The UPA government will shift its focus from quantity to quality in higher education with its efforts to launch an unprecedented expansion across the country not being matched by building of infrastructure and finding talented teachers.
The government had announced the setting up of 51 public-funded higher education institutions – including eight Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) during the 11th Five Year Plan period from 2007-2012.
But all these plans have not been implemented. Most of the proposed institutions have been plagued by various deficiencies, even threatening their brand equity. They have failed to take off primarily because of delays in land acquisition and disputes between the Centre and the states on where they should be set up.
Given the setback to these new institutions, the 12th 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 the 12th plan and not opening a number of new institutes,” said an HRD ministry official.
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 R10,000 crore for setting up new IITs and IIMs in 2008, construction work for 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 the example of IIM-Rohtak, where part of the land was claimed by the Haryana Police. There has also been no decision where the central university in Bihar should come up as the state government has been insisting on a campus in the educationally backward Motihari district, which is not acceptable to the ministry.
In the next few years, the ministry plans huge investments to set up IITs, IIMs and 16 new central universities with international quality research facilities and faculties. “IIT-Bhubaneswar should have the same level of excellence as IIT-Bombay or Delhi,” a ministry official said.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) official said.
The 12th plan would also see a higher allocation of funds to support high-quality research in educational institutions and incentives to have more PhD-holders, whose number has been falling in recent years. The proposal, agreed by the ministry, will soon be submitted for approval to the planning commission, which is mandated to finalise the 12th plan for India.