The story of Indian higher education is like a F-1 racing track without any enforcement of driver safety or driving rules. For last few years, Indian higher education has grown at a break-neck speed. For example, Indian higher education has grown by 20% in one year and added more than 5,000 colleges to the system. Likewise, gross enrollment ratio (GER) grew from 12.5% in 2007-08 to 17.3% in 2009-10. Clearly, access to higher education is very important for a developing country like India and it is encouraging to see the growth.
Most of this growth was supported by entrepreneurial spirit of private sector. However, slow pace of policy reforms and misplaced herd-mentality of some private higher education initiatives, has resulted in one of the largest system with one of the weakest quality. This is a risky and unhealthy proposition for the system and stakeholders. One can imagine what will be the outcome in a racing track with no rules or security measures.
The biggest trend from Indian higher education for 2012 will be consolidation.
On the policy front, there is already a recognition that systemic quality needs to improved. A recent article in the University World News noted “Improving quality and providing more funds to state universities will be the focus of India’s higher education policy in the coming year.” Of course, the last mile barrier is if policy reforms move beyond politics of India and see the reality of implementation.
On institutional front, private institutions will wake-up to the rude shock that there is an oversupply of “me-too” type of institutions in engineering and management (Indian B-school bubble). It is clear from the sharp decline in number of applications for starting new institutions in 2012. AICTE received 400 applications for 2012 as compared to 1,067 in 2011, and was 2,176 the year before. Private institutions will also face stringent regulations (Shouldering the Quality Responsibility). Overall, private institutions and entrepreneurs will realize that higher education in India is no more a sector to make quick-buck, rather it will require investment and quality to compete and grow.
2012 will an exciting year for India as it grows, improves quality and approaches internationalization. It will also continue to be a year of value contest in balancing quality vs. quantity; private vs. public and for-profit vs. not-for-profit.
To sum up, having rules (quality assurance mechanisms) does preclude speed (or growth)–it manages risks and secures the stakeholders. The year 2012 will bring more sensitivity about integrating quality at policy and institutional level; sometimes with choice and other times by compulsion.
Dr. Rahul Choudaha