Crisis of Professionalism in Indian Higher Education

Indian higher education is facing a serious crisis of professionalism. We have already heard stories of corruption at regulatory bodies and institutional misrepresentation. More recently, trends of expansion without the emphasis on quality and transparency is resulting in unhealthy and unprofessional competition among institution.

This competition is intense among new and bottom-half of the institution in career-oriented fields like medicine, engineering and management. Inspired by other institutions, many new institutions have started in last five years with the expectation of making significant surplus. However, since they were late entrants, many of them are struggling to achieve full enrollment. Also, these recent entrants do not have huge investment capacities and hence they are trying to find short-cuts by engaging in unscruplous recruitment activities.

In the last couple of months, at least three reports of unprofessional recruitment activities emerged:

First, AajTak television channel exposed a “buying a seat” into one of the most respected medical colleges in India–the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)–at a price of Rs.40 Lakhs (~US$ 90,000).

Last month, Business Standard highlighted that many new management schools are struggling to achieve their enrollment numbers and are “buying students“. A consultant cited in the article says “I am willing to supply students to your institute for anywhere between Rs 15,000 and Rs 60,000 a student. I could reduce this if your institute accepts students in bulk.”

This month, Telegraph covered a story on killing of an student in recruitment rivalry between groups from two engineering colleges. The article states that MGR and Satyabhama were among the institutes that paid their current and former students to recruit freshers, who would shell out hefty capitation fees for management quota seats. The rivalry among these groups of recruiters, they said, sometimes led to gang fights over the kidnapping of each other’s freshers.”

Concern for international partnerships
There is significant optimism which has been generated by the introduction of the foreign universities bill in the parliament.  However, the big concern for foreign universities interested in recruiting students or building partnerships is–how to find the best fit partner and how to ensure that they are not partnering with an institute with a histroy of unprofessional practices? This means that even if the bill passes there will be several execution challenges and one has to tread cautiously. Foreign univesities need to probe about the degree of professionalism adopted in the administration and teaching at the partner institution. Likewise, for Indian institutions who are really serious in internationalizing their offerings and seek global parterns should focus on integrating and communicating professionalism in their practices. Of course, having an effective regulatory mechanism would create some checks and balances and Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill, 2010 is one important bill to look forward to.

In 1938, Dean FC Smith in his article entitled “Education as a profession” noted that two factors which are limiting potential of education sector as a full profession–inability to attract high caliber talent, and lack of adequate moral and financial support. More than seventy years later, it applies as well to Indian higher education. Indian education has to develop a profession of education by attracting top talent, inducing financial investments and establishing high ethical standards.

– Dr. Rahul Choudaha


  1. Well, the whole objective of higher education is perhaps limited to just getting a job forget building a career.

    Most management institution are merely a recruitment agency, where student who come in are least interested in studies, the school is least interested in teaching anything of quality (except polishing communication and presentation skills) and recruiters too seem to care less. If selection of students if done right and well would take care of themselves even if quality of inputs provided is bad. Add to it most jobs students take up post MBA (not talking about the top 10%) are ones that can be done by a non MBA itself, so……Can't blame students either who are generally used to learning to pass exams in coaching institutes and not in their regular school/college. Looks like its a win win for all stakeholders so whose is complaining?

    Personally feel reforms are desperately needed and in multiple areas, but where should one make a beginning is debatable. I feel if the hype on starting salaries and these number being used for school ranking is definitely a direction to look into.

  2. Hi,
    You must be aware of this educational event complimenting the bill. – to be held 30th july onwards.

    Prabhat Kiran

  3. It appears that moral decay is evident in every area of society with little or no promissing recommendations for positive change. Sad.

  4. I fully endorse the views expressed by the author. The current situation in managment education in andhra pradesh is more deplorable. There are 881 MBA colleges in state of Andhra Pradesh, without proper faculty in place. Except for the hard infrastructure these colleges cannot, have nothing to deliver. I am hopeful that over a period of time, there will be a shake out and quality of content and delivery will be paid attention to. Most of Managment colleges and business schools are more of placement consultancy than a management education institute…….

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