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Status and Challenges of Higher Education in India 09 January, 2013

Dr. Abdul Salam

Dr. Abdul Salam, Vice Chancellor, University of Calicut led the Weekly Discussion on 9th Jan 2013 with his talk on “Status and Challenges of Higher Education in India”.


There are 33,000 plus colleges in India with around 17 million students. Out of these, 86% of students are in UG, 12% in PG, 1% each in Research and Diploma courses. 58% of our students are female and maximum students learn Arts (42%). There are 8 Lakh teachers in India and there were 11,161 PhDs in 2009 – 10. 13.6% of Indian public expenditure and 3.77% of GDP is spent on higher education.

Education Mission

The mission of higher education is to achieve access, equality, justice, quality, employability, inclusiveness and create a knowledge society/ economy.

To increase access, the number of institutions in the country must double in the next five years. More universities must come up from central government and the existing universities must be developed. Also, programs that allow shift system of education (morning and evening shifts), evening PG programs and integrated UG/ PG programs would help the cause of access to higher education. There should be about 20% to 30% increase in intake of students every year.

In order to improve the areas of research, it is necessary to upgrade laboratories, motivate researchers and provide research funding. International collaboration of research must be promoted and the researchers must be released from undue restrictions on international travel.

There should be enhanced participation rates in higher education from girls, SC/ST students, minorities and physically handicapped.

Admin Constraints in Higher Education

The acts and statutes that govern universities are dated. They need to be revised. VCs should be empowered to lead universities as company CEOs. There should be minimum wastage of resources and academicians should serve in academic bodies instead of politicians.

The quality of faculty and PhDs should be improved. There should be more smart classrooms and smart laboratories and the syllabus should be revised.

Governance of universities is slow currently. Means to enhance digital connectivity and e-governance activities in universities will help the cause in a major way.

University physiology is now staff centric. It should move to a more student centric philosophy. Also, fixes in responsibility of teachers, researchers, administrators and examination management would help the universities.

Fund flows from the UGC needs to be more block funding rather than item central funds and remuneration of staff should be good to entice them to join the field.

There should be continuous evaluation in colleges and teacher evaluation needs to be looked at more seriously. There should be a focus on skills, values and spirituality in the classes. Thrust on experiential learning will be of major help too.

There needs to be better sharing of resources between universities, NKN connectivity in all universities faculty mobility, more reliable databases and rise of meta universities and Technology driven campuses. Meta Universities are web based platforms used to share resources.

In the XI plan, out of 46,000 crores which was allocated to higher education, only 12,900 crores were used. Dr. Salam said he hoped that the 184,000 crores allocated this year will be used effectively.

Problem with the system

Answering to a question of why 80% of engineering college students is not employable, Dr. Salam commented that the problem lies with the system itself. The system of teachers, syllabus, learning methodologies and curriculum focuses on creating theory experts. There is no focus on practical learning and field awareness. Also, teachers are selected based only on the marks secured in masters and PhD programs. There is no test of skills in pedagogy. The Kerala Government has put forth a proposal to set up 1 year teacher training program for Masters and PhD graduates to the Central Government.