Saturday, January 06, 2007


Knowledge Commission: more universities; convert clusters of affiliated colleges to universities

"Number of varsities not enough"

Special Correspondent

1,500 needed: Knowledge Commission

# Only 7 per cent in 18-24 age group has access to higher education

# Recommends a more rational fee structure

NEW DELHI: India will need 1,500 universities to attain a gross enrolment ratio of at least 15 per cent by 2015. This is a key observation made by the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in its note to the Prime Minister on higher education.

Stating that opportunities for higher education "are simply not enough in relation to our needs," the NKC has called for a massive expansion of opportunities.

As of today, there are about 350 universities. "This number is simply not enough with reference to our needs in higher education or in comparison with China, which authorised the creation of 1,250 new universities in the last three years," the commission has noted. It pointed out that only seven per cent of the population in the 18-24 age group has access to higher education.

While the focus should be on setting up new universities, some clusters of affiliated colleges could be turned into universities, a move that will require changes in the regulatory mechanism. For this, the NKC has suggested creation of an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education.

At the same time, it says, some universities are much too large for ensuring academic standards and good governance. "We need to create more appropriately scaled and more nimble universities. The moral of the story is that we need not only a much larger number of universities ... but also smaller universities which are responsive to change and easier to manage."

Stating that public and private sources should be tapped for funding, the NKC contends that government support for higher education should increase to at least 1.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

As this will not suffice for the massive expansion in higher education, the NKC has suggested that norms and parameters be drawn up to allow universities to use their land as a source of finance.

The NKC has recommended a more rational fee structure. "As a norm, fees should meet at least 20 per cent of the total expenditure in universities."

Needy students should be given fee waiver plus scholarships, but the UGC should not penalise universities for the resources they raised from higher fees with matching deductions from their grants-in-aid.

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