Opinion: Transforming higher education ecosystem

The government has rolled out key reform processes to lay the framework for sustainable growth and development of the education sector. Higher education institutes (HEI) will be encouraged to adopt competitive benchmarking practices to raise the standards of Indian academics. The ministry of hu­man res­ource development (MHRD) has stated that as part of the reform initiatives, research and innovation would remain the key parameter wh­ile assessing the performance ratings of higher education institutes.

The motivation behind initiating the reforms was the disheartening fact that that none of the leading Indian universities found a mention in the top 200 QS World University Rankings. With a vi­ew to get a correct assessm­ent of the situation, the governme­nt initiated a national ranki­ng process with establi­s­h­me­nt of the national instit­u­tio­n­al ranking framework (NIRF) in 2015 under MHRD.

The first results brought out by NIRF in April 2016 and 2017 indicated that top ranking institutions in the country were mostly public funded central universities.

In order to upgrade the credentials of higher educat­i­on institutes and bring them on par with global standards, NIRF has recommended establishment of clear parameters that lay onus on faculty qualifications and experie­n­ce, quality of their publicatio­ns, patents and projects with industry and university resu­lts. The parameters wo­uld al­so encompass key foc­us are­as like mobility of students to high-ranking universities ac­r­oss the globe, placements, quality of plac­ements and perception of the institution in minds of concerned stakeholders including employers.

As part of a quality mandate initiated by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and recommendations of the UGC, students will be mandated to refresh the fundamental concepts and improve language skills as part of mandatory induction training. Universities will be required to design curriculum wherein 50 per cent of the syllabi will emphasise on experiential and hands-on learning. Teaching-learning processes will be made more interactive with the increased use of information and communication technologies. The quality mandate of AICTE to upgrade the learning standards in technical institutes rema­ins a key focus area, as only one-third of 7-8 lakh students graduating from engin­eering institutions are dee­med employable. Also, only 50 per cent fresh graduates join their core study areas.

Institutions have been recommended to shift their instructional emphasis fr­om an “input-centric and credential-focused” approa­ch to a more “learner-centric” methodology. The tra­nsition is to be achieved revising curricula regularly, implementing a choice-bas­ed credit system, introducing continuous and comprehensive student evaluations and implementing a cumulative grade point system with new marking and grading schemes.

The government and MHRD have rolled out key reform initiatives to boost the global rankings of Indian universities and boost the country’s learning systems. The initiatives mainly focus on international collaboration, industry-institute partnership, innovations and interdisciplinary research, wh­i­ch remain key to reorienting the standards of higher education and positioning India as a global education hub.

(The writer is principal at Vivekanand education society’s college of pharmacy)