The HEIs must assess the changing requirements for programmes commensurate to the specially trained manpower requirements. The quick responsiveness of private sector HEIs in offering programmes as per market demand is facilitating good admissions to them. The regulatory framework must enable public universities to exercise their choices of being dynamic in conceiving and offering market-centric demand-driven programmes/courses. Nonetheless, the public sector HEIs must not get rid of their mandate to roll out well-trained and qualified graduates and postgraduates in all disciplines whether popular or not popular.
The 21st century is witnessing a paradigm shift in the expectations from higher education worldwide. The continuous changes happening around call for an expeditious remodelling of curriculum and courses offered by higher education institutions (HEIs). At the same time, the expectations of the students from the education offered by HEIs have transcended beyond merely seeking knowledge to capitalizing on education for fetching them decent jobs with good compensation. Such phenomenon is predominant in developing countries with poor socio-economic conditions. India with its huge demographic dividend and mammoth education system is also affected by the change in perception about the goals of pursuing higher education.
Looking at the admissions in HEIs, the preference of education seekers is visible for the courses that are recast to make them job-ready just after getting degrees. The majority of the admission seekers are ubiquitously seen assessing the employability of respective degrees offered by the HEIs before freezing their admissions, instead of pursuing higher education to satiate their passion. The rush to study courses revolving around computer science and allied disciplines like Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Cyber Security, Data Science, Robotics and Automation, etc. is primarily due to growing employment opportunities in these areas due to Industry 4.0 accelerating the growth in these domains Also, this trend helps in concluding that the key objective behind admission to referred courses is to get a job at the earliest irrespective of the HEIs. The age of the institution, type of HEIs whether public or private, alumni base, institutional achievements, facilities, & infrastructure, quality of faculty members, etc. appear getting offset by the demand for programmes yielding good employability. As a result, the HEIs need to gauge the student demands for higher education programmes and float suitable ones on time. The HEIs must assess the changing requirements for programmes commensurate to the specially trained manpower requirements.
Nevertheless, the student interest in research and development does exist but most of the talented ones migrate out of the country in search of suitable R&D opportunities. Even the best of the Indian HEIs, as reflected from world rankings, are unable to attract their own undergraduate and postgraduate students for pursuing research in them. While there could be different arguments in this regard, the reality of the students completing graduations from the top ranking HEIs of the country and moving out to the HEIs abroad for furthering their educational objectives needs to be accepted.
The higher education requirements of India are being catered collectively by the 1043 universities, 42343 colleges, and 11779 standalone HEIs in the public sector and private sector with the gross enrolment ratio hovering at 27.3 as per AISHE 2019-20. Interestingly, the number of universities and deemed-to-be universities is on the rise in the private sector, which is self-financing in nature. The tendency of well-performing colleges in the private sector striving to get upgraded to private universities is conspicuously pointing to the state of affairs as universities vis-à-vis affiliated colleges. Apparently, the transformation of a private institution affiliated with public universities to a private university empowers it to take all in-house decisions, including offering new programmes, capacity variation, taking novel initiatives, etc. Still, there is a sizeable number of HEIs which wish to continue as affiliated institutions of public universities because these universities enjoy stronger credibility, ownership lying with the government, and the trust of the masses for government-owned institutions. The lackadaisical functioning of some public universities in the past has nucleated the thinking in the affiliated private HEIs to seek the ‘private university’ status. Undoubtedly, the target laid down by NEP-2020 to have autonomous HEIs and attain the gross enrolment ratio of 50 in the near future warrants capacity addition as well as upgradation of HEIs in the private and public sectors.
Despite the increase in the number of self-financed universities in the private sector and the fair survival of the majority of them, it is obvious that these are able to admit the number of students such that the receipts are adequate to create requisite infrastructure and sustain the necessary teaching-learning processes. This is attributed to the fact that the programmes and courses offered are employment-centric and students opt for a career in these domains. The quick responsiveness of private sector HEIs in offering programmes as per market demand is facilitating good admissions to them.
The situation is not the same in a good number of public universities and institutions affiliated with them. Quite often many HEIs find it difficult to fill their stipulated intake. This calls for honest introspection to figure out the possible reasons for insufficient admissions in public sector HEIs and institutions affiliated with them. Although the public sector HEIs are obligated to ensure that well-educated human beings are adequately available in all domains for the sustainable development of society as the abundance in a few areas is likely to create a job crisis in these popular disciplines and a simultaneous lack of well qualified human resource in unpopular disciplines. But the macro-level observation of admission scenarios in public universities and institutions affiliated with them is equally important and shows that it could be due to one or more of the reasons, such as,
- the overregulation of the institutions and absence of freedom for timely reframing the programmes and course
- the inflexible admission procedures and delays in executing various processes
- the programmes offered are not of much interest due to lesser demand for graduates in particular areas i.e. poor employability
- the lesser future prospects for research and development in respective domains
- the obsolescence of the courses with respect to the prevailing competency requirements
- the infrastructure is not up to the mark
- the teaching-learning-evaluation processes are not efficacious
- the teaching and allied human resource is not possessing desired proficiency to carry out the assigned academic activities, etc.
It is amply clear that in the present scenario, the higher education programmes and courses have to be synchronized with the market requirements for specifically trained personnel. The gap between the demand and supply of suitably trained manpower coming out from the HEIs is creating an ingenuine perception about the unworthiness of certain programmes which might be otherwise very relevant and essential in due course of time. Nonetheless, there is a possibility of not enough demand for these programmes, so an attempt should be made to offer additional short-term training in the sought-after domains along with the conventional programmes in the public sector HEIs. This will empower such graduates to explore employment opportunities in two domains i.e. their core domain of study and employment-focused additional courses domain. These are generally termed major and minor domains which are also advocated in the form of multidisciplinary education under NEP 2020. But the concern for the quality of education and knowledge creation in the traditional subject domains should not be sacrificed for the sake of matching pace with the dynamism in higher education.
The operational limitations of the public sector HEIs in dynamically offering programmes and courses as per contemporary requirements must be overcome. The regulatory framework must enable public universities to exercise their choices of being dynamic in conceiving and offering market-centric demand-driven programmes/courses. Faster execution of decisions for reworking the existing programmes/courses as per market needs is inevitable and this will enable public sector HEIs in catering to student aspirations for higher education. Nonetheless, the public sector HEIs must not get rid of their mandate to roll out well-trained and qualified graduates and postgraduates in all disciplines whether popular or not popular. In this era of dynamism in higher education, the HEIs ought to gear up for providing trained and qualified human resources in popular disciplines with a tradeoff between the popular and unpopular degree programmes.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh is the Vice Chancellor of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, He has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). He is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).