Private universities in India are often treated with suspicion for providing poor quality education and being most focused on making money. While this may be true in some cases, they are playing a significant role in fulfilling our country’s growing demand for quality higher education. 60 % of college-going students in the country today are enrolled in private institutions…
Rapidly increasing demand for higher education in India is part of a global trend with worldwide enrolment expected to rise from 100 million in 2000 to 260 million in 2025. Many countries are encouraging private institutions as a viable way to ensure that students are offered this opportunity. For example, Brazil recognized that the public sector cannot meet its youth’s demand and therefore encouraged and supported private education..
Currently, over 75% of Brazilian students go to private institutions and the largest higher education firm, Kroton, has over a million students…
Similarly, developed countries such as Japan and Korea have over 70% students enrolled in private universities, while developing countries such as Malaysia have over 50%. China invested in top private universities through Project 985 to build a few world-class universities, but is struggling to provide education for students at the base of the pyramid. Recognizing this gap, China has also enacted a Law for Facilitation of Private Education in 2002.
This led to the number of higher education institutions doubling and enrollment increasing five-fold over the past decade…
The Indian higher education system consists of three tiers: elite public institutions, second-tier public and private institutions, and finally private institutions providing mass education. In most developing countries, elite institutions are publicly owned and heavily subsidized..
In India too, the government spends a significant amount per student for IITs and IIMs. Commercial private players often do not have the same motivation to incentivize education, and have therefore not pursued quality higher education actively.
However, with rapid economic growth, the private sector has reacted to the needs of our workforce and set up a large number of professional colleges, especially in engineering and management. The Indian School of Business, for example, created an innovative one-year MBA programme for students with work experience, relative to the traditional model at the IIMs. Recently, we have seen an emergence of philanthropic universities such as Azim Premji University and Shiv Nadar University that are offering quality education.
Private universities in higher education are also breaking conventional paradigms in education. Ashoka University offers a liberal education to students, allowing them to break down borders of arts and sciences, theory and practice, and take courses across to craft their own interdisciplinary major. Such institutions can serve as models for other institutions that focus on developing 21st century skills, critical thinking, communication and leadership.
These initiatives point to the emergence of a new breed of private institutions in India that can complement elite public institutions and establish international standards of excellence in Indian higher education.
While it is encouraging that the Union Budget 2014 committed resources to replicating apex institutions such as IITs, IIMs and AIIMS across the country, our government should look at the higher education system more holistically to increase the gross enrolment ratio (GER) and uplift quality..
The government should move beyond being the primary service provider in education and play a catalyzing role in improving quality of higher education in India. It can do so by tightening licensing standards and improving quality assurance, without impinging on the autonomy of private institutes..
The government must invest in a regulatory architecture that can improve the standards of all institutions, public and private, dramatically. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council should be strengthened and the rating framework of institutes should shift focus from infrastructure and inputs to student learning outcomes..
Given the fiscal deficit our country faces and the need to rapidly increase higher education institutions to meet demand, our government should recognize that private institutions are a large part of the ecosystem and play a significant role in achieving a high GER…
We need the best of public and private efforts to make Indian higher education globally competitive..!!