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

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