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Higher Education Reforms Needed in India


  • Only 15 higher education institutions from India are listed among the top 1,000, despite the country having the largest number of universities—more than 900—in the world.
  • This is a worrying development for India’s higher education system.
  • Appropriate governance is necessary for Indian universities to stand a chance of competing on the international stage.
    • Leadership is essential for India to develop world-class universities.


GS Paper-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources.

Mains Question

“Governance that approaches international standards is necessary for Indian universities to have a realistic chance of competing on the global stage.” Observation (150 Words).


The third-largest higher education system in the world in terms of students after China and the United States is India.

India’s universities are haemorrhaging, and the political class in charge of running them seems to ignore the long-term damage caused by the exit of the best from this country. This is because the universities of the West have succeeded in large part because they have remained largely independent of the state even when they receive public funding.

Issues and Concerns in Higher Education in India

  • Ineffective Leadership: In general, governments don’t seek to appoint individuals with a track record of academic leadership to the universities.
  • Actually, it appears that their decision-making is clearly influenced above all else by the expectation of political allegiance.
    • It would be challenging to find too many academics with a track record of excellence among the recent leadership appointments in India’s public educational institutions.
    • The second point is that even the most effective leaders will fail if they are constrained by strict guidelines that are imposed from without.
  • These regulations primarily take the form of the pervasive UGC guidelines in India’s higher education ecosystem.
    • Academic leadership requires integrative skills for shattering departmental silos, bringing disparate disciplines together, and controlling a variety of stakeholders.
    • The majority of academics and researchers have individualistic tendencies, but academic leadership necessitates teamwork and transformative abilities.
    • Integrative abilities in teaching, research, and academic administration are necessary for academic excellence.
  • However, university chancellors and founders, as well as HR executives who support them, lack this capability.
  • Absence of student evaluation: Students in many Indian institutions complain that teachers get away with doing subpar work or, worse yet, simply missing class because there is no student evaluation.
  • Students should therefore assess the content and delivery of courses.
  • Research evaluation: Although evaluating research is a challenging task and there is ongoing debate about methods worldwide, one thing is certain: the academic performance indicators (API) used in India’s universities today are fundamentally flawed.
  • The practise of numerically scoring research output must be abandoned in favour of a more comprehensive approach because it is known to be misleading when it comes to assessing the impact of research on the creation of knowledge.
  • Unsatisfactory Faculty and Student Talent Sourcing: o Interviews for selection are frequently superficial, lasting only 30 minutes for senior positions, and only focusing on the candidate’s prior experience. No probing questions are asked to gauge the candidate’s potential for academic leadership.
  • Poor Governance: One way to distinguish between regulation and governance is that the latter seeks to improve the current situation, whereas the former is preventative and uses control to achieve its goals.
  • Many of India’s public institutions are heavily weighted towards control by a rule-bound bureaucracy without the incentive to bring about a change for the better because of their colonial origins.
    • Because most HEIs disregard qualities like participation, responsiveness, transparency, consensus, and inclusivity, governance suffers in these institutions.
    • Overcentralization, bureaucratic structures, and a lack of accountability, transparency, and professionalism present problems for Indian education management.
  • Political Influence: Political influence can be detrimental and is a problem in higher education. Governing bodies do not want political sway or meddling in their internal affairs.
    • The dominant political figures now hold important positions in the universities’ governing bodies.
  • Investment in Buildings Rather Than People: Unfortunately, most privately run HEIs’ promoters prefer to spend their money on hardware, software, and buildings than on people.
  • They are unaware that inspiring teachers, not physical structures, are what help students learn.

Provisions of NEP 2020 for higher education

  • By connecting with the impending industrial revolution for the creation of skilled jobs and expanding employment opportunities, NEP-2020 has brought about significant changes in governance and institutional reforms aiming at the establishment of multidisciplinary colleges, universities, and clusters of higher education institutions.
  • National Research Foundation (NRF): NRF was founded to support excellent research and actively foster research in colleges and universities.
  • National Testing Agency (NTA): o In order to lessen the burden of numerous duplicative exams administered by HEIs separately, the admission system for all universities and undergraduate HEIs will preferably be through the National Testing Agency (NTA).
  • National Educational Technology Forum: o Creating a national educational technology forum that focuses on maintaining virtual labs at various institutional and university levels, as well as on the proper use of technology in the areas of teaching, learning, assessment, administration, and management systems.

Need of the Hour:

  • Adaptation of Global Best Practises: o India should adopt the best features of Global Best Practises in the Evaluation of Academic Performance.
  • In fact, it should if Indian academics are to compete on an equal footing abroad.
  • Rationalising of Governing Rules and Funding: o The rules governing research, not funding, are crucial to the output of research in Indian universities, though funding may matter in some areas of science and technology.
  • Improving the admissions process: o The hiring of faculty and admission to courses of study both specify, among other things, the minimum grade attained and the subject studied for the prior degree, which is a second area where current practises prevent improvement.
    • The UGC should defer to academic bodies in this matter and only insist on external oversight of faculty hiring.
  • Give Technology in Education Priority: India needs to adopt computer and fast internet technology.
    • The wealth of human capital should be made available to everyone through our educational delivery systems.
    • ICT will need to be incorporated into and connected to traditional school, college, and university models.
    • Governments should make more investments in the technological infrastructure that will improve access to knowledge.
  • HR practises that are conducive to luring talent and building a leadership pipeline are known as conductive HR policies.
    • Deming’s Total Quality Management (TQM) philosophy includes “Constant training and retraining of teachers” as one of its key tenets in order to prevent burnout by enhancing “on the job skills.”
  • Promote Innovation and Creativity: The system ought to honour students who merit the highest academic distinction.
  • The people who cram shouldn’t be rewarded.
    • We need to design our testing and marking procedures to reward original ideas, creativity, problem-solving, and innovation.
  • Ranks ought to be given out appropriately.
  • Develop the Trainers Continually: o A teacher is a business owner and an artist. A teacher’s effectiveness ought to extend beyond the classroom.
    • It must be made public on the internet for all to see.
    • Leaders must hold positions of authority in the classroom, not paid employees.
  • Consequently, regular training is essential.
  • Alter your aptitude for teaching: Teaching positions are generally regarded as secure, well-paying, and risk-free careers. Most educators are unwilling to change.
    • As they gain experience, they become cynical and fail to take the nature and needs of the students into consideration.
    • It’s essential to comprehend the current generation. There should be rules made in this regard.
  • Foreign Collaboration: The government must encourage cooperation between prestigious international institutions and Indian higher education institutions.
    • For better-quality and collaborative research, the government must also establish connections between national research laboratories and research centres of top institutions.


For the university, total freedom of expression aimed at achieving excellence in knowledge production cannot be replaced by infrastructure or less restrictive rules.It is urgent to take another look at the financial resources, access and equity, quality standards, relevance, and infrastructure in order to meet and exceed future requirements.

February 2024