Higher Education - An Era of "Self Financed Universities"

Prof. A.S. Kolaskar

Vice Chancellor, The Neotia University, West Bengal

The new Human Resources Minister,Mr.Prakash Javadekar has announced that the Government of India will soon announce anew education policy in which, student – teacher interaction will be given high weightage. Though Indian “Gurukul” system is not viable in today’s world, the importance of providing holistic education to the techno-savvy young generation should not be underestimated. Most Indian universities are providing today merely subject information and thus creating unemployable graduates and post graduates as describedin the many survey reports published in recent years. As a consequence, university campuses are becoming hot beds of politics, student unrest, strikes, gheraos etc. and education has been relegated to second place. This downward spiral needs to be arrested and reversed.The urgent need of the hour is an education system that will develop both parts of the brain, improve physical fitness and strengthen the ethics and values of every student.

In USA, private universities, particularly Ivy League Universities, have brought about major changes in higher education system, where research, teaching, interaction with industry, cultural and sports activities are integral components of any stream of study, helping students to achieve excellence in their chosen walk of life. These universities are thus producing Nobel laureates, Olympic gold medallists, successfulwealth generating industrialists,world class artists, and social thinkers.

In recent years, the various state governments of India have established several self-financed universities, whose numbers are now comparable to state and central government supported universities/institutions. Some self-financed universities are making use of the limited freedom available to them and are working very hard to provide job oriented, professional courses relevant to the21st century,while also attempting balanced development of students. One such University is ‘The Neotia University (TNU)’ which is established a year back by the West Bengal State Government as a self-financed university. This university is offering several new age courses such as Robot Manufacturing, Energy Studies, Marine Engineering, Cyber Security, Data Analytics, Auto Manufacturing, Animation & Video Game Design,etc., as also liberal arts courses such as Applied Economics, Applied Psychology, Human Values, Languages, etc.The University follows choice based credit system. This system allows students to earn credits for physical fitness,participating in cultural activities and social work. Other universities which are breaking free of the shackles of long established educational practices are Ashoka University, Shiv NadarUniversity, etc.

Parents,justifiably, try to send their wards to established universities. However, the standard of education at many of these established universities is slipping and the atmosphere is becoming unsuitable for learning. Today, several central universities and state university campuses are facing major problems and find it difficult to maintain their sanctity as “temples of education”. In some of these universities, the highest academic administrator, the Vice Chancellor, has either been removed, asked to go on long leave or requested to resign. Reasons for such drastic action, which was unheard of about five years back,are too many and different, but the net result is that these university campuses have lost their peace and are coming into news for all the wrong reasons.

The self-financed universities,working to become viable and establish their own brand,are making innovations in the education system by using newer technologies, more up-to-date syllabus, better infrastructure, better teachers and pedagogy, better interaction with industry and international universities. Consequently, students graduating from these universities are better equipped not only for immediate employment, but to survive and grow in today’s highly competitive and unified global world.

Parents and critics should realize that Stanford, Harvard, MIT and other Ivy League Universities in the USA have not grown to the present stature in their first 5 - 10 years’life, but after a long period by consistently followingpolicies of excellence in teaching, research and education. As an academic administrator and scientist, I am fully convinced that the next few decades belong toIndia’s self-financed universities. Many self-financed universities will emerge as centres of excellence in the world,receive high global rankingand become world class universities. Our governments, state and central as well as public at large need to change their beliefs, mind-set and judge these self-financed universitiesby their implicit and explicit potentialand play an active role in their integration into the main stream of education.

I am convinced that the second golden era of Indian higher educationis not too far in the future. It will be a reality sooner rather than later, if higher education is freed from the large number of constraints in place as a result of the state and central government policies.

The many Vice Chancellors participating in the All India Vice Chancellors’ Conclave organized by The Neotia University, gave several suggestions to reduce the multiplicity of regulators. Let us hope that the new higher education policy will be in this direction of making Indian higher education free from multiple regulators, so that many Indian universities can attract students and faculty from all over the world making them world class.

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