With nearly 800 universities and over 40,000 colleges with an enrolment of over 33 million, Indian Higher Education System is undoubtedly the largest higher education system in the world. With such explosion in numbers, maintaining high standards remains a challenge. In this context, it was timely that MHRD asked “Association of Indian Universities” to come up with a study on Higher Education. In 2016, the association published a study titled “Regulation of Higher Education in India and Abroad: A study of Select Countries”. The study covered a comprehensive assessment of Indian Higher Education spanning regulatory frameworks, prevailing best practices, and a comparative analysis of higher education in India with global peers such as USA, UK, Germany, France and Singapore whose higher education is considered Credible and rated high. It was mentioned that there is a feeling about Indian Higher Education being over regulated and under-governed owing to the overlapping functions, multiplicity of agencies and rigid systems. For example, there are more than 15 Regulatory Councils in higher education space such as AICTE, BCI, MCI, DCI, and COA covering different sectors that operate under the broader oversight UGC (University Grants Commission). The report also points out that although Indian Universities can admit up to 15% international students of their capacity of 33 million which comes to a healthy target of 4.95 million but Indian higher education institutions could attract about 31,126 in 2015 and 30,423 in 2016. On the positive side, the international students coming to India represent many more nations now compared to few decades back. From 60 countries which sent students to India in 1984, we have 149 countries that are sending students to India in 2014. These numbers pose a question. Should we be concerned about low performance in attracting international students? What could be the reasons that have held India back compared to global peers. It is important to delve further as this represents a lost economic opportunity as well. Sri. Kaushik Basu, the former Chief Economic Adviser to India, is vocal that Higher Education is one area where India has natural competitive advantage and remains under-exploited.
In addition, an important yard-stick to compare higher education across nations is the presence of International Students in the higher education eco-system. In historical times, India itself was leader in attracting highest number of students and scholars to Nalanda and Taxashila. It is worthwhile to see how do we fare at current times.
While conclusive analysis on relative preferences of international students may need more analysis, we can enumerate a set of reasons that may explain why the quality of higher education is not meeting their expectation:
- increasing availability of high quality education in their home country;
- rising cost of education and excessive commercialization of higher education;
- relative attractiveness of academics as a profession in India;
- limited availability of international faculty in our colleges and universities;
- restricted flexibility in terms of horizontal mobility to students;
- narrow focus that does not cater to developing traits like ethical behaviour, professionalism, negotiation, mediation, public policy, and diplomacy;
- specializations not keeping up with needs;
- lack of capacity for state of the art research along with world-class education;
- inadequate engagement with industry and society; and
- lack of innovation culture.
PES University is looking at the above issues to take the lead.