Quality of our graduates poor, bring in foreign universities: Tharoor

Minister of State for Human Resources Development (HRD) Shashi Tharoor on Monday made out a strong case for allowing foreign varsities to set up campuses in the country, arguing that the Indian university system was not producing "well-educated" graduates to meet the requirements of industry.

"The major problem remains that our national education policy in the past has remained out of step with the times. Whereas countries in the Middle-East and China are going out of their way to woo foreign universities to set up campuses in their countries, India turned away many academic suitors, who have come calling in recent years," he said.

There will be no need for Indian students to go abroad if good higher education institutes were set up here, he said.

The minister, however, reiterated government’s commitment towards reforming the country’s education system. “We will also work towards putting our reform agenda back on track,” he said.

Tharoor was addressing a two-d­ay higher education summit which began here on Monday. The event was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci). The HRD Ministry has drafted a bill that seeks to formulate regulations for allowing entry and operation of foreign institutions in India. The minister noted that "companies are entering the higher education space in the guise of training.”

Referring to a higher education survey conducted by the University Grants Commission, the minister underlined 73 per cent of the colleges and 68 per cent of the universities are found to be of medium or low quality.

Even though India with 621 universities and 33,500 colleges has one of the largest network of higher education institutes across the world and stands second in terms of student enrolment, country’s gross enrolment ratio of 18.8 per cent in 2011 was still less than the world average of 26 per cent.

There are world-class institutions in the country like IITs and IIMs but they “are still islands in a sea of mediocrity," he added.

With the ranks of “educated unemployed” in the country swelling in the absence of adequate employment opportunities, there was possibility of their falling prey to the activities of terrorists and Maoists. The minister stressed the need for greater investment in education to improve its quality.

Government spending on education was just 1.22 per cent of the GDP, against the US’s 3.1 per cent and South Korea’s 2.4 per cent. He added that government spending on research should also be increased by 2 per cent.

Tharoor’s senior colleague, HRD Minister Pallam Raju, recently described India’s engineering graduates as mostly “unemployable.”

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