In a country where receiving higher education remains a dream for a large section of youth due to their financial constraints or geographical location, it is vital to explore what sort of opportunities and challenges private universities are faced with to provide succour in the Higher Education Sector, writes Sandeep Datta of Elets News Network (ENN).
The Higher Education Sector
This sector has been classified into various categories based on how they have been established. There are four types: Central Universities, State Universities, Deemed Universities, and the Private Universities. Also, there are institutes which are designated as institutes of national importance.
With a mere 20 universities in 1950 to 677 in 2014, the Indian Higher Education sector can certainly be viewed as a field which has witnessed a tremendous rise in the number of Universities/University level Institutions and Colleges since 1947, the year India acquired its freedom from the British.
Prof (Dr) A K Bakhshi, Vice-Chancellor, PDM University, Haryana
Today, the Indian higher education sector boasts of 45 Central Universities of which 40 are under the purview of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), 318 State Universities, 185 State Private universities, 129 Deemed to be Universities, 51 Institutions of National Importance (established under Acts of Parliament) under MHRD (IITs – 16, NITs – 30 and IISERs – 5) and four institutions (established under various State legislations).
Also, the number of colleges has also witnessed a surge of 74 times from just 500 in 1950 to 37,204, as on March 31, 2013.
Such a quantum growth in the Higher Education sector is spearheaded by the Universities, which are the highest seats of learning.
According to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Higher Education is a shared responsibility of the Centre and the States. The University Grants Commission (UGC) and other statutory regulatory bodies are responsible for coordination and determination of standards in Universities and Colleges.
What is a Private University?
The UGC defines a private university as “an institution of higher learning established through a State or Central Act by a sponsoring body”, such as a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, or any other corresponding law for the time being in force in a state or a public trust or a company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.
As per law, for an institution to be given the status of a private university the State legislature conferring the status has to pass an Act by which the institution will acquire the status of a university. Private universities have to be recognised by the UGC so that the degrees awarded by them hold value.
Scope for Private Universities
India holds huge potential in terms of possibilities opening up before a private university. It is so since the higher education largely remains inaccessible or beyond financial means to a big section of the youth in this billion-plus country.
There are 262 Universities that can award degrees as specified by the UGC under Section 22 of the UGC Act with the approval of the statutory councils, wherever required through their main campus.
Dr ORS Rao, Vice Chancellor, ICFAI University,Ranchi
How to open a Private University?
A private university can be set up via a State/Central Act by a sponsoring body such as a society registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860, or any other corresponding law for the time being in force in a State or a Public Trust or a Company registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.
In the wake of so much potential of setting up private universities, there is a strong need to explore challenges and opportunities of such private universities to impart higher education in terms of establishment, admission, formulating courses and curriculum.
Also, innovations in teaching and learning processes, research and development, collaboration, and about usage of ICT include that list.
There is a need to investigate various aspects including advantages, disadvantages, constraints of private universities for its stakeholders like students, faculty members, parents, industries and society.
Challenges before Private Universities
The changing times and a maddening race to emulate fellow competitors within the country has posed many challenges for private universities. They include issues like paucity of quality-faculty, resources and funds to research, introducing new course to enable students turn employable, providing them requisite professional skills and meeting the requirements of knowledge economy; drawing meritorious students, and building state of the art infrastructure.
Push for Research
There is a need to understand resources for pursuing research, knowledge creation which leads to publication and innovation shouldn’t be based on if a university is public or private rather on the research capacities of the university and the faculty research initiatives undertaken.
Need For Independence
A section of universities feels the universities cannot emerge as world class if they are developed through government departments forcing their authority over institutions. Top class universities are nurtured possibly when faculty members, students¸ or other stakeholders are able to take decisions about the university independently and transparently.
It is required to stay relevant in the era of high-tech competitions and in the absence of quality no organisation can afford to last in the long run.
Demand for Quality Faculty
A section of universities complain about a paucity of senior faculty inclined towards meaningful research and industrial projects.
In a lot of private universities, major innovation are reflected in their latest curriculum, globally practiced pedagogy and industry tie-ups.
According to Madhu Chitkara, Vice Chancellor, Chitkara University, Punjab, survival of the fittest and fierce competition also drive the will at private universities to be being innovative and sustainable. “So, for them, innovation is always on agenda unlike state and central universities, which are heavily funded and marginally accountable to the need of education system.”
One can also count introducing new courses “to help students become employable, imparting professional skills for knowledge economy… creating state of the art infrastructure… recruiting efficient and bright faculty members and imparting high quality education” among other prominent challenges.
In the words of Prof. (Dr.) A K Bakhshi, Vice-Chancellor, PDM University, Bahadurgarh, Haryana, some of the innovative practices of the private universities include amongst others: industry-ready curricula at both under graduate and post-graduate levels.
Dr S K Salwan, Vice Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University, Gurgaon
Zora Singh, Vice Chancellor, Desh Bhagat University, Mandi Gobindgarh
“Focus on research with social relevance; seed money to develop research proposals; incentives for faculty members presenting papers/posters/invited talks at State/National /International conferences as well as for publications in indexed journals; arranging various training programmes for professional development of educators; integration of ICT with education; creation of Entrepreneurship Development Cell to motivate students to become self-employed; representation of students on various committees of Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC);hiring of a professional HR Director to take care of staff recruitment, induction, inservice training and performance appraisal,” Bakshi added.
On one hand, there is need to enhance access to quality education and at the same, without sacrificing the quality of admitted students, opines Dr ORS Rao, Vice Chancellor, ICFAI University,Ranchi.
“We need to groom the students as per the changing Industry Requirements so that they are employable. Besides knowledge and skills, it is also becoming imperative to focus efforts on cultivating character of the students.”
“For new universities, raising consultancies especially from the corporate sector, is also a challenge,” said Zora Singh, Vice Chancellor, Desh Bhagat University, Mandi Gobindgarh, while mentioning about the university located in rural region. “Raising finances and grants for project and research from government bodies is a challenge.”
Dr. S.K. Salwan, Vice Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University, Gurgaon, says an alarming concern for the higher education policy makers and educationists is the requirement to inculcate and maintain high academic standards. “There is a concern that in the absence of external checks, universities will exercise powers in an arbitrary manner and offer courses and programmes which are destitute of academic content.”
In the words of Amit Agrawal, Vice Chairman, of the JECRC University (JU), a private university situated in Jaipur: “JECRC University is driven by the spirit of innovation led research and manifests itself in infrastructure as well as practices. The multifaceted research encompasses subject specific exploration as well as the contexts of the business environment in which its students operate and perform.”