Thursday, February 23, 2017

India's private universities fail to make a mark

Shiv Nadar, Aziz Premji, O P Jindal, Munjal, Bennett.... we have quite a few universities started by private industrialists. Yet, none has made a mark thus far as a quality institution, notes Anjuli Bhargava in BS.

That's true of professional colleges as well. There's no engineering institution that can match the IITs, hardly any that match the IIMs and the AIIMS or even other prominent government medical colleges.

Why so? One reason that Bhargava mentions is the lack of high quality admission standards. Indeed, many of these universities go all out to woo student candidates, something no self-respecting institution would do. Another is that they are far too focused on hardware and too little on software, namely, faculty and research. And a third is that promoters run them as they do their own businesses- by calling the shots and not giving enough leeway to professional educators.

I guess all of this is true. But another crucial factor is that most private universities have a profit motive in mind- they are looking for returns, preferably quick returns. Whereas the striking thing about private universities in the US and some other places is that these are non-profit in orientation and are sustained by large endowments.

No educational institution that aims to generate surpluses out of its operations- mostly running degree programmes and, in some cases, consultancy and executive training- can be expected to produce high quality in the long run. There's a view that, ever since the IIMs have been left to set their own fee, they too are focused on revenue generation. Their reputation was built in a period when they were sustained by government funding and did not have think about surpluses.

Worldwide, the combination of quality and access is possible only when there's a large element of subsidy built into higher education. In India, it's public universities that conform to this model. The worry about IIMs now must be whether they will end up in the same bracket as private universities.


K V RAO said...

IIMs/IITs pursue high quality standards to weed out parasites.As they have the policy to serve less than 0.1% of the population,they can afford to impart quality education.They are averse to liberalise as it may open floodgates.I have come across a few govt schools where they have been turning out good citizens.They may not become corporate honchos.These facts do not get publicised but get a place under the sun.KVRAO

K V RAO said...