Innovation Universities in India: Research and Quality Gets Attention

The XIth five-year plan (2007-2012) envisages establishment of 14 innovation universities in India, aimed at world-class standards. The concept note on innovation universities states that “These Universities would be at the fount[sic] of making India the global knowledge hub and set benchmarks for excellence for other Central and State Universities. The first and foremost criterion for a University to be termed world class is the quality and excellence of its research, recognised by society and peers in the academic world.”

It is encouraging to see that finally research, quality and innovation are gaining attention in education policy and investment from the Indian government. The concept note emphasizes on two primary “innovative” aspects 1) need of more reliable and credible admissions processes and 2) autonomy in administration, teaching and research. Both these factors are deeply intertwined with the political control and it would be interesting to see how much of the concept note’s recommendations are actually implemented by government.
To implement the plan in a more feasible and faster manner, government is also considering establishing some of these 14 universities using private public partnership model. The minister of education, Mr. Kapil Sibal, also plans to reach out to globally reputed institutions and forge academic and research partnerships for establishing these innovation universities. Attracting private investment and partnering with global universities could definitely serve as catalyst for establishment of innovation universities.

While the concept of innovation universities is very encouraging for Indian higher education, it has its set of challenges and limitations. For example, the execution of this project is not an easy taks in terms of raising resources and allocating them to efficient use. There are others who critique the proposal of innovation universities and suggest that there is a need to raise the quality of all universities gradually instead of few universities radically.

There is a no doubt that Indian higher education is in dire need of exemplars of quality and research beyond IITs and IIMs. Proposal to establish innovation universities is a positive step and will create competitive pressure for top private and public universities to integrate research and quality in their academic offerings.

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