Universities in India need more basic amenities, not just rankings
Outside the main metros, institutes of higher education have barely any facilities. It would be more useful to invest in infrastructure than in a rankings system.editorials Updated: Apr 10, 2017 07:25 IST
Six out of the top ten colleges in the recently released National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), are in Delhi. Of the other four, one is in Kolkata, two in Chennai and one in Tiruchirapalli. This skewed distribution of places of quality higher education in the country should be cause for alarm.
If centres for academic excellence exist only in Delhi and one or two other cities, this means that students in the rest of the country can only hope to get a second-rate education in universities and colleges. Investment in infrastructure and pedagogy is mostly centred around this handful of institutes. Even prestigious universities such as Osmania University, which celebrates its centenary this year, barely have any amenities to speak of. As recent news reports have shown, students in Osmania University’s hostels don’t even have mattresses on their iron cots, and have apparently been using banners and polythene covers as bedsheets. Science labs, outside of the elite colleges and IITs, have terrible infrastructure and barely any safety equipment. In smaller universities, even the bare essentials for labs are hard to come by. In such a scenario, the Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar has said that educational institutions performing well in the annual ranking will be awarded with more funding, enhanced autonomy and various other benefits.
This could create a vicious circle,in which those who have the infrastructure do well, and get more funding; and those who don’t have any facilities continue to do badly, and yet receive no financial help. This approach will only strengthen those institutes that already have the best benefits (such as they are) available to them. What is required is not a government-funded ranking system, but more government investment in education and allied infrastructure; and more attention to smaller, state-funded universities. Bodies such as the UGC need to make sure that non-top-rung universities in the country too have the basic necessities to ensure that students can get a decent shot at higher education. As more and more private universities, some of them with questionable credentials come up, government universities and colleges have a responsibility to provide affordable, good quality educational opportunities to everyone, especially to those living outside prominent metros.