The Budget this year should focus on empowering private deemed to be universities. The higher education landscape in India is undergoing a paradigm shift, with private deemed to be universities beginning to make significant contributions in terms of quality and quantity. Some of them have emerged as top-ranked Indian universities in global rankings, overtaking many well-established public universities in the country.
Over the years, such top-ranked private deemed to be universities have exceeded expectations in their research calibre, relevance and dedication to solving challenges facing our society as well as the needs of a new emergent India. The Government needs to place full confidence in them and actively promote research at their campuses by making available significant funding opportunities.
In most advanced nations, private universities are major shareholders in, and contributors to, the exceptional quality of their higher education. If India too is to build a world-class higher education system, the Government in the upcoming Budget should empower top private Deemed to be Universities and create a level funding playing field. This is essential if they have to compete, innovate and contribute to meeting the challenges of Make in India, and also adapt to the needs of a rapidly growing, information-centric population.
It is important for the Government to increase funding opportunities for private deemed to be universities which have made significant contributions to higher education in terms of research excellence, innovation and societal engagement.
I believe that India should not have an open-door policy for foreign universities to enter the country. What we instead need is simplification of regulations for collaboration between Indian and top foreign universities, so that there is knowledge exchange and sharing of best practices. The government should only monitor the quality of these collaborations or twinning programmes.
Deemed to be universities, which have a proven track record, should be given full freedom by the Government in curriculum innovation and flexibility for all programmes, including health sciences programmes. This will empower them immensely.
Additionally, the country needs a sustained push for and increased financial outlay towards Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and e-learning. The government should also ensure increased involvement of deemed to be universities in national missions like SWAYAM which hosts online all courses taught in classrooms from 9th till post-graduation, to be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
Indian higher education institutes need a massive spurt in innovation, technology business incubation and start-up funding opportunities, in line with the Startup India campaign which aims to promote bank financing for start-up ventures.
In parallel to this, the government should also ensure a 'Make in India' push to set up centres of excellence and research in deemed to be universities to support manufacturing in cutting-edge areas such as Wireless, Sensors, Robotics, IoT, and 3D printing. The number of PG seats in all disciplines should be increased, along with PG scholarships and PhD fellowships.
Finally, an initiative on the lines of MHRD's project Vishwajeet, which aims to put IITs in top league of global rankings, should be launched for leading deemed to be universities which have already secured high rank in various world university rankings and have a potential to climb further.
Dr. P Venkat Rangan is Vice Chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu
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