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Director’s Message – FOREprints (Volume No. 7, Issue No.1) April 2018.

15th May 2018, Director’s Message – FOREprints (Volume No. 7, Issue No.1) April 2018.



On March 20, 2018 Shri Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, announced at a media briefing that the University Grants Commission (UGC) had decided to grant autonomy to 60 educational institutions, including few private institutions, across the country. It would be pertinent to recollect here that in the 1960s the IIMs and IITs were created outside the Indian university system to allow freedom and autonomy to them which was not quite possible under the university system. That is, rather than to reform the university system at that time, the then government created these independent institutions giving them full autonomy by keeping them away from any higher education regulator. And so, reforming the university system got by-passed.


Here the 'autonomy' would mean more freedom for institutes to start their own courses, create new syllabi, launch new research programmes, hire foreign faculty, enroll foreign students and set their fees. This in effect would mean no or negligible dependence on regulator, in seeking their permission, for various academic initiatives including decisions on fees. Autonomy must also be closely linked with accountability, lest it degenerates into laxity and no performance, particularly for the public institutions. Thus, accountability must be defined in performance metrics to ensure obligation of these institutions are not mis-carried.


Even though many academics from public universities vehemently opposed this move - reflects their concerns with accountability issues - this initiative, otherwise, is a very apt move to liberate the higher education sector. Both public as well as private institutions stand to gain on a long-term perspective. Such autonomy should also be extended to other institutions who meet the criteria set for it to ensure positive and constructive changes that are affected at India level on a sustained basis. Government should take further specific pro-active steps to encourage participation of good quality private sector players in strengthening Indian higher education.


Quality education can come in only as a “pull” mechanism; it cannot be “pushed” for, a faculty cannot be forced to deliver quality. A comparison and contrast of private versus public institutions would help us develop a framework of regulation that aims at catapulting the higher education quality to the next level in an India perspective rather than from government institution perspective.


Understandably, as more bureaucratic hurdles are put in place, the private players would only become more cautious in their investments and involvement. If criteria-based autonomy is uniformly provided to public and private institutions, then there is no doubt that in a few year the public institutions may get a tough competition from private institutions as is seen in the industry sector, primarily due to difference in their efficiency delivery capacity. Providing funds and autonomy to a select few chosen institutions who may not have the real intent to excel, must not become a case of feeding those who are not hungry and starving those who are already famished.


Dr. Jitendra Das


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