UGC chairman SK Thorat on Wednesday begged to differ with some policy-makers on public-private partnership in higher education while seeking low fee structure to ensure that all get equal higher education opportunities.
Delivering a keynote address at ASSOCHAM’s conference on Globalisation and Higher Education, Thorat said there should be joint ventures between public and private universities including foreign as done in China.
While referring to WTO-GATS guidelines on entry of foreign universities, he said, they should provide education to poorest of the poor whose access to higher education is less than two per cent as compared to rich whose access is as high as 57 per cent, equivalent to enrolment in developed countries. The government will soon formulate a policy on entry of foreign education providers.
Thorat, however, admitted that UGC has limited knowledge about quality of higher education in India. Of the total 18,000 colleges, grading on basis of quality is done for only 6,000 colleges. Of that, only 25 per cent are of A grade, while 50 per cent are B grade and rest are of the lowest grade. Of the total 357 universities, nine have been identified for potential of excellence.
But, then higher education has grown from just one per cent gross enrolment in 1950s to about 13 per cent in 2003. “It is a big achievement. We have the largest higher education system in the world. Expanding it also need lots of resources,” he explained.
Still, the disparities are wide. Thorat said only 2.4 per cent of India’s poor has access to higher education, the percentage among rural poor is just 1.3 per cent while it is less than one per cent for casual labour.
On the other side, influentials like Jains and Christians have an enrolment ratio of more than 50 per cent as compared to just 12 per cent for Hindus and eight per cent among Muslims. "The disparity can be removed only through inclusive education," he said.
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