an urgent need to enable private sector to be operative in the field of education in a big way.
The emphasis should be on the high quality education and on the need to adapt to changes quickly and effectively. The rules and regulations should be such that the foreign students are also attracted to study in India. The foreign educational institutions and universities may continue to operate in India. However, clear guidelines should be given to students and the parents in this regard. The private sector institutions have to operate without government funding. They should, therefore, have to be given the flexibility to raise resources. The legal and administrative frameworks allowing private sector operations should be simplified. There should be deterrents for those who dish out poor quality education and use the system to make profit.
Private universities are not only instrumental in providing important succour to the system of higher education but also bring about excellence in education and make the students on par with their foreign counterparts in knowledge skill and information-like the students of Universities of Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxoford-the model international universities. There is no doubt that in a country like India with a large population, there is a need to make education broadbased. But the country also needs to develop exclusive professional manpower to acquire a cutting edge in global competitiveness.
It is felt that the large educational demand can be met only with self-financing private universities which are not only multi- disciplinary but also the centres of excellence. They should, therefore, be permitted to offer courses on any discipline. The viability and sustainability of their products would depend upon their demand and market response. In this market-driven approach, each self-financing private university will decide on its own course and subjects to be offered. They will also have the discretion to introduce new programmes and discard the old ones periodically without affecting the interest of the already enrolled students. The policies should be such as favour the genuinely interested private players to foray into higher education.
A country’s socio-economic development is directly proportional to its education systems. In order to take our nation to dizzy heights, we need to spread education to its every corner. At the same time, the higher education should be modern in content and methodology.