The Indian Higher Education System- Dr. Jayanthi Ranjan, Vice Chancellor, Sharda University

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In recent years, the Indian higher education system has witnessed several notable trends
and challenges. One prominent trend is the growing emphasis on digital learning and technology integration. With the proliferation of online education platforms, NEP, revised NAAC approaches,Regional language focus towards learning, the widespread availability of digital resources, institutions are increasingly incorporating digital tools into their teaching methodologies. This trend not only enhances accessibility to education but also fosters innovation in curriculum delivery. However, challenges persist, particularly concerning the digital divide, where disparities in access to technology and internet connectivity hinder the equitable distribution of educational resources. Bridging this gap remains a pressing challenge for policymakers and educators alike.

Regarding recent Indian government budget spending on higher education, there has been a notable reduction of allocation towards infrastructure development and research initiatives. Yet, the government has recognized the importance of investing in state-of-the-art facilities and laboratories to bolster research capabilities and enhance the overall quality of education. Additionally, funding has been directed towards initiatives aimed at promoting interdisciplinary studies and fostering collaborations between academia and industry. However, despite these positive steps, there are concerns about the adequacy of funding, particularly in addressing the diverse needs of higher education institutions across the country. Furthermore, there is a need for greater transparency and accountability in budget allocation to ensure that funds are utilized
effectively to address key challenges such as improving access, enhancing quality, and fostering innovation in Indian higher education.

Indian universities face several challenges in their quest to enter global rankings, despite notable achievements in various academic and research domains. One significant factor contributing to their struggle is the lack of adequate infrastructure and resources. While premier institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have world-class facilities, many other universities grapple with insufficient funding, outdated
infrastructure, and limited access to cutting-edge technology. This disparity hampers their ability to compete on a global scale and impedes efforts to attract top-tier faculty and researchers. Another challenge is the emphasis on quantity over quality in higher education expansion efforts. India’s rapid proliferation of universities, driven by the demand for increased access to education, has sometimes come at the expense of academic excellence. Many universities struggle with overcrowded classrooms, faculty shortages, and outdated curricula, which undermine their capacity to deliver high-quality education and conduct impactful research. Moreover, regulatory hurdles and bureaucratic red tape often stifle institutional autonomy and innovation, hindering universities’ ability to adapt to changing global education trends and standards.

Additionally, there’s a need for a paradigm shift in the academic culture and mind-set prevalent in Indian universities. While there’s no shortage of talent and potential, a more pronounced focus on research output, international collaborations, and interdisciplinary approaches is essential to align with the criteria used in global rankings. Encouraging a culture of innovation, fostering a conducive research environment, and promoting academic freedom are crucial steps toward enhancing the global competitiveness of Indian universities. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from policymakers, administrators, educators, and stakeholders to prioritize quality, invest in infrastructure and resources, and foster a culture of academic excellence and innovation conducive to global recognition and competitiveness.

Let’s analyse the situation regarding India’s performance in the QS rankings. One of the primary factors contributing to the subpar quality of education and research in Indian universities is the insufficient and delayed funding. With a significantly higher number of universities compared to China, the funding allocated often falls short, leading to inadequate infrastructure, equipment, and resources. This deficiency directly impacts education and research quality, consequently affecting parameters such as academic and employer reputation in QS rankings, along with faculty citation rates in research.

Another significant issue facing Indian universities is their adherence to outdated curriculam and teaching methodologies. Many institutions still rely on traditional approaches that fail to meet the evolving demands of the modern world, resulting in a skills gap among graduates. The skills that are listed are just taught but students have not learnt. There is gap. Each placement company that comes to campus emphasis this. Each HR manager always mention that they work on interns to unlearn college teachings. There is gap between what is needed in markets and what is
taught. The UNESCO Science report of 2021 starkly noted that half of Indian graduates lack employable skills. This traditional mindset inhibits internationalization efforts among students and faculty, ultimately reflecting poorly in QS rankings.

Furthermore, concerns about faculty quality persist in Indian universities. While some professors are highly qualified, others lack the expertise to teach contemporary courses effectively. The absence of foreign faculty members’ further limits research output and international collaboration opportunities. Initiatives like direct admission schemes for international students, as outlined in the new education policy, should be enhanced to attract diverse talent and foster global partnerships, thus bolstering citation rates and international recognition. Despite these challenges, recent initiatives demonstrate progress towards enhancing Indian universities’ quality. Government-led efforts, such as the national institutional ranking framework, incentivize improvements in teaching, research, and infrastructure. Additionally, collaborations with international universities have spurred joint research projects and exchange programs, elevating India’s standing in global academia.

While India has made strides in expanding its higher education sector, addressing funding, curriculum, and faculty quality remains imperative. There is an acute dearth of quality faculty, teaching faculty, research faculty, industry connected faculty. It’s very difficult to expect from one single faculty all the mentioned roles. The national rankings have different criteria and international have different criteria. Some universities genuinely produce data but some create data. That’s the pain point. In this genuine universities are lost out. Collaborative efforts between the government and universities, coupled with enhanced international engagement, are essential for Indian institutions to compete globally and garner recognition on the world stage.

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