Tuesday 9 February 2016

To ensure academic excellence in Higher Education we need broader Changes

Written by Anil Singh

To promote academic excellence in Uttarakhand, Governor Krishna Kant Paul last week defined the terms for holding an annual competition between the state-based Universities and honouring the winner among them with the Governor's Best University Award.

But I think to ensure academic excellence in Higher Education in Uttarakhand and across India, we need broader Changes -- changes which address the issue in a holistic manner.

My suggestions are:

1. Higher Education or University education must be made aspirational. This can be ensured by making the admission to a University difficult. That's unless a person is ready to work hard, the University programmes must be difficult to pass. That's why only those students who have both passion to learn and ability to work hard, must be allowed to enter Higher Education.

2. Universities across India are made Uniform in terms of faculty, facilities and value of Degree earned. Having most of the Universities not up to the mark will not ensure academic excellence.

3. Ideally, not more than 10 percent of those who complete School education should go to University level. This may look discrimination to some, but it's necessary for academic excellence. Only bright students or students with a desire to get higher education must enter universities. This is important as not everyone has either the aptitude or the patience (passion) to benefit from a University Education. Taking every person out of school to a University means wasting valuable time of all those students who will never put into practical use their higher education. In such cases, it's better to save this person from wasting 5 to 8 years of his/life for some University degree(s). If a person has to eventually take some job for which University education is not necessary, then what's the use of giving him one. Giving such people University education means disappointment and hear-break for them, as irrespective of the manner in which higher education is earned, they start showing the reluctance to do jobs which don't require a University degree. A scenario which is not practically possible, as only a small section of people will get a job doing justice to the higher education. In such a scenario, why encourage everyone to have higher education.

We must realize that giving everyone a University degree every year and employing just 5 percent of them with satisfying employment will not help anyone both in the short and the long run. Why not make this rate better? Why not 40 percent of all higher education holders getting a satisfying employment?

4. University education must be made aspirational (having or characterized by aspirations to achieve social prestige and material success) means the incumbent should be more inclined to put his higher education to use. That's he/she should be ready to decline any job offer which doesn't do justice with his/her education. This will happen, when only select few get higher education.

5. For academic excellence one needs to have academic culture in Universities. What does this mean? It means having professors, readers, lecturers and faculty seen absorbed in academic pursuits all the time. These pursuits should ideally be teaching and academic research into the subject of one's endeavor. In a true academic culture, an academic spends his/her life studying/researching, inside the University campus. There's no desire to climb non-academic social hierarchies.

Unfortunately we are still not paying uniformly and in some cases adequately to professors, readers, lecturers and faculties in our Universities. Ideally they must be top salaries persons in any society. Why? As they when pursuing academics are the ones who will show direction to the society, profession etc.

5. Last but not the least, at present there is a perception that unless you have Higher education, you can't get a well paying job in your life. Frankly speaking this is not the case. As it depends on the quality of the candidate. A quality ITI or a diploma engineer will have better chances of getting a satisfying job than a mediocre BTech. In the same way a quality BA Hindi will have better chances of getting adequately employed than a mediocre BSc. Getting employment depends on many factors such as number of job openings and requirement of the type of skill. Overall it's not correct to link a University degree to a employability.  We have seen this happening with BEd degree holders in Uttarakhand. We have seen this happening with BSc degree holders as well (BSc degree may be a degree taken in high esteem but doesn't make the incumbent employable.). Thus, all things equal, it's the quality which always gets the job.


Academic excellence at higher education requires more than just competition and honour. It requires quality input right from the stage of admission to hard-work to value of degree earned. Unless that is ensured, it's difficult to ensure higher education.


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