By 2030, India will be one of the youngest nations in the world, with an estimated 140 million individuals in their 20s. In fact, one in every four graduates of the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system.
Education is an essential tool for achieving development and sustainability. In this context, the quality of higher education becomes increasingly important, as India strives to compete and integrate with a globalised economy where highly-qualified, innovative and creative professionals are required.
Our higher education system – be it government universities, private institutes or self-financed bodies – operates in a pincer-like grip of regulations. Broadly, it is only the IIMs and IITs – both effectively outside the traditional Indian university system – that have the autonomy and flexibility of decision-making, and both sets of institutions have done the country proud.
It is a matter of grave concern that a number of higher educational institutions in India have dropped abysmally low in quality delivery over the last few decades. For they have become rule-fulfillers and not deliverers of quality education.
This, typically, is the outcome in such organisations where decision-makers are not accountable for poor performance. Most universities neither get sufficient funds from the government, nor can raise funds to meet their development and research needs.
Therefore, the ability of most Indian universities and institutes of higher learning is unfavourably blunted due to extremely limited flexibility in their decision-making process; the reason, more often than not, is various governance issues. This creates a wide gap in what the desirable outcome is and what is actually delivered by these universities and institutes of higher learning.
To meet the huge, unmet demand for job-oriented education and training, the government must “free-up” public universities and institutions. In addition, it must encourage – through appropriate policy interventions – the private sector to actively contribute to higher education.
However, instead of encouraging the role of private sector in higher education, the public policy so far appears to be unfriendly and discouraging towards the private sector, with conflicting signals coming from various higher education regulating bodies of the government.
If we talk about management education in particular, one must note that there exist many renowned high-quality private institutions in India, providing world-class education. These private institutions are committed to educational excellence and are conscious of their responsibilities. They have quality infrastructure, admirable course curriculum and faculty, affordable fee structure and location, and, above all, remarkable placements.
Management education in India has traversed a long distance over the years and has established itself as a powerful force capable of bringing about a manufacturing revolution in the country. It provides the foundation to young managers to be part of the desired paradigm shift in the Indian growth trajectory.
Due to our vast customer base, businesses across the globe are eyeing the Indian market and are keen to start local operations. Also, a large number of business initiatives have been launched by the government recently in its endeavour to not only make the country a manufacturing hub, but also to make her economic growth more inclusive. These forces have increased the demand for professional managers manifold, making management education more important than ever.
It is thus essential for all concerned policy-makers, educational planners, administrators and regulators to revive the very thinking of parity in rules and regulations governing both the public and private sector higher educational institutions. A common corporate law that governs public and private business enterprises is a good example to cite.
Such a major reform in higher education might just prove to be even more productive than an open invitation to foreign universities to set up campuses in India – independently or jointly with local institutions. It is time to have a coherent policy framework that acknowledges the complementarity of public and private sector to contribute to the higher education system and ensure its sustainable development.
The writer is Director, FORE School of Management. The views are personal.