Tuesday, January 02, 2007

NKC wants 1500 universities

The National Knowledge Commission [update: the website address has changed] has weighed in on our higher education system:

India will need 1,500 universities to attain a gross enrolment ratio of at least 15 per cent by 2015. This is a key observation made by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in its note to the Prime Minister on higher education.

Stating that opportunities for higher education "are simply not enough in relation to our needs," the NKC has called for a massive expansion of opportunities.

As of today, there are about 350 universities. "This number is simply not enough with reference to our needs in higher education or in comparison with China, which authorised the creation of 1,250 new universities in the last three years," the commission has noted. It pointed out that only seven per cent of the population in the 18-24 age group has access to higher education.

NKC's note to the Prime Minister (is this note online, by any chance?) makes familiar demands on certain things. Government expenditure of 1.5 percent of GDP on higher education, for example (I don't know where we stand today). On certain other things, it has made some new suggestions (they are 'new' for an official body, but they have been around for a while now):

While the focus should be on setting up new universities, some clusters of affiliated colleges could be turned into universities, a move that will require changes in the regulatory mechanism. For this, the NKC has suggested creation of an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education.

At the same time, it says, some universities are much too large for ensuring academic standards and good governance. "We need to create more appropriately scaled and more nimble universities. The moral of the story is that we need not only a much larger number of universities ... but also smaller universities which are responsive to change and easier to manage."

It will be interesting to watch how our Prime Minister responds to these preliminary suggestions.