Book on Indian Higher Education: Essays by Altbach, Edited by Agarwal

A Half-Century of Indian Higher Education: Essays by Philip G Altbach is edited by Pawan Agarwal Adviser, Higher Education, Planning Commission of India. This is a compendium of 34 writings of Altbach on Indian higher education.

Altbach is synonymous with high impact, scholarly work in international higher education. However, what many may not know is that his scholarly connections started with his dissertation on student political activism in India. Specifically, his dissertation was entitled “Students, Politics, and Higher Education in a Developing
Society, The Case of Bombay, India.”

This book brings together scholarly contributions of Altbach in shaping the future directions of Indian higher education.With more than 600 pages and seven sections, the book is a comprehensive collection of writings and even includes a section on “India and China-Comparative Analysis” which ends with an afterword: by Altbach highlighting “India’s Higher Education Challenges.” He notes that “Given the realities of contemporary Indian higher education, it is not possible to be optimistic about a breakthrough in quality.”

The editor, Pawan Agarwal, is the architect of India’s twelfth five year plan (2012-2017) which is aiming for “equity, excellence and expansion through aspiration, achievement and alignment” (Here is the twelfth plan on higher education from pg. 89-123). Pawan is also the author of a definitive book Indian Higher Education: Envisioning the Future (Sage, 2009). I interviewed him on his previous book. Here is the interview with Pawan.

In the Epilogue of this book entitled “Higher Education in India-The Twelfth Plan and Beyond”, Pawan concludes that “Policy is created in the context of the larger public discourse” and this book certainly enables “a process of integrative thinking and applied creativity to be addressed to the issues of the country’s higher education sot hat it can reach its full potential.”

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the evolution and development of Indian higher education.