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Quality control

Status upgrade to ‘institute of national importance’ will make specialised academies such as NID more professional and research- oriented, writes Gauri Kohli

education Updated: Oct 15, 2014 12:04 IST
Gauri Kohli

These are some of the country’s premier institutions in the fields of design, film, media and management education, known for imparting the best of training, skill sets and knowledge to students. And now, they are likely to be upgraded to the status of ‘institutes of national importance,’ (INI) if the government has its way.

While the government has proposed grant of this status to Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata, and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, the National Institute of Design (NID) has already got this tag as per a recent government notification.

Pradyumna Vyas, director, NID, Ahmedabad, says: “Over the years, NID has been delivering a range of experimental learning programmes through cross-disciplinary education, which is a unique model. We have been offering diploma programmes which are unique in terms of curricula and pedagogy and we did not want to come under any framework because we enjoyed this kind of freedom as it did not come under bodies like the University Grants Commission and All India Council for Technical Education. However, we realised that even though we had this freedom, we were unable to offer degrees.We wanted to take the route which would help us enjoy the freedom and autonomy we already had and also offer degree programmes. This is why we thought of getting an INI status.”

The decision to accord this status to NID also means that the government has recognised that design education is at par with technology, engineering and medical science. “After technology, design has got this stature.This will give more options to students wanting to go abroad or trying for the UPSC Civil Services exam. This will also give a push to the institute’s expansion plans with four new NIDs coming up in Jorhat, Vijaywada, Kurukshetra and Bhopal in the next two years,” adds Vyas.

NID currently offers diplomas in design streams such as furniture and interior design, graphic design, product design and textile design. With the new status, it will offer degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Experts say that if other quality institutes are upgraded as well, it will lead to greater professionalism and give a boost to research. In order to provide statutory backing through an act of Parliament to declare FTII and SRFTI as INIs, the government has proposed a bill. This would enable both institutes to award their own degrees and diplomas and start new activities on the lines of the IITs and IIMs. For FTII, too, the new status would be an advantage. “It is expected that when the Act comes into force, FTII would be able to award its own degrees and create more opportunities for a globally interconnected learning experience and achieve excellence in a more structured way,” says DJ Narain, director, FTII, Pune.

The human resource development ministry has also initiated the process of declaring the School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal and Vijayawada and the Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing, Kancheepuram, as INIs.

Grant status, but not in haste, warn experts

How many institutes should be granted the status of institutes of national importance? Experts say it should be handled with caution and not in haste. Says Professor Keyoor Purani of IIM Kozhikode, “INI status should be granted to a limited number of institutes based on national human development priorities. A large number of institutes directly under the department of higher education pose obvious challenges of management and hence this may be provided to institutes keeping national HRD goals in mind.”

Professor Rajiv K Srivastava, interim director of IIM Lucknow, agrees. “Too many institutions with this status may dilute the concept of an institute of national importance and too few may create an ‘elitist club’ mentality. The status should be earned and not just be given without much deliberation or because an institute is already a brand in itself. Some generally acceptable standards need to be evolved, and at least some of them should be quantifiable. For example, years in operation, number of graduates, number of faculty with PhDs, aggregate research output etc,” he says.

According to Professor Sudhanshu Bhushan, professor and head, higher education, at the National University of Educational Planning and Development, “There is no document by the government which spells out clearly in what respect INIs are different from any university system. Establishment of INIs, outside the university setup, will promote fragmentation in the name of specialised knowledge. Promotion of standalone INIs will promote elite knowledge having disconnect with society and economy.”

What is an institute of national importance?
According to the University Grants Commission, an Institute of National Importance is defined as one that plays a key role in developing highly skilled personnel within the specified region of the state or country. Only a select few institutes make it to this coveted list and are usually supported by the Centre as they also receive government funding to be developed as centres of excellence in research and academics. These institutes are given this status through an act of Parliament. Currently, there are over 40 ­instiutions that have been accorded this status.

Institutes in the top league

All India Institute of Medical Sciences
Indian Statistical Institute
Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh
Indian Institutes of Technology
National Institutes of Technology