Time for booster dose in higher education: Vision document

Time for booster dose in higher education: Vision document

It recommends a panel to oversee entry of private players

Time for booster dose in higher education: Vision document

Of the budgetary allocation of nearly Rs 15,000 crore for the education sector in the State, a mere Rs 2,409 crore is spent on meeting the demands of the higher education sector. Of this amount, 80 per cent is spent on meeting salary bills.

These statistics not only speak about the meagre funds available for higher education, but also the need to encourage private players to take the lead role in the higher education field. Higher education includes collegiate education, technical education and university education.

According to government statistics, private investment in both medical and engineering institutions in the State is around 80 per cent and public investment accounts for the remaining 20 pc. Enrolment in higher education is 12 to 13 per cent in the State, while the national average is 10 to 11 per cent.

The State is aiming to achieve an enrolment rate of 15 per cent in the next five years. The task is not easy with government and private degree colleges getting concentrated only in urban areas.

For example, while Bangalore urban district has 20 government first degree colleges, a backward district like Raichur has just eight. A majority of the districts have not crossed the single digit mark when it comes to the number of degree colleges. Like Bangalore, Mysore, Dakshina Kannada and Belgaum are exceptions to this.

When such is the ground reality, the government has not been liberal in allowing establishment of private universities. While Karnataka has just two private varsities, the rest of the country has 94. It is imminent that more and more private and foreign varsities are set up. But the State has no policy to allow private universities.

In order to streamline planning in education, the Karnataka State Higher Education Council, constituted in 2010 through a legislation, has prepared a draft Vision 2020 document to present it to the government.

The Council’s chairman is the higher education minister, while the vice chairman is Prof S C Sharma and executive director Prof K M Kaveriappa. The draft plan, which is hosted online (inviting opinions and suggestions from the people), is going to be placed before the executive committee of the Council by May-end. Later, it will be placed before the government.

The Vision 2020 draft has a good number of suggestions to improve the higher education sector and make it more competitive. While pointing out the lacunae in the present system, the document says there is a lack of a clear policy framework for entry of new education providers into the higher education system. The next decade will witness a huge influx of private and foreign players into the field.

It is important to develop a robust forecasting mechanism for the growth of the segment, in order to streamline educational planning in the State. It may be necessary for the government to set up an expert committee to recommend, review and mentor the process of the entry of private players into the system. It is important to ensure that self accreditation and external accreditation become mandatory, it said.

The need of the hour is a body similar to the Association of Indian Universities at the State level, which includes both State and private universities and reputed research centres to explore and implement mechanisms of self-
governance.

The vision document says that lack of research culture in our universities is the result of a number of problems in the university system.

 Therefore, no magical solution may be on offer. It is important to integrate research into the bloodstream of the universities and not make it an add-on. Universities should provide extremely flexible and customised work options to its scholars so that academics can continue to work across multiple institutional and professional contexts.

A task force may be set up to look into the feasibility of converting Academic Staff Training Colleges into advanced interdisciplinary research and training centres in higher education, with the mandate of encouraging research culture in varsities. 

A special purpose vehicle may be launched on a pilot basis to select universities and colleges for promotion of research activities. On the financing aspect, the document says universities should be allowed to raise funds through non-conventional modes of education and service delivery.

Private philanthropy in higher education should be streamlined by defining focus areas for development. It has also suggested the establishment of the Karnataka State Universities League on the lines of Ivy League universities in the US and the London Consortium in the UK, to foster greater academic exchange between faculty members and students.

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