Indian Universities and Autonomy

Autonomy oils the wheels of higher education excellence

#GS-02 Education

For Mains:

Rankings of Indian Universities:

  • The 2023 edition of the QS world university ranking reckons that three of India’s higher educational institutions amongst the top 200 of the World.
  • Another three are counted among the top 300 whereas two more in the top 400.
  • The Times Higher Education (THE) ranking places only one Indian institution among the top 400 of the World.
  • It is the same with the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).
  • Barring one of the most eminent public-funded deemed universities of the country, all the rest are Institutions of National Importance (INIs) — the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), to be specific.

Why IITs enjoy higher rankings:

IITs enjoy a much higher ranking because;
  • they are better funded,
  • generally self-governed,
  • enjoying a greater degree of autonomy as they f outside the regulatory purview of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The causes for this:

  • The fact is that the best universities in the world are flush with funds.
  • Critically, they insist and get a great degree of academic, administrative and financial autonomy.
  • Autonomy is regarded as a necessary and sufficient condition to attain excellence.
  • Since they are funded by UGC, they are constantly under regulatory oversight.
  • UGC regulations and AICTE guidelines, encompasses almost all aspects of their functioning from faculty recruitment, student admission and the award of degrees.
  • This is many cases results in micro-management of these universities by the regulatory authorities.
  • This has caused most of them to become comfortable with the practice so much so that they rarely assert their autonomy.
  • Central universities in the country are also ranked on the basis of their ‘obedience’ to regulatory compliances.
  • Even in the academic domain, many of them have begun to publicly state that they have adopted the model curricula, pedagogy and syllabi prescribed by the regulatory bodies, even though the same may have been only indicative.

Why others succeeds:

  • The best universities in the world are always conscious about the importance of their autonomy and are trained and enabled to make their own decisions.
  • The European University Association (EUA), prescribes a ‘university autonomy tool’ that lets each member university compare its level of autonomy vis-à-vis the other European higher education systems across all member countries.
  • The EUA computes composite scores and ranks all the countries in Europe based on four autonomy areas (organisational, financial, staffing, and academic).

What has been done:

  • A large number of commissions and committees, including the national policies on education (including the National Education Policy 2020), have highlighted the need for higher education autonomy.
  • The new education policy seeks to completely overhaul the higher education system, and to attain this objective, repeatedly emphasises the need for institutional autonomy.

What does the New Education Policy say:

  • The NEP regards academic and administrative autonomy essential for making higher education multi-disciplinary, and that teacher and institutional autonomy as a must in promoting creativity and innovation.
  • The policy considers a lack of autonomy as one of the major problems of higher education.
  • It also promises to ensure faculty and institutional autonomy through a highly independent and empowered board of management which would be vested with academic and administrative autonomy.
  • It argues for a ‘light but tight’ regulatory framework and insists that the new regulatory regime would foster a culture of empowerment.
  • Further, it goes on to say that by relying on a robust system of accreditation, all higher education institutions would gradually gain full academic and administrative autonomy.