Policy reforms in Indian higher education: From rhetoric to results

Higher education reforms in India gained a big boost of optimism with the announcements by Mr. Kapil Sibal in 2009 with his 100-day action-plan. However, policy reforms are yet to move beyond paperwork and rhetoric. There are nearly 15 bills with the government awaiting approval.

Foreign universities bill is one such example which faces several practical issues and it has turned out be a car with square wheels. Even if the bill is approved, there are serious questions about its effectiveness and relevance. Further, there a few foreign institutions like Lancaster University, which decided not to wait for the bill and have started their campus in partnership with GD Goenka. This is a classic example of how a disjointed approach many make a policy irrelevant. In my recent article in EDU magazine, I have highlighted the need of comprehensive internationalization policy.

Uwe Brandenburg in their article “The End of Internationalization” argue that it is time “to rethink and redefine the way we look at the internationalization of higher education in the present time.” It is ironical that the conversations about internationalization of higher education have not even started in India and the advanced world is moving to its next phase of redefining internationalization. It is high time for Indian higher education at policy and institutional level to reflect on how best to leverage the concept of internationalization and engage it to achieve the goals of excellence, diversity and capacity building.

In my another article–Crisis of Confidence in Indian Higher Education?–published in University World News, I argue for the need of solid quality assurance framework to gain confidence of foreign universities in engaging with India. For a foreign university looking for collaborations in India how does it distinguish between ‘recognised’ and ‘unrecognised’ institutions? For example, how does one distinguish between institutions like the Indian School of Business, ranked 12 in The Financial Times rankings of business schools, and IIPM, when neither is recognised by quality assurance body–AICTE? How does an Indian institution establishes its credentials with a foreign university in an environment of distrust and lack of quality benchmarks?

To give an investment analogy: in India, it is difficult to tell a junk bond from a blue-chip stock. India is a promising investment market but you have to make sure you know where you are investing. Moreover, India itself has to step up its efforts to create investor confidence and build an enabling investment climate. It’s time to get see some results.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha