Crisis in Higher Education
In recent years, great changes have taken place in the field of education. Not only have these changes influenced the techniques and methodologies of imparting education, but also challenged in certain ways, the very purpose and objectives of higher education.
On the one hand we find a technological revolution taking place. On the other hand we cannot ignore the maladies of higher education where the whole process has become warped and disoriented, and a number of unemployable young men and women are being produced year after year.
Over the years, a number of National Committees have recommended educational reforms to promote national consciousness and character building. Three decades later, the field of higher education still remains warped and dysfunctional. Various causes have been highlighted for this operational fatigue - massive expansion in the number of colleges and universities, lack of professionalism in the management of higher education, inadequate funding, political interference and a general indiscipline. The list does not stop here. Out of this, two major maladies have emerged namely, the reluctance to act and the failure to count costs.
While it is recommended that at least 6 % of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) must be spent on education, putting this into practice is seldom the case. Given that there is uncertainty in the course of action and a greater uncertainty in its success, there is a tendency to lapse into inaction. It is habitual now to preach more than to practice what is preached.
In order to carry out a programme of action successfully, everyone involved must be united in accepting the objectives , understanding the goals that have been set, and striving towards its fulfillment. The result should be measured by the contribution of the group to the overall objective. In the absence of such a unity, the implementation of the programme is most likely to fail. Little wonder then that the recommendations on higher education seldom progress beyond the written stage, for those involved do not share the same objectives. If an educational scheme is important for nation building, everyone involved in its implementation must consent- if necessary, by compulsion. Complex missions in the field of agriculture and Space have triumphed in the past. Therefore, this kind of approach can be adopted successfully. The time is ripe for the launching of autonomous colleges, the establishment of which has been discussed many times in the past. These colleges will not only uplift the standard of education but will also shoulder the enormous burden of conducting examinations, hitherto being the sole responsibility of universities. Investing in the improvement of the present day colleges is the urgent need of the hour. Till date, the UGC has granted autonomous status to only 60 colleges - a very small number indeed considering that there are more than 7000 colleges spread out all over the country.
Education is becoming far too expensive to be supported by public funds alone. Delay in release of funds by the State Governments is a constant source of anxiety. Under these circumstances, Universities have no choice but to resort to diverting funds from development grants. The need is therefore felt to take a closer look at the financing of higher education and the possible areas of improving efficiency. Some measures that can be adopted are suggested -
- Financing higher educational institutions should be the responsibility of the Government.
- There is an urgent need to expand the opportunities for higher education since secondary school education does not equip the student to meet the vast and varied job requirement.
- At least 30% of the cost of higher education must be met by the student.
- As other costs go up, there must be an annual increase in fee structure as is being done by universities and colleges in Maharashtra.
- A rational fee structure which is supportive to both students as well as universities can be established.
REDEFINING THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY
In a rapidly changing global economy, Universities must learn to cope up with emerging challenges, choose appropriate technology and make best use of new opportunities as they unfold. This calls for a new vision, new approaches to the traditional methods of teaching, creating more dynamic curriculum, raising resources and creative planning.
Higher education prepares leaders for various walks of life with Universities functioning as the focal centres. The quality of university education has a direct bearing on the economic prosperity of a country and the ideological climate that is required for a better quality of life is created by these universities. The role of universities is now more diverse - social transformation, nation building, scientific development and development of human resource.
As we enter the new millennium, we must admit that higher education is indeed in a state of turmoil. Over the last several years, there has been a phenomenal increase in the enrolment of students, with the population increasing from 2, 50,000 to over 60 lakhs in 1996. By the turn of the century we can easily account for 9000 colleges, eight million students and over 4,50,000 teachers.
Uneven and unbalanced expansion has resulted in a growing mismatch between the supply and demand in the labour market. The decline in the quality of teaching, poor infrastructure, high drop-out rates does not keep up with the changing needs of the society. The skills and areas of specialisation of graduates does not reflect the real needs of the productive sectors.
Given the serious challenges being faced by universities, there is an urgent need for better and more effective management of our higher educational institutions. The need of the hour is to change the management pattern allowing for greater flexibility, dynamism and the ability to respond to the fast changing needs of a developing society.