IoE – Institute of Eminence the Need of the Hour?

The term ‘Institute of Eminence’ has been a buzzword in mainstream and social media during the last two weeks, after the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) announced that six institutes of higher education (IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IISc Bangalore, BITS Pilani, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, and Jio Institute) would be granted the status of ‘Institute of Eminence’ (IoE). However, the necessity of such a tag is debatable.

Objective

According to the MHRD, the main objective of granting IoE status is “to create world-class universities to enhance research and improve global rankings of Indian educational institutions”. In a tweet, Prakash Javadekar explained the objective of granting the IoE status to the six institutes. “This will help these institutes to grow rapidly to a scale and improve quality and add new courses. Also, do whatever is needed to become world-class institutions,” he tweeted. Is it a noble objective when the education system in the country does not meet global standards?

Background

It is a fact that not a single university or institute of higher education in India has figured in the list of top 200 universities in the world published by the Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds(QS) World University Rankings. The question “What ails higher education in India?” has been raised and discussed in many forums and conferences. The need to improve the quality of education in the country and to create “world-class universities” has been expressed by educationists and policymakers.

On October 13, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government would provide an assistance of ₹1,000 crore to each of 10 private and 10 government universities for a period of five years so that they can demonstrate their potential to become world-class. The seed for identifying the universities/institutes was sown then and subsequently, a notification was issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) regarding granting ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. The notification stated that private institutions selected for the special status would not get funding from the government. What was puzzling was the inclusion of the provision (Clause 6.1 of the UGC Regulation 2017) for a greenfield project to be considered for the special status of IoE. As per the guidelines, institutes which figured among the top 50 in the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings or those which secured positions among the top 50 in THE, QS and Shanghai World University Rankings were eligible to apply for IoE status.

Key questions

  1. Is IoE the need of the hour?
  2. What parameters were taken into account by the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) while assessing the eligibility of institutes to be granted the tag?
  3. Did the EEC follow the procedure and act without political interference?
  4. Did N Gopalaswami, the chairperson of the EEC, give a proper justification for having chosen a yet-to-be-set-up institute of higher education?
  5. Will the granting of the special status change the face of higher education in the country?

No. Being obsessed with creating world-class institutions without improving the quality of primary and secondary education in the country is unrealistic. Entertaining such an idea and spending crores of taxpayers’ money on such select institutes is a crime. Conferring the status on select institutions will result in creating divisions and tensions rather than promoting healthy competition, excellence, and eminence.

Do we need institutes of eminence and institutes of elegance at the cost of institutions which have been neglected by the government?

Thousands of educational institutions in the country lack proper infrastructure and qualified teachers.

The Appraisal Procedure

It is said that the EEC conducted its appraisal based on the documents submitted by the institutions which applied for the special status and the EEC engaged with the institutions to study their proposals. Later, the recommendations of the committee were sent to the UGC and the MHRD. It is not clear why the top-ranking IIT Madras, which was among the shortlisted institutions, was not considered for the IoE status.

The MHRD and the EEC chairperson have stated that the four parameters that were considered for assessing the applications were the availability of land, a highly qualified experienced team, funding for setting up the institution and a strategic. The justification to confer the status on Jio Institute is highly unconvincing.

Ensuring quality

In the name of reforming education, certain unhealthy and unfair decisions of the government seem to deform the education sector. If the government is really interested in improving the quality of higher education in the country it should take measures that will ensure quality.

Source: The Hindu