Indian higher education system is currently catered by 1043 Universities as per a recent disclosure in the Parliament of the country. These numbers include central university, central open university, institutions of national importance, state public universities, institutions under state legislature act, state open university, state private university, state private open university, deemed university government, deemed university government-aided, and deemed university private. Let us look at concerning key enablers of higher education in India.
Availability of Universities
The number of Universities, as per the reply tabled in Rajya Sabha, in different states & union territories divulge that Rajasthan tops in the tally with 89 such institutions followed by Uttar Pradesh with 81 institutions. There is a conspicuous absence of any University in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, and Lakshwadeep. Obviously, this is not a true reflection of the actual number of colleges under these universities as affiliated and constituent institutions. But given the push by the National Education Policy-2020 for a paradigm shift in the nature of the institutions and high target of gross enrolment ratio, the present statistics are worth pondering.
It is worthwhile to look at the availability of universities from the perspective of the population it has to cater to. Irrespective of the courses, disciplines, location, etc. the numbers wrap up to mark Bihar as the worst with over 3.09 million population to be catered by each university, followed by Uttar Pradesh offering a university to over 2.85 million population. The situation is quite encouraging with over 0.084 million population catered by each university in the northeastern state of Sikkim. The populous states of the country require special attention for facilitating their population with the requisite number of universities. The demographic dividend available with the country inevitably requires nurturing for adequately contributing to the well-being of the society and upgrading the civilization.
To be precise, the National Education Policy 2020 has set the target of a gross enrolment ratio of 50 by the year 2030 that necessitates setting up a larger number of higher education institutions. With current levels of budget being allocate to education and research, the attainment of the target appears an arduous journey.
Teaching Human Resource
From time to time, serious concerns are noticed about the deteriorating employability of the graduates and postgraduates coming out from higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country. The quality of education depends greatly upon the rigour of the teaching-learning processes in HEIs. Thence, the shortage of good quality teachers and teaching supporting staff is one of the various factors affecting the quality of education in HEIs. A recent revelation on the shortage of teachers in central educational institutions through an answer tabled in Rajay Sabha shows that around 1/3rd posts of the total sanctioned teacher positions are lying vacant. The IIITs have around 40% vacant teacher positions followed by IITs having around 38%, NITs having around 36%, and Central Universities having around 34 % teaching vacancies.
Similarly, out of a total of 58,138 non-teaching posts, 22,556 posts are reportedly lying vacant in central educational institutions. Statistics show that the highest vacancies are in NITTRs & NITs with more than 48% vacant non-teaching posts followed by IITs with more than 40%, and 35% in Central Universities.
The inadequacy of teaching staff is stated to be met through engaging research scholars, contract, re-employed, adjunct, and visiting faculty. Such teachers are usually hired for very short periods and can not have a long-term plan for strengthening the teaching quality in the institutions they are in. Comparing the performance of teachers on temporary hiring and regular hiring that is for few decades, the uncertainty-ridden teachers are bound to have a shorter perspective. Nevertheless, the quality of education delivery through ad hoc measures is liable to get affected adversely. The absence of teaching supporting staff is equally concerning from the quality of teaching perspective. While setting up quality-centric practices and standards for overall institution building is a very slow process where teachers, teaching supporting staff, and students contribute for years together.
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Given the educational institutions managing their primary goal of academic activities through temporary staff at all levels, few of the glaring concerns are;
- Are students taught by good teachers?
- Are students really learning the curriculum to the extent it is expected?
- Are the learning outcomes up to the mark?
- How can the compensation be made for learning deficiencies during the stipulated period?
- Is the prevalence of vacancies not depriving the potential employment opportunities?
With the NEP-2020 buzzing around, concerted efforts are required for enhancing the number of higher education institutions and populate the existing as well as new institutions with the requisite number of regular teaching and supporting human resources of good quality that is capable of contributing without any uncertainty in their mind.