India needs to significantly increase its investments in higher education if it is to reap the benefits of demographic dividend and transition towards a knowledge and innovation-led economy, Bennett University president Sachin Jain said on Monday.
“The total annual investment in higher education has remained sub 1% of GDP which is grossly inadequate if we compare it to our peers in BRICS nations. While private sector institutions currently support 70% of total enrolments in higher education, merit-based policy support is required from the government for private institutions to compete with public universities when it comes to funding for research and innovation,” Jain said.
“Corporates and other institutions should be incentivised to fund research and innovation at private universities, which can act as an alternate source of funding in lieu of government support,” Jain said at the QS India summit. With over 300 private universities and 40,000 private colleges, India has significant academic infrastructure which is sub-optimally utilised to drive research and innovation, he said.
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Giving the example of Bennett University, Jain said, “In the last three years, we have focused on hiring the best faculty, creating a research-based contemporary curriculum, investing in meritorious students and creating an entrepreneurial mindset on campus”. The outcome is that the university boasts of over 200 top quality research publications, Rs 10 crore of research and consulting projects and eight serious student start-ups of which two have raised $3 million in external funding.
Bennett University has also launched an artificial intelligence based skilling initiative which reaches over 100 institutes across India, including IITs/NITs, he said.
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“In the first year, when we started, we created a skilling platform not for students but for the faculty on a national level. If we are able to improve the capability of the faculty then it will impact students,” Jain said.
He further said that significant capital resources are required to undertake such initiatives and the higher education sector needs to collectively convince the Union government that investments should be increased significantly and alternative sources of capital should be allowed to improve the capability of higher educational institutions in the country.
Failure to invest and improve institutes of higher learning as technology evolves will affect India’s competitive edge. China has made rapid strides in technological research, higher education, artificial intelligence and machine learning, he said. “From a policy advocacy perspective, and as a group, collectively we have failed to impress upon the government the importance of investing in higher education” he said.
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