Universities in India need a dose of competition and autonomy
In yet another confirmation of the poor standard of higher education in India, a list of the top 100 varsities under 50 years of age does not feature a single Indian university. The Times Higher Education 100 under-50 global ranking is designed to gauge relatively younger universities - established in 1963 or after - and juxtapose their performance with that of older institutes of learning. Although eight countries in Asia make the list, India's absence highlights its inadequacy in terms of a crucial human resource input. This certainly does not augur well for a developing nation looking to reap demographic dividends.
Given its sizeable youth population - around 360 million between the ages of 10 and 24 - India has few universities and even fewer quality institutes of learning. Sans a culture of research, varsities have been reduced to mere factories for producing degree holders. The situation is further compounded by the lack of infrastructure, which in turn explains the failure to attract the best acade-mic talent. Meanwhile, administration of higher education has been converted into a means for disbursing political patronage. With babus only interested in feathering their nests, pedagogy has suffered. Add to this the politics of reservations and it is easy to see why meritocracy has taken a backseat in our varsities.
Unless rectified, this situation will have disastrous consequences for the economy and for society. While India Inc has been complaining about the lack of skill training hurting industry, the mass of semi-educated, unemployable youth could fall prey to destructive, anti-social activities. It's imperative that Indian universities are freed from the shackles of bureaucracy and given adequate autonomy with regard to funding and pedagogy. Fostering competition is the only way to raise standards and inject vigour in our educational institutes. In this regard, passing the foreign universities Bill hanging fire in Parliament is a good idea.