New Education Policy 2019

Q: Is the New Education Policy focused on delivering World Class Universities?

Ans: Highlights in the New Education Policy

1. Standalone technical universities to go and to be replaced with Multidisciplinary institutions with an underlying focus on promoting liberal arts education, beginning with the undergraduate level

2. Policy recommends moving away from the system of creating Affiliated Institutions (colleges or universities)

3. Emphasis is being placed on autonomy of both the institution and faculty (hiring and development)

4. Co-existence and encouragement of both private and public institutions is a pillar of the new policy

5. Faculty engagement, recruitment and development is being revisited and the National Eligibility Test (NET) is to be reformed

a. Currently on 5% clear the test

b. Current test is on rote memorization and hence limited

c. New test to have elements of critical thinking skills, assessment/evaluation skills and concept building skills (to be tested)

d. Provision to allow industry experts to gain entry into teaching

6. Appointment of senior positions such as Vice Chancellors or Senior Professors to be based on Meritocracy.

7. Consolidation of institutions – from 800 universities and 44,000 colleges vision to create a total of 15,000 combined universities/institutions

8. Revamping institutions by grading them as follows

a. Type 1 – Research Universities

b. Type 2 – Teaching Universities

c. Type 3 – Colleges

9. Thrust on Open and Distance Learning

10. Creating an Online Digital Repository for storing resources to be shared by all institutions – institutions to be allowed to create their own as long as they meet certain standards

11. Internationalization of Higher Education to continue and be given focus

12. Philanthropy to be encouraged for creating Universities even though education is a not-for-profit entity in India

Interpretation of the highlights:

1. This policy is transformational at multiple levels. It is descriptive about what it wants to achieve and the path it wishes to follow

2. The focus on collaboration, expansion of subject areas taught, and research conducted across disciplines is a welcome one.

3. Creation of 3 Tiers (types) of institutions will benefit students in understanding the kind of curriculum they will enroll in

4. Thrust is on transforming faculty so that education imparted is retained, as opposed to teaching how to crack an exam (where little is learnt or retained)

5. It is aspirational to grow India as a student destiny like the USA or Europe has become. Even countries such as Singapore, China and Australia are developing into study destinations.

6. Greater autonomy to institutions to fuel growth and education standards

Challenges that the policy doesn’t address

1. Faculty development is a long process. The policy doesn’t provide solutions to help universities develop and teach curriculum that will help them focus on becoming truly Universal.

2. The tag of Institution of Eminence currently being given out to those who meet the criteria is of little importance in the hands of private institutions. There is no government funding, support or subsidy. The tag is thus losing its relevance.

3. While the move to meritocracy is a welcome one, it is not clear if it will work in India given our tendency to rely on ‘at will’ appointments or ‘tenure’ based appointments.

4. Philanthropy will work in setting up private institutions, but the worry is that the expectations to create large, multi-discipline universities will kill the opportunity (not all philanthropy will create large universities). There is room to create small philanthropy led universities like Shiv Nadar University but these may not find space or encouragement under the new policy.

5. A big gap in the policy is the focus on an all-encompassing liberal arts and flexible education system. The policy isn’t clear if this is the ONLY way in which education will be imparted. “Is there room for traditional focused courses?” This is a question that remains unanswered in the policy.

Tentative conclusion:

The policy is ambitious in reforming and restructuring Higher Education in India.

1. It seems to draw on multiple global models and tries to shoe-horn in a bag of mixed goodies. The problem with such an approach is that it ends up creating confusion in the short term.

2. Will the consolidation of colleges and universities shrink the total capacity, or will it allow more capacity to be created? It could be seen as doing any of the two. For a world class university would the criteria be of the Type 1 institution or would a degree awarding college be treated as an Institution Of Eminence (IOE)? This is unclear.

3. Faculty development is simply not going to happen under the current structure. Will professionals with proven credentials be given the opportunity even if they are not PhD holders? This question isn’t answered. It is clear that there will be significant gap in the demand and supply of trained personnel unless the policy addresses this issue.

4. We are on the path to creating world class HE institutions but the acceleration will only happen when the policy clarifies many issues it touches upon.

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© 2020 Vivek Mehra