Performance is always measured against an objective which was planned to be achieved. The extent to which the objective is met, determines the success or failure of any initiative. The higher education system in a country is also not an exception to this. The recently published QS world rankings 2019 have brought a very pertinent question to the fore for Indian universities and the institutions of national importance, which is, should we change our approach to higher education and move in the direction of internationalization of education standards in India before we lose ground in India's global reputation in educational excellence? This is a point of concern because out of nearly 45 central universities, more than 250 state universities, around 300 private universities and the prestigious technical institutions including IITs and IIMs; none could make to the top 100, only three featured in top 200 and only nine in top 500. In the total ranking of 1000 universities, only 24 are from India. Perhaps the reason for not being able to find a place in the top rankings is the point where we started - the objective of higher education. Globally established performance indicators need to be embraced with focus on outcome based education which does not limit itself to knowledge dissemination but moves ahead towards skill development, creativity and innovation.
The generally accepted parameters for comparing the performance of higher education institutions and universities are academic reputation, employers - perception, quality of teaching, research output of faculty and international exposure. It is clearly evident that academic reputation would be the resultant of cumulative performance with regard to the other parameters. Employers form a perception based on the employment preparedness of the graduates from a university or institute. If the university has been able to enhance the employability quotient of its students by developing them into skilled professionals, which includes the technical as well as soft skills; it would be considered a high performance indicator for the education delivery at that university. Most of the Indian universities lack on this aspect due to randomness and delays in curriculum revision and mode of education delivery based on classroom lectures rather than hands on training through live projects and practical assignments. The only effective way of developing students in a manner that they are prepared to take up the challenges in their field of employment is an enhanced academic-industry interface. Without a collaborative partnership between industry and academia, Indian universities will be functioning in an isolated mode without aligning their curriculum and delivery as per industry requirements and will keep churning out low skill graduates adding to the burgeoning educated unemployed labor force of India.
Research excellence is the most important aspect which differentiates the top 10 universities at the global level from others. Research output by faculty determines the innovativeness, creativity, analytical effectiveness and impact of a higher education institute or university in a subject area. India has the best of minds and a young generation of academicians ready to explore newer horizons in all subject areas. What is required is the support for research initiatives from not only Government but also industry. Just like venture capital funds provide funding for business ideas, Indian industry in partnership with Government research grant organizations can form research grant funds which provide the financial support to researchers in Indian universities. The returns will be in the form of higher world rankings for our universities and the revenue which will be gained from international students coming to India for education par excellence. Efforts are also needed on the part of faculty from various state and private universities to collaborate with each other and with international organizations for research in pertinent aspects having an impact on the development of their subject areas. Rankings are not important per se, they are significant as they are an indicator of performance, which as a moral and ethical responsibility any and every university must be conscious of. India is capable of developing world class universities and institutes and the focus on relevant and genuine research will help Indian universities gain that ground where research insights from Indian universities are cited by researchers all over the world.
"India has the best of minds and a young generation of academicians ready to explore newer horizons in all subject areas"
The recent plan of the Government for establishing the Institutes of Eminence is a welcome move under which 20 institutes - 10 public and 10 private institutes will be identified for developing them into world class education centres which can reach in the Top-100 world university rankings eventually. These institutes are expected to raise bars for themselves as well as other institutes and universities in the country as they will be free from major regulations and will be allowed to pursue their own plans for achieving the goal of world class education. What remains to be addressed is the reach of such schemes which is generally limited to a few selected institutes. The scope of selection of institutes needs to be expanded and more institutes from the ones performing well under all financial and regulatory constraints may be considered on a comparative basis for a phase wise initiation of such schemes to a larger number of institutes.
In terms of internationalization of education, higher education institutes in India need to focus upon faculty and student exchange programs which are meaningful in terms of the cross cultural exchanges and knowledge sharing. For this specific programs are required which are much more than educational excursions in the sense of structure, content, delivery and duration. Efforts should be made to attract international faculty as well as students in order to develop a multicultural environment for exchanging ideas, sharing values, developing a global outlook and promote Indian universities as global brands.
By Anubhuti Dwivedi, Professor & Dean, Asian Business School
An experienced academic head skilled in research, academic administration, curriculum design and educational leadership, Anubhutin has authored six books and various research papers, and successfully completed a research project jointly funded by New York University and National Stock Exchange.