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The Plight of Indian Higher Education

The Plight of Indian Higher Education

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 March 2018 12:00 AM GMT

Col (Retd) Y Udaya Chandar

The industry leaders, especially of IT, have said repeatedly that only 5% of today’s Indian engineering graduates are fit for employment, and only 7% of MBA graduates are. If we must describe higher education in present-day India, one sentence is sufficient: It is in a shambles.

In addition to the 40 CSIR laboratories and a few premier research institutions, like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru; TIFR, Mumbai; 16 IITs and five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), there are more than 600 universities in the country.

The most horrifying fact is that our tion, home to with more than 1 billion people, has had no Nobel laureate in science since CV Raman was honoured in 1930. Three other Indian-born scientists have won a Nobel – biochemist Har Gobind Khora (1968), astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (1983) and molecular biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishn (2009) – but each was recognized for work done entirely outside India.

The Times’ Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 were released recently. Not only have Indian universities slipped from their previous rankings, today, none feature in the top 200. Thirty Indian universities made the list, but IISc, in Bangalore, was the only one to make an appearance in the list’s top 300. The next Indian institute listed was IIT Bombay, which ranked between 351 and 400. Four other IITs also made the cut, with ranks between 501 and 600. In the Times Ranking, the top spot went to the Oxford University, where 38% of the student population is Indian. By contrast, IISc Bangalore has an intertiol student population of only 1%.

In all, 289 Asian universities from 24 countries made the list of 980 institutions, and an elite group of 19 were in the top 200, up from 15 last year, in the recently announced Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016–2017. Asia’s leading institution, the tiol University of Singapore, is ranked 24th, its highest-ever position. Also based in Singapore, nyang Technological University came in at 54th place. Two new Asian universities, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (76th place) and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (89th place), made the top 100, while another four joined the top 200. Furthermore, Chi’s two flagship universities both made gains; Peking University joined the top 30, at 29th place, up from 42nd last year, while Tsinghua University joined the top 40 at 35th place, up from a previous joint 47th ranking.

Although patenting is still not very common among academic researchers in India, some of the institutions, particularly those in the CSIR network, have put into place an institutiol framework to encourage the patenting of their research outputs. It should be noted that the number of US patents granted to the CSIR jumped to 196 in 2005, from just six in 1990–91. Although we initially observed a surge in patenting activity from a handful of laboratories, very few of these patents have actually been licensed for industry. Overall, India’s contribution to world publications of all types has increased only margilly, from 2.1% between 1995 and 2000 to 2.3% between 2000 and 2005. India’s impact factor (the average number of citations per paper) is not yet on par with the world average in most scientific fields. For example, Indian researchers have not made significant gains in physics, as there is an average of only 3.13 citations per paper for the period 2003 to 2007. India ranks an unenviable 166th on the quality of research index, which suggests that much still needs to be done to improve our scholars’ standing in the world.

In 2013, Indian researchers submitted a scant 21,000 patent filings, compared to 734,000 from Chi and 501,000 from the US. This picture is supplemented by India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index (compiled by Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO), which has risen from 66 in 2013 to 76 in 2014. In the same index, Chi achieved the highly impressive rank of second, overall, compared to India’s 31. India’s spending rates on education are low and inefficient, and private firms do as badly as the government. In terms of corporate expenditures on research and development, India is ranked 43, compared to Chi’s 13. At present, science research in India is full of red tape that must be undone if research efforts are to improve.

An overemphasis on academic qualifications by the University Grants Commission (UGC) has resulted in a number of university teachers registering for PhD programmes, but it is not a passion for research, but rather a passion for climbing the career ladder, that motivates them. As a result, the quality of most PhD research is sub-standard, so our Indian universities have highly qualified but unproductive academics. The teachers who register for PhDs have only one motive: to get the degree as quickly as possible.

Roughly 60 to 70% of India’s population is rural. It is in these places that the foundations of learning are laid, but today, their educatiol systems are extremely weak. As a whole, our tion is lagging far behind developed tions in the field of technology.

India’s education system lacks advancement and seems mired in tradition. Though there are some learning centres, such as the IITs and the IIMs, that continue to deliver high quality education, several flaws and gaps mar the system. Standards are also deteriorating by the day in these institutions, due to the indiscrimite opening of new institutions in response to political pressure.

There is a distinct difference between the education systems in India and the US. While the Indian system is knowledge-centric, the American one is enquiry-centric. The Indian system accumulates knowledge, while the American one is centred on the application of knowledge. This shows that the Indian system is theory-focussed, while the US system is practically oriented.

(The writer is a scholar of Sociology with a PhD in the subject. He can be reached at yudayachandar The second part of this article will appear next Sunday)

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