With Kapil Sibal out of the HRD ministry, country’s top advisory body, the Planning Commission, has pushed for more reforms in higher education to tackle the “deteriorating quality” and “eroding public confidence” in the country’s public education system.
The panel has asked the HRD ministry to shift its focus from country’s exemplary institutions - Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management - and try to revamp the state and private sector institutions which enroll over 97% of total students in higher education.
“The strategy to improve quality should be based on national initiatives that benefit a wider range of institutions by creating a strong performance culture through effective use of competitive grants, focus on evaluation and feedback of both teaching and research and ensure transparency through information disclosure to enhance student choice,” plan panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said in a letter to new HRD minister MM Pallam Raju.
Country's national objective is to double enrollment in higher education by 2020.
The plan has identified 15 strategic issues which need ministry’s immediate attention in the next five years including increasing the capacity of existing institutions to enroll more students rather than starting new institutions.
It also wants the ministry to significantly increase in budgetary support for equity related measures through targeted, integrated and effective equity related schemes to replace the existing maze of diffused schemes. And, the allocation should be made foster excellence by improving quality of teaching and research.
The panel also wants the HRD ministry to give more autonomy to institutions and focus only on evaluating their performance. It also wants more transparency in fee determination, placements and faculty appointments.
Ahluwalia admitted that all resources needed to implement the reform package may not be available because of financial constraints but said that the fiscal limitations should not prevent the ministry from “pushing various high impact ideas” that requires less investment.
He, however, said that whatever money is available should be directly related to desired outcomes. The higher allocation could also be used for hiring foreign faculty, the panel said, adding that the institutions should strive for alliance with other institutions and industry.
The second higher education reform, the panel believes, is needed to compete with China and other emerging economies which have increased focus on higher education to leverage benefit of the growing economy.