A dearth of investments, poor infrastructure and lopsided planning affect higher education in the Northeast, though the region has enough potential, meritorious students and teachers, experts and academicians say.
However, compared to 2016 when the exercise was first begun, universities and technical institutions in the northeastern states have slightly improved their positions this year in rankings released recently by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
Nine universities, four engineering colleges, two management institutions and two institutes of pharmaceutical sciences and a college in northeast India featured in the best institutions named in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).
Former Gauhati University Dean Usharanjan Bhattacharjee said: "The northeastern states have huge potentiality in all respects. Students of this region are doing excellently when they pursue studies and research in other parts of India and abroad."
"Lack of proper infrastructure and poor investment are badly impacting the higher education sector in the northeastern region," Bhattacharjee said.
Citing an example, the renowned academician said that three decades ago, a study-cum-training centre was set up in Gauhati University for potential candidates for the Indian civil services examinations, but it is almost inactive and unproductive while some retired teachers have been engaged by it.
"To demonstrate artificial credit, often without any proper planning, various courses have been started in the universities and technical institutions, but after a few years, these become non-existent," Bhattacharjee said.
The observation was echoed by the Tripura government-run Maharaja Birbikram University Vice Chancellor Gautam Kumar Basu.
"Investment for the development of infrastructure of higher education institutions in the region is far below expectations. Meritorious students are not properly taken care of by the appropriate authorities," Basu told IANS.
"After completion of higher education, there is a huge gap before proper placement or engagement of the youth. During this transitional period there is no suitable scope for study and research, leaving the energetic youth dejected."
"Due to the huge development of information technology, knowledge is now accessible at your fingertips — (but) after completion of higher education, there must be scope for further studies and research — either in the country or abroad," Basu added.
He suggested concerted efforts for improving academic standards, filling of vacancies of teachers and giving enough time to top university functionaries for teaching.
Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria had said here earlier that the government will try to bring in foreign faculty to improve the quality of higher education in the northeastern region.
"The government will do everything, including bringing of foreign faculty and development of infrastructure, to improve the quality of higher education in the northeastern states," Katheria had told IANS.
"The northeast region is a priority area for the central government. We will make all-out efforts for the development of higher educational institutions in the region," he had added.
Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati (8th), Gauhati University (43rd) and Tezpur University (48th) in Assam, Meghalaya's North Eastern Hill University (77th) and Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management (99th) and Mizoram University (94th) have figured among the top 100 universities across the country in rankings released recently by the MHRD.
Silchar's Assam University, Dibrugarh University and Arunachal Pradesh's Rajiv Gandhi University have also found a place.
Besides, three National Institutes of Technology in Silchar (Assam), Manipur and Meghalaya also find a place.
Among 100 best colleges in India, J.B. College in Jorhat (Assam) is the only college in the northeastern region to feature at 64.
Of the eight northeastern states, higher educational institutions of Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim failed to feature in the rankings.