05th December 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot 

No. 1.

Question – what is meant by higher education? Why is there a need to fix it?(250 words)

Context – The state of higher education in India and the opportunities we lose because of it.


What is meant by higher education?

  • Education beyond the secondary level especially : education provided by a college or university.

The present status:

  • According to the University Grants Commission’s website, the total number of universities in India was 874 as of 25 September 2018. That figure includes 47 central universities, 391 state universities, 125 deemed universities and 311 private universities.
  • Only seven Indian universities were ranked in the top 400 universities by the well-regarded QS World University Rankings for 2019. And predictably, six of these seven are Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The only non-IIT Indian institution in the top 400 is the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.
  • QS rankings are based on academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty-student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%) and international faculty/international students (10%).
  • Also a surge in women’s enrolment has been much-talked about but this does not necessarily imply better outcomes. The latest ‘India Skills Report’ suggests that only 47% of Indian graduates are employable. 

Probable reasons: (try to understand how one leads to the other)

Quality of teaching and research:

  •  Academic reputation as described in the QS ranking is based on teaching and research. And teaching and research in any university depends on the quality of faculty as well as the quality of students.
  • The quality of teaching depends on the quality of teachers. Now, for teachers to impart knowledge to students they must have a broad knowledge of their subject matter, the curriculum and educational standards as well as enthusiasm and a desire for learning throughout the course of their career.
  • They must have a desire to learn from students and other sources about the impact of their teaching and how it can be improved. There are a large number of universities in India, but scarcely 20 to 30 universities are considered to have faculty of high standing.
  • Also a reason for this among many is an estimated 40% of college teachers work on a non-permanent, ad hoc basis and are designated variously as temporary, contractual, ad hoc and guest faculty. This is a serious problem as people with a good academic record do not want to take such positions as these are less attractive than a permanent one.

Pressure to publish:

  • Even faculty who have been working for many years are under pressure to produce a certain number of papers to gain promotion. Thus they often publish papers in journals that may not be of high quality. This also means that there is more emphasis on publishing papers than on teaching.

Lack of basic high-end research facilities:

  • Apart from the highly recognised higher education institutions like IITs, Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMs), most colleges and universities lack basic and high-end research facilities. Most of the central and state universities are supposed to be autonomous, but in practice government intervenes extensively in how they are run.


  • Next comes the appointment of vice-chancellors who are supposed to provide academic leadership as well as administrative skills.
  • But they usually lack this skill and are mostly placed due to some influence and reference.

Quality of student intake:

  • Another important factor that affects quality education is the level of students admitted to universities. India’s undergraduates are students who have graduated from higher secondary level schools (for 16- to 18-year-olds).
  • Another important factor that affects quality education is the level of students admitted to universities. India’s undergraduates are students who have graduated from higher secondary level schools (for 16- to 18-year-olds).
  • Conditions at local higher secondary level schools and private schools that receive government aid are worse. They rarely have the necessary number of teachers and it can take a long time to find a new head teacher too.
  • In India students do not select their field of interest for further studies. The most popular courses are engineering or medicine. Sports and arts are considered very much as a second choice. If a student is not able to get admission into a science or business stream, they choose arts and social sciences.
  • Students are encouraged by their parents to go into streams that have higher pay levels or a higher number of jobs, rather than according to their field of interest. The best students go to IITs and AIIMS and the rest go to other universities if they want to continue their studies at tertiary level.
  • As for postgraduate students, many come from the various colleges affiliated to universities. These colleges have no basic facilities and are like teaching workshops.

Faculty-student ratio:

  • Since a large number of positions are lying vacant at various universities the teacher-taught ratio is not up to the required level.
  • Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. A Deloitte gathering of 63 Deans of top-tier institutions revealed that 80% of those listed lack of quality faculty as their biggest concern. The problem lies in increased demand, and stagnant supply.

Why is it important to fix it?

  • This crisis will affect innovation and human capital, the two pillars of labour productivity and GDP growth.

Way ahead:

  • The number of institutions has surged in India since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant. Meanwhile, there are over a 1,00,000 India-born PhDs in universities around the world, kept away by paltry salaries and poor funding.
  • China solved this problem by attracting Chinese-origin PhDs back home with dollar salaries and monetary incentives for published research. Tsinghua University, for example, is designed on the Western model of teaching and research, and is even ahead of MIT in terms of published papers.
  • However, Indian universities persist in separating research and teaching activities, depriving students of exposure to cutting-edge ideas. 
  • Monetary incentives for academia are practically non-existent, and Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies. It is not surprising, then, that Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, at rank 155, was our highest in the Scimago Institutions Rankings (SIR) for research while six Chinese institutes figured in the top 50.
  • Such flaws could affect macroeconomic indicators such as labour productivity, which is determined by innovation and human capital.
  • The workers of tomorrow need to transition to the formal, non-agricultural sector, armed with higher education credentials. In addition, an increase in research could lead to more innovation in the economy, which might in turn drive up labour productivity. Higher education has a potential twofold effect on productivity. 
  • The government released a Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) in June 2019, which proposed ambitious reforms. The DNEP aims to double education spending to 6% of GDP, and close the research-teaching divide in higher education. This is coupled with an ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme started in 2018 that gave increased funding to some research universities. Experts, however, are doubtful about whether the dramatic increases will be politically feasible, and whether the implementation of such reforms will go the path of previous NEPs — watered down and eventually shelved.
  • The government needs to recognise higher education’s role in innovation and human capital is not ignored. The DNEP is a great first-step, but the reforms must be pushed through and must lead to legislation that will fund research-based universities. Only this can bring a culture of discovery and accountability to India’s higher education institutions.
  • In order for Indian universities to improve their ranking and become world class, the deficiencies mentioned have to be tackled. There is a need to implement an innovative and transformational approach from primary to higher education level to make the Indian educational system more relevant and competitive globally. There is also a need to free universities and colleges in both public and private sectors from political interference.


No. 2. 

Note: There is another article on the increasing instances of rape in the country. We had discussed all the probable reasons in detail. Here are the additional points from today’s article.

  • A UN report on steps required to provide safety and security for women states that “women’s safety involves strategies and policies that take place before violence has occurred to prevent perpetration or victimisation… Prevention efforts involve strategic, long-term, comprehensive initiatives that address the risk and protective factors related to perpetration, victimisation and bystander behaviour.”
  • In India, after the Nirbhaya case, the committee set up under Justice J.S. Verma had made a series of recommendations for prevention of crimes. It placed the responsibility on the Central and State governments to ensure the social and physical infrastructure to prevent crimes against women. It added to and expanded on various proposals which had already been made. 
  • The suggestions included changes in school and college syllabi to educate young people on the social values of equality and respect for women’s autonomy; ensuring safe public transport, city and street lighting, CCTV cameras; mapping unsafe areas and provision of increased police patrolling in such areas; and a slew of other steps. 
  • If these measures had been implemented seriously, perhaps the young woman veterinarian would be alive and safe today.
  • Women’s assertions for a right to safe public spaces are met with a ferocious backlash. In particular, Dalit and Adivasi women, poor women working in the most unsafe conditions created by resurgent caste and class hierarchies, are the most vulnerable. The struggle against sexual violence is equally a struggle against the policies and cultures which disempower women.
  • The way forward is through increased public action for social change and enforcement of a code of accountability and responsibility on the Central and State governments to implement the recommendations necessary to make India safe for its women and children.

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