Govt may phase out single-stream colleges

Published on Nov 17, 2019 11:39 PM IST
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ByAmandeep Shukla

New Delhi: Single-stream colleges could soon be phased out, with the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry seeking to address what the latest draft of the New Education Policy terms “the fragmented nature of the higher education sector” , officials familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

An exception would be for “the state-of-the-art institutions” which have set high standards or are engaged in the areas of study of national importance, the officials added.

The reference is to specialised schools which may come up in the future in an area which is considered a national need or priority. (The officials, however, did not provide any specific names.)

The plan is primarily to close down institutions of poor quality and improve the standard of education across India, the officials said.

“For instance, if a college teaches engineering or agriculture, the attempt is to bring in more disciplines that are taught there. Similarly if there is an institution that teaches humanities, the idea is to bring science courses. The aim is not to close institutions but to upgrade them. The recommendations would apply to all institutions at the graduate as well as the post graduate level,” said one of the senior HRD officials.

One of the officials cited above said that colleges that, for instance, offer only the Bachelor of Education course will definitely be on the top of the list of institutions that will be phased out.

According to an HRD ministry official, there are hundreds of colleges across the country offering courses in only one stream -- such as one specific subject in arts, science or engineering -- but added that an exact number is not available. The data will have to be collected from the states, the official said.

Education is a concurrent subject and NEP will be along the lines of a model law.

“The NEP is a set of policy guidelines while an implementation plan will also be finalised along with it,” said one of the officials.

The former chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K Kasturirangan, led the panel that submitted the draft NEP to HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal in May. The HRD ministry is giving final touches to the draft which has recommended many measures to improve the standard of education -- from the primary-level to the higher education-level. The draft is likely to be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval soon.

The official cited above said that “a far-reaching impact” of NEP could also be a decrease in the number of institutions. The ones that will remain will have more students and higher standards, the official added. Most single-stream colleges are of “low quality” and “crassly commercial” and could be phased out, the official said.

“There are over 50,000 higher education institutions [across the country]... a large proportion of them offer a single programme. Many of these have less than 100 students. Many of these [institutes] are commercial enterprises where little or no education takes place. The policy aims to correct this situation and the solution is consolidation,” the official explained.

The draft NEP has suggested the transformation of higher education institutions into multidisciplinary universities and education clusters with each having over 3,000 students.

The objective is to boost quality while ensuring the education remains accessible, the official said.

“The average enrolment in these colleges and universities would be much larger than the average enrolment today. Significantly, the policy aims at a Gross Enrolment Ratio [GER] of 50%... for this the capacity of existing institutions needs to be increased,” the official said.

The current GER is around 26.

GER refers to the number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education, according to the Unesco.

Officials said that new single-stream institutions will also be discouraged except in areas of national importance.

“There is a thinking that even agricultural universities or other niche institutions should also diversify. Even premier engineering colleges like the IITs [Indian Institutes of Techonolgy] could teach more courses related to humanities... colleges which traditionally do not teach sciences courses could also move in this direction,’’ the official said.

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