Sunday, January 06, 2008

National Knowledge Commission's FAQ on Higher Education in India

Through this story from the Hindu's Anita Joshua, we learn about the NKC's candid FAQ on India's higher ed system [caution: pdf]. While the FAQ covers many topics -- NKC's proposal for IRAHE, a 'super regulator' for college education, its ideas for expansion of our university system, tuition fees, etc -- Joshua focuses on NKC's views on the issue of reservations. On this issue, the Commission favours some variant of the 'deprivation index' system, proposed by Yogendra Yadav and Satish Deshpande, and by Purushottam Aggrawal [Links here, here, and here]. Here's a quote from Joshua's report:

Sidebar: The National Knowledge Commission's comprehensive website is here.

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Seeking to clarify its position on reservations, the NKC has stated that caste-based reservation is only one form of affirmative action.

While this is a position it took in the original note on higher education, the Commission in the FAQs has dwelt at length on the deprivation index it had mooted earlier.

Stating that deprivation of educational opportunities is a multi-dimensional problem, the Commission has pointed out that attention needs to be paid to different salient levels of deprivation faced by students.

This includes not just caste but also other indicators such as income, gender, region, place of residence and even the kind of schooling a student has had.

Like I said, there's quite a lot of stuff in the FAQ, and I think the NKC is right on pretty much everything. While I urge you to read all of it, let me just highlight an interesting proposal which, if implemented, will free our universities from their primary status as organizers of undergraduate examinations -- without really doing any undergraduate teaching!

The proposed Central Board of Undergraduate Education along with State Boards of Undergraduate Education would set curricula and conduct examinations for undergraduate colleges that choose to be affiliated with them. These Boards would thus separate the academic functions from the administrative functions and at the same time provide quality benchmarks. Governance would become much simpler. It is possible that some of the existing undergraduate colleges, particularly those that are at some geographical distance from their parent university, may wish to affiliate themselves to these Boards. New undergraduate colleges are bound to be an integral part of the expansion of opportunities in higher education. Where would these be located? It would be difficult for them to become autonomous colleges without a track record. It may be possible for some to join a cluster of autonomous colleges but this would be more the exception than the rule. It would not be possible for them to affiliate with existing universities which are already overloaded. Hence, they could be affiliated with the Central Board of Undergraduate Education or State Boards of Undergraduate Education.


  1. pradeepkumar pi said...

    People may be interested to read this article as well

    The founding of a few research institutes would have been fine, had university science also been strengthened at the same time. But such a balanced strategy was not pursued with any seriousness by the leadership, which has taken the easy route of creating more and more research institutes outside universities. These have had the effect of reducing the universities’ share of funds and talented new faculty, who flock to the better working conditions at the institutes.

    Also see

    "India has nearly nine million science graduates, two million post-graduates, and 100,000 people with Ph.D. qualifications. Every year, two million students enrol for science degrees and another 700,000 for engineering.he universities, in particular, instead of developing into vibrant centres of high-quality education and research able to attract both good faculty and students, have become largely moribund. Overcoming this malady must be given a higher national priority than setting up new institutions."