University Grants Commission’s (UGC) proposal to promote education in India through Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the 12th Five Year Plan has met with stiff opposition from experts, who feel that privatisation is not the fix for the ailments which plague higher education in the country.
In a seminar organised by Teachers for Intervention in Education (TIE), a group of teachers in Punjabi University to mull the UGC’s proposals, experts rejected the apex body’s suggestions, stating that even in a country like USA, where three-fourths of all universities are private, 65% of the students go to public universities.
“A university has an organic link with its society. It cannot be imported or exported, except when it ceases to be a place of socially fruitful work and becomes a mere franchise run for commercial purposes,” said Kuldeep Puri of Panjab University, Chandigarh.
While minutely analysing the UGC’s proposals, Puri said that, never in the history of
education worldwide had any ‘foreign or private campus’ delivered significant results for the people who live and study there.
“The fine print of the proposals amounts to an assault on public funding of higher education, especially with regard to the state’s financial aid envisaged to be as low as 15% of the teachers’ salaries. On the other hand, the public-private partnership models as proposed are all biased in favour of the private sector,” said Bheem Inder Singh from Punjabi University.
Inder explained how the stated objectives of the proposals were in conflict with the strategies recommended to achieve them: “Under the slogans of access, equity and excellence, a dual and socially divisive system of education was being encouraged, in which the rich would have access to the best education while the economically deprived would be merely accommodated in second-grade ‘community colleges’ and awarded ‘associate degrees’ and diplomas.”
Puri argued that public universities were being systematically denigrated through a concerted campaign to pave the way for handing over higher education to the profit-driven private sector.
Even the judicial injunction to keep education outside the sphere of profit was being insidiously ignored.
Teachers, research scholars and students from several departments of the university as well as many colleges attended the talk, which was followed by an animated discussion.
In his vote of thanks, Teachers for Intervention in Education convener Rajesh Sharma called upon the audience to commit themselves afresh to critical thought and dialogue to protect the democratic traditions.