The UPA government’s enthusiasm to expand the higher education sector in the country has not been matched by efforts to ensure quality in teaching and infrastructure, a review of the new institutions suggests.
During the 11th five year plan (2007-12) the government opened 51 public funded higher education institutions – that included eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and seven new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), but most of them are plagued by various deficiencies, even threatening their brand equity.
Given the setback to these new institutions – which is also due to various state governments’ failure to acquire land in time - the 12th five year plan (2012-17) will go slow in adding more institutions. “Ensuring quality in higher education to compete with the global best would be the objective in 12th plan and not opening number of new institutes,” said an official of HRD ministry, explaining the shift in focus. The 12th plan will add four new IITs but no new IIMs. Fourteen innovation universities and 374 model colleges already announced in the 11th plan but could not be established will also go into the new plan.
Despite the Union Cabinet approving over Rs 10,000 crore for setting up new IITs and IIMs in 2008, construction work of only four technology and five management institutes have started and about 40 % of the faculty posts are lying vacant.
“There were huge delays in land acquisition by the state governments,” a ministry official explained, giving example of IIM Rohtak, where part of the land earmarked for the institute was claimed by Haryana police. There has also been no decision where the Central University in Bihar should come up as the state government is insisting on a campus in the educationally backward Motihari district, which is not acceptable to the ministry.
Faculty shortage ranges from 30 to 40 % in IITs and up to 30 % in IIMs. It is as high as 50 % of the teaching posts in the university system. “Many new universities have started from temporary campuses with just a few courses because of faculty shortage and space,” a senior University Grants Commission (UGC) functionary said.
In the next few years, the ministry estimate huge public sector investments to set up campuses of IITs, IIMs and 16 new Central Universities with international quality research facilities and faculty. “IIT Bhubnashwar should have same level of excellence as IIT Bombay or Delhi,” a ministry official said.
The 12th plan would also see higher allocation of funds to support high quality research in educational institutions and incentives to have more Ph.Ds holders, whose number has been falling in recent years. The proposal, agreed by the ministry, will soon be submitted for approval of the Planning Commission, mandated to finalise the 12 plan for the India.