Higher Education

How the National Education Policy 2020 reimagines the future of Indian higher education

The launch of the National Education Policy 2020 augurs well for a new era in Indian higher education, breaking from the past and creating a new future. The NEP 2020 is an outstanding vision statement and inspiring policy document that seeks a fundamental transformation in the landscape of Indian higher education.

It has recognised the complexity and challenges of the Indian higher education system. The NEP envisages a vision for seeking substantive change with a view to harnessing the extraordinary potential of human development and the demographic dividend that India as a nation has in abundance.

The NEP 2020 has the following 10 big ideas for reimagining the Indian higher education sector.

World-Class Education in the Pursuit of Excellence: It has boldly aspired to building a world-class higher education system and has recognised that this is critical and central to the future of India and for building a knowledge society.

Multi-disciplinarity and Liberal Education: It has envisaged the creation of a liberal, multidisciplinary and inter-disciplinary education ecosystem with strong emphasis on liberal arts, humanities and social sciences along with studies in STEM and medicine.

Regulatory Reforms and Breaking the Public-Private Divide: It has sought fundamental and substantive regulatory reforms in higher education by removing the age-old barriers and distinctions between the public and the private higher educator sectors.

Expansion with Quality Assurance and Access: It has envisaged a focus on policy relating to expansion, access, equity, inclusion and excellence – all of which are equally important goals and aspirations that need to be fulfilled simultaneously.

Research Ecosystem: It has emphasised research and a culture of innovation that is central to the imagination of the higher education in the future with an effort to creating significant funding impetus and grants for research through the National Research Foundation, while envisaging a higher GDP investment in education.

Faculty Focus: It has paved the way for the recruitment of outstanding faculty with a strong focus on mentoring, retention, incentives, achievements and faculty development programmes, recognising that the faculty members are the most crucial aspect of the higher education system.

Governance and Leadership: It has highlighted the importance of governance and leadership in the administration and institution-building efforts in which all aspects of the effectiveness of the institution will depend upon the leadership and governance structures that are in place.

Academic Freedom and Institutional Autonomy: It has underlined the significance of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in funding, curriculum development, student admissions, and faculty recruitment with substantial freedom and academic flexibility in determining the duration of the degree programmes.
Public Funding and Private Philanthropy: It has strengthened the framework for funding with increased GDP investment in higher education and recognising the role of both the public and the private sectors with strong emphasis on philanthropy.

Read also: Government plans to train over 10 million youth under skills and development initiative

Internationalisation, Accreditation and Digitisation: It has appreciated the importance of internationalisation with a view to promoting global partnerships with leading universities around the world. It has taken accreditation and global benchmarking of universities, including rankings seriously. It has envisaged the need for providing significant support to the digitisation of higher education and promotion of online education and upgradation of the existing digital infrastructure.

In addition to these 10 big reform initiatives, the NEP 2020 has also reimagined the regulatory architecture of the higher education system to create a new, comprehensive and integrated higher education commission, besides renaming the HRD Ministry with a view to calling it as the ‘Ministry of Education’.

However, for the NEP 2020 to be implemented in line with the vision of the Prime Minister and the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, it is important to focus on some of the institutional challenges and behavioural aspects.

The entire higher education ecosystem and, in particular, the government agencies and regulatory bodies need to commit themselves to the following five key areas of change, reform, re-imagination and transformation:

Building Trust: We need to build a culture of trust, respect and collegiality between the government agencies, regulatory bodies and higher education institutions.

Transparent and Expeditious Decision-Making: We need to create transparent and accountability based mechanisms for swift decision-making within government agencies and regulatory bodies in a time-bound manner. There are numerous bottlenecks in this effort and precious time is lost in various aspects of decision-making.

Institutional Independence: We need to empower all higher education institutions to take decisions with responsibility and accountability vested with the institutions themselves. There is a need for giving more power and, in that process, more responsibility to the higher education institutions so that they can contribute more effectively for the implementation of the NEP 2020.

Active and Participative Consultation: We need to promote active and participative consultation mechanisms with higher education institutions by government agencies and regulatory bodies, especially while creating new regulations or amending existing regulations that may impact institutions in any manner. This could involve a stakeholder consultation model in which the institutions that will be impacted are consulted in advance before the regulations are formulated.

Empowering IoEs and Autonomous Institutions: We need to empower the “Institutions of Eminence” and those that have attained Graded Autonomy to fulfil the vision of Indian universities to become world-class universities and achieve a high position in the global rankings.

The NEP 2020 is a watershed moment in the history of Indian higher education and our appreciation is due to Dr. Kasturirangan, Chairman of the NEP Committee, and his colleagues involved in the drafting of the recommendations. Effective and time-bound implementation is what will make it truly ground breaking.

Courtesy: The New Indian Express

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