04 Nov 2015 16:55 IST

Grant full autonomy to top 200 Indian universities: TV Mohandas Pai

'Real challenge lies in bringing quality education to the students'

The top 200 universities in India should be granted full autonomy and not controlled by the Universities Grants Commission (UGC), said Mohandas Pai, Chairman, FICCI Higher Education Committee. Pai, who was here for a Conference on Higher Education organised by FICCI, spoke separately to BusinessLine.

“The universities should be allowed to drive their academic, administrative, and financial operations, while pursuing their own vision,” he said, adding: “We are going to become a $10-trillion economy from $2.25 trillion by 2030, and if we have to do this, we must liberalise education.”

Online platforms

“Education has moved on to a technology platform now. A student in India can get a US degree through online platforms such as Coursera, and edX. The Indian education system, on the other hand, does not allow State universities to offer programmes outside the State,” Pai said.

“What I fear is many students will soon move away from the formal system of education and would get a degree through MOOCs (massive open online courses) and online courses, and these degrees will be recognised by the world,” Pai added.

“So, it won’t matter if the government recognises that degree or not. Government recognition, anyway, is mostly valid for just government jobs, and there are no government jobs available. And young people don’t aspire for government jobs; so, what is it that the government is controlling?” he asked.

The quality challenge

The real challenge lies in bringing quality education to the students, and that’s where government should focus, said the Chairman of Manipal Global Education. “Quality standards can be ensured by having a common norm. If a particular education provider is complying with a common set of norms, and has proper audits, it can work,” he said.

Pai said, in India, institutions suffer discrimination between private and public. “The Central government educates only 3 per cent of young people. And State governments educate only 32 per cent, while 65 per cent of students are educated by the private sector. Can you shut a bad public university? If not, then why target only the private,” he questioned.

The process of categorisation and accreditations can separate the good ones from the bad, and worse ones. “We must categorise the universities, irrespective of whether they are public or private, into good, bad, and ugly. The good can be public or private, it doesn’t matter. The bad can possibly be improved, and the ugly should be promptly shut down,” he said.

“A quality control measure can be put in place through accreditations,” added Pai.

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