Our Ranking Of Institutions More Credible Than International Models

Dr Satyapal Singh, MoS HRD speaks to BW Education about Education Industry’s problems and challenges, Edited excerpts are placed below

File photo of Dr Satya Pal Singh, MoS- HRD

Q. India is attracting foreign students through Study in India initiative but still, students going to European countries for their Higher Education is much higher than our students’ export. Do you think that India will see more Education Tourism in the future?

The number of Indian students going abroad is definitely greater than the inbound international students because India has never attempted a conscious, systematic and methodical approach to attract foreign students despite having core competence and several attractive features in its higher education sector. A number of European, US, and Australian Universities consciously promote internationalization and they have created departments/cells which recruit International students every year. Therefore, they receive a large number of foreign students.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been a votary of international collaboration for achieving excellence, inspired us to amend the situation. Accordingly, the Ministry of HRD under the leadership of Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Cabinet Minister for HRD, decided to launch “Study in India” programme in the month of April this year, which aims to attract foreign students from 30 partner countries across South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa to 160 prominent Indian Institutions.  This Scheme plans to increase foreign students from a present number of 45,000(approx.) to 200,000 by 2022. 

The Government is quite confident to achieve the target as India possesses several Unique Selling Points (USPs) which are: 

  1. The Value for Money: According to a UNESCO Report, among the top 30 countries for internationally inbound students, India is one of the most economical countries. 
  2. Quality Education: Only prominent educational Institutions are chosen based on their performance in NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) and NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council). Thus, quality education is assured to the students covered under the programme.
  3. Financial Incentive:  The meritorious students are given up to 100% tuition fee waiver as detailed below:
  4. 100 % waiver (on Course fees only) to the top 25% of the students,
  5. 50 % waiver (on Course fees only) to the next 25% of the students,             
  6. 25 % waiver (on Course fees only) to the next 25% of the students,
  7. No waiver will be offered to the remaining 25 % of the students
  8. An extensive ecosystem which is 3rd largest in the World with more than 40,000 Colleges and more than 864 Universities.

The Government is not resting on above-mentioned benefits. We have carefully crafted a strategy for the promotion of the scheme, which includes Marketing and PR activities through various communications vehicles like print, electronic and social media, a celebration of “Education India Day” in each of the target countries, continuously improve the educational standards of Indian Institutions etc.

Therefore, in time to come, India will see a considerably greater number of foreign students coming to India. I am sure, we will meet the target of 200,000 foreign students by 2022.

Q. Attaining an MBA degree is no longer a charisma for young aspirants, in fact, they are choosing other creative fields to make their respective careers, do you think that we need to create more relevant Management degrees to suit the needs of a new generation?

Students who generally want to pursue a career in the corporate world as Managers may go for an MBA. Therefore, MBA caters to a different segment of students. India’s education system has grown considerably. But yes, as compared to students of the earlier time, today’s student has a much greater choice in terms of courses.  

A student not only has a plethora of choices in terms of courses but she also has a job opportunity after completing the course. Earlier, a student would choose an MBA course due to the limitation of the available courses and also due to the lack of a decent career after non-professional courses. To give you an example, today, if a student has an inclination towards design course, she can choose the same from among the several design courses offered by several Institutions. After completing the course, she will get a remunerative career opportunity. 

The growth of the Indian Education System and Indian Economy are the major reasons for students opting for other courses than MBA. 

Q. By obsoleting UGC and other apex bodies and bringing The Higher Education Commission of India, don’t you think that it is presenting the ‘old wine in a new bottle?’ Why do you feel that it will have the different narrative from the already existing ones?

The present Government has embarked on a process of reform of the regulatory agencies for the better administration of the higher education sector. Therefore, a Budget announcement has been made to reform the regulatory framework and for revamping the UGC Act. In fulfillment of the above, several reform measures have already been launched viz, reform of NAAC, Regulation for grant of Graded Autonomy to Universities, granting of Autonomous status to colleges, the Regulation for Open Distance Learning, Regulation for Online degrees etc. 

Continuing these reform measures, a draft Act for repeal of UGC and setting up Higher Education Commission of India has been prepared by the Ministry. The comments have been called on the draft act from educationists, various stakeholders and the general public. At present, the draft Act is under consultation with various Ministries and NITI Aayog. 

It is wrong to say that HECI would be “Old wine in a new bottle" as it would transform the regulatory set up considerably. It is guided by the following principles: 

1. Less Government and More Governance: Downsizing the scope of the Regulation. No more interference in the management issues of the educational institutions. 

2. Separation of Grant Functions: The grant functions would be done by a separate body, and the HECI would focus only on academic matters. 

3. End of Inspection Raj: Regulation is done through transparent public disclosures, merit-based decision making on matters regarding standards and quality in higher education.

4. Focus on Academic Quality: HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with a specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote the use of educational technology etc. It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of University started under any Law (including State Law) 

5. Powers to Enforce: The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order the closure of substandard and bogus institutions. Non-compliance could result in fines or a jail sentence.

As I mentioned earlier that the final shape to HECI Act will be ascertained after consultations with concerned Ministries and NITI Aayog. Subsequently, it will be introduced in the Parliament.

Q.    MBA colleges in India are ranked by NIRF but global rankings like Times, QS and FT are far more credible in terms of career preferences and educational choices. How your government can make NIRF a better establishment to counter the challenges of contemporary global players?

The international ranking systems have been designed with a different perspective which lays a considerable emphasis on internationalization. Therefore, a large number of internationally lesser known Institutions find it difficult to score, though these Institutions may be faring well in teaching and research.   Besides, inclusive approach of the Government of India, wherein benefits of reservations of seats are given to SC, ST, OBC and such other disadvantaged sections of the society was not reflected in any of the international ranking systems. Therefore, none of the existing ranking systems was able to do justice with India’s diverse, comprehensive and inclusive education system. This is the genesis of the creation of NIRF.

So, you can see that NIRF does not aim to compete with international ranking systems. Hence, the comparison between NIRF and International ranking is not appropriate.

However, in terms of credibility and popularity, NIRF which is just 3 years old, has established itself as a very credible ranking system. The students and parents, Indian or foreigner, who want to get their children admitted in Indian Institutions of higher learning, consult NIRF extensively not only for Management courses but also courses pertaining to Engineering, Medical, Pharmacy, Architecture, and Law. Around 4000 Institutions participated in NIRF 2018. It is expected that this number will grow for NIRF 2019, for which registration is going on. Therefore, NIRF has proved to be quite credible and popular. I also believe that any ranking system which concerns 3rd largest higher education system of the World will remain relevant internationally due to its creditworthiness and coverage. 

Q. Finally, Can Indian B- Schools’ alumni and those who are young entrepreneurs will make a difference in the Make In India campaign?

The Government of India believes that young entrepreneurs of the country have enormous potential to bring a sea change in the country. Recognizing this, we have launched “Start-Up India” scheme in January 2016, to build a strong ecosystem that is conducive for the growth of start-up businesses, to drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities. 

In the Ease of doing business, the Country has jumped unprecedented 65 places (from 142 in 2014 to 77 in 2018) in the last 4 years due to the progressive and development-oriented outlook of the Government.   Hence, Modi Government has created a business environment which is efficient, supportive, considerably simpler to do business and encourages entrepreneurs and established business persons to flourish.

With above in place, B- Schools alumni and entrepreneurs have been contributing to “Make in India” very successfully.

This article was published in BW Education issue dated 'Nov. 20, 2018' with cover story titled 'BW Education Issue Nov-Dec 2018'

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