If all goes well, 2012 could be a landmark year for the education sector. Here’s what students could look forward to.
Meta university: The proposed meta university will allow students to take courses across a network of institutions and disciplines, such as engineering with history. To begin with, the capital’s four major institutes, each with different strengths, the University of Delhi, IIT -Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Jamia Millia Islamia, are contemplating starting a four-year course in July 2012.
Single regulatory body for higher education: A single regulator for academic and research institutions, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, might come into existence this year. The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011, which proposes to set up the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 28, 2011.
In short, NCHER might result in more and better choices for learners. Set to replace various regulatory bodies, the creation of the commission could lead to standardised curricula, exam patterns and spur student mobility across universities in the country, say experts.
“The commission will facilitate determination, co-ordination, maintenance and continued enhancement of standards of higher education and research including university education, vocational, technical, professional and medical education other than agricultural education,” says Vibha Puri Das, secretary - higher education, Union ministry for human resource development.
Saumen Chattopadhyay, associate professor of education, JNU, says, “Students will benefit from it in many ways. At present, students are a confused lot.” They might have to do a lot of legwork to find out if the relevant approvals are in place for a correspondence course offered by a university. “There will be some kind of uniformity in curricula, exam pattern etc,” says Chattopadhyay.
If NCHER fulfils its objectives, it could open up more avenues leading to quality education.
Given the commission’s goals of assuring quality, Rahul Mullick, partner/executive director at Pricewaterhouse Cooper India, says, “Many new colleges and universities are set to come up in India and the key is to make them high quality institutions. For students, this would mean choices beyond the conventional institutes and more opportunities at good colleges instead of just the limited seats in the few leading colleges or institutes. Also one of the intended aims of NCHER is to standardise a national curriculum. This is expected to allow easier student migration from one college to another without impacting their course coverage.” The aim of promoting innovation and research could stem the outflow of Indians to foreign shores to an extent. “Should NCHER be able to drive its focus on enhancing research capabilities as intended, this would mean that many students could seek research avenues in India itself instead of looking at overseas opportunities,” says Mullick.
Shift in study abroad trends: The United Kingdom is changing its student visa system in phases with the third set of changes due to take effect in April 2012 when the post study work option ends. “However, there will still be opportunities for international graduates to stay on and work in graduate level employment in the UK. This will be under Tier-2 of the points based system, with a licensed employer,” elaborates Sam Murray, regional communications manager, UK Border Agency, South Asia.
The changed economic scenario of Western countries is highly likely to influence outbound-students’ decisions. Those who can’t afford to go abroad can pursue a foreign degree within the country. Overseas institutions have started trickling in, even before the passage of the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operation), Bill.
New common admission tests: Going forward, will there be fewer entrance tests? There are court-directed moves towards a single-test regime for various streams. After an interim Supreme Court order, the All India Council for Technical Education has launched a Common Management Admission Test for institutes approved by it. The national-level computer-based test is to take place from February 20 to 28. However, there has been resistance to the proposed common tests.
Greater role of ICT: Expect more integration of information and communication technology into the teaching-learning process. An upgraded version of the Aakash tablet PC for students, launched in 2011, is coming soon.
Sub-division of seats in the OBC quota: The government has cleared the 4.5% sub-quota for backward minorities within the 27% other backward classes (OBC) seat quota in educational institutions. The controversial sub-quota kicks in on January 1, 2012.
Starting 2012, aspirants may see more places in higher education (HE). Vibha Puri Das, secretary - higher education, HRD ministry, says, “The XII (five-year) plan will emphasise expansion with consolidation, greater inclusion and focus on improving the quality of HE. The plan starting in 2012 is expected to be teacher-centric and student-driven. A significant target is, increasing the number of students in HE to reach a gross enrolment ratio of 30% by 2020. This would mean an additional 26 million students entering higher education by 2020.”