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Higher education: India lags behind China despite English language advantage

Higher Education

MUMBAI: Despite the English language advantage and the government’s enhanced focus on higher studies, India’s top educational and research institutes, including the IITs and IIMs, lag Chinese universities in global ranking.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings has nine universities from China in its 2012 list of Top 400 compared with just one from India. Another latest ranking by Guardian Higher Education Network shows nine Chinese universities among top 50 Asian universities, while no university from India makes it to the list.

China has been consistently scoring over India in higher education for several years, as reflected even in previous rankings.
The Times ranking, based on five broad parameters: teaching, research, citations, industry income or innovation and international outlook in terms of staff, students and research, covers subjects including engineering and technology, arts and humanities, health, life sciences, physical sciences and social sciences.

“China has invested heavily in infrastructure, research resources and that too from local councils and state bodies, not just from central government,” says Anil Gupta, professor and founder, Honey Bee Network, IIM-Ahmedabad.
The draft document of the 12th Five Year Plan proposes to increase investment on higher education to 25% of all government education spending, or 1.5% of GDP from the current 18% and 1.12% respectively. An increase of 0.38% of GDP means an additional allocation of about Rs25,000 crore to higher education for the Centre and the states together.

On the other hand, China’s expenditure in education from the central public budget reached more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($191 billion) during January-November last year, an increase of 25.8% from previous year, according to reports.

“The biggest gap (for India) lies in the quantum of research. A systematic approach needs to be taken to reform the structure of universities into teaching and research institutions,” says Devang V Khakhar, director, IIT-Bombay. He sees a need for a significantly greater financial support for infrastructure, faculty positions and research facilities.

AUGC report “Higher Education in India at a Glance” paints a dismal picture on student enrolment. While 86% of students complete graduation, mere 12% opt for post-graduate education and barely 1% go for research.
In the past 60 years, the number of universities in India has grown 30 folds to 634 in 2011, while the numbers of colleges are 33,023, averaging 55 colleges per university, the UGC report shows. This is leading to huge pressure on the university administration in managing these institutions.

However, despite having one of the largest higher education system in the world — in terms of the number of seats of higher education and students enrolled — few Indian institutions have earned global distinction amid shortage of faculty and poor infrastructure.
While lack of ability to lure global faculty due to resource constraints is pulling down Indian universities in global ranking, China’s huge investment on higher education enables it to attract international faculty and students.

“China has made huge investment in its scientific diaspora. It has made huge investment in higher education, by providing opportunities in terms of labs, machinery, salaries, etc, in an attempt to attract back Chinese scientists who earlier left the country to work in countries like the US,” says David Johnson, dean, St Anthony’s College, Oxford University.

Experts say India needs to attract Indian and international teachers to Indian universities to improve quality, spend (both private and public) more on higher education and research and utilise the funds more efficiently.

“India neglected basic education and skills since independence and concentrated on few like IITs, IIMs. India has a future if we use demographic dividend effectively with better education and skill improvement.
Less political interference is also needed,” says S Mahendra, director, IGIDR. Plus, we do not see enough research publications from India that make it to international journals on social sciences and higher education, he adds.

The Times of India, 27 July 2012


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