What ails Indian Higher Education : Government’s Licence-Permit Raj : Daily Current Affairs

Date: 24/09/2022

Relevance: GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Key Phrases: State of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in India, Public Funding in Education, Various administrative and procedural lacunae in HEIs, Bureaucratic delays in HEIs, Reforms in HEIs, Higher education in National Education Policy (NEP)


  • The University Grants Commission recently unveiled its guidelines for transforming Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) into autonomous institutions.
  • It also draws on the objectives of the National Education Policy 2020 which also has provisions to transform colleges into either multidisciplinary universities or degree-awarding autonomous institutions.


  • Till 2003, virtually all Indian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were public institutions.
  • Implementation of the Mandal Commission report in 1990 altered the academic demography.
  • Today, about 70 percent of tertiary students enroll at private HEIs.

Higher Education related provisions in the National Education Policy,2020

  • Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education to be raised to 50% by 2035 from current 26.5%. Also, 3.5 crore seats to be added to higher education.
  • Holistic Undergraduate education with a flexible curriculum can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period.
  • Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate Transfer of Credits.
  • Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up.
  • Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single umbrella body for the entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
    • Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
  • Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges.

The present state of pubic HEIs

  • Teachers and academicians
    • In December 2021, 30 percent of posts in central universities were vacant including 40 per cent vacancies of professors.
    • Several states had large deficiencies, 62 percent in Odisha with two universities with zero teachers and similar state of affairs in others.
    • The system is such that appointments are made at various levels as “temporary” and “ad hoc’” appointees; “casual” and “guest” lecturers.
      • These appointees supposedly take a few classes but are saddled with a full-time routine.
      • They are paid fixed sums far below salary scales, with regular breaks in service.
    • This is not a conducive milieu for creative reform and without a respectable level of staff and infrastructure results can’t be achieved.
  • Funding and other resources
    • The discontinuance of Five-Year Plans deprived public universities of their staple development grants – which, incidentally, were performance-based.
    • The budget for central universities rose by 6.6 per cent this year which is miniscule if inflation is adjusted.
    • Traditionally, the state paid for salaries and maintenance and the Centre for development through the UGC whose funding schemes are largely suspended.
    • The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) granted substantial RUSA funds to the universities but were left stranded when funds became insufficient.
      • It led to a trail of abandoned projects, unemployed staff and incomplete buildings.

Procedural and bureaucratic delays

  • There is a tussle between the state and union governments which is harming state universities which are dependent on central governments funds including the newly announced institute of eminence (IoE)
  • The procedural delays and bureaucratic criteria are more prevalent than performance -based incentives.
  • Freedom of operation of universities is curtailed by both the State and Union governments
    • Even the universities can’t seek to mobilize resources through other public and private means in such cases.

Freedom of operation in HEIs leads greater results: A case study

  • Jadavpur is a small state university which is qualified as an Institute of Eminence (IoE) and earlier as a “University with Potential for Excellence”.
  • It is among the very few Indian HEIs which stand in the top 1000 of Times Higher Education (THE) and QS rankings.
  • How has Jadavpur University performed so well?
    • It has always allowed its faculty extraordinary freedom of operation, provided they worked within some broad parameters and sent audited accounts strictly on time.
    • This has ensured hundreds of crores of funding over the years.
    • The university grew on its own external earnings — from now-defunct schemes of the UGC and various ministries, as well as corporate bodies.
    • A research school to which the university paid a lakh a year regularly garnered a crore.
  • University Administration and faculty cooperation is the key
    • Faculty members are given so much autonomy that they are allowed to negotiate with the funders as well as the academic partners in the same spirit.
    • Faculties are allowed to make decisions on behalf of the university and are still supported by the University administration.
    • This cooperation among the administration and faculties has led to fetch them funds, research projects etc.

Prevailing issues in HEIs

  • Lack of funds puts all stakeholders in jeopardy and many researchers struggle to keep their projects running in the absence of funds.
  • Both the Centre and the state demand endless procedural requirements and there is no freedom of operation.
  • The licence-permit raj has percolated to academia and it has affected academia adversely.
  • There are restrictions on free speech and writing and politicization of miniscule issues has increased.
  • Increasing interference of politicians in the management of higher education jeopardizes the autonomy of HEIs.
  • Faculty shortages and the inability of the state educational system to attract and retain well-qualified teachers have been posing challenges to quality education for many years.

Way forward

  • HEIs in both public and private must be away from political affiliations, provided with good infrastructure and facilities.
  • Allow more autonomy and freedom of teaching, research and publication to the faculties.
  • Government must promote collaboration between Indian higher education institutes and top international institutes.
    • Also generate linkages between national research laboratories and research centres of top institutions for better quality and collaborative research.
  • There should be a multidisciplinary approach in higher education so that students' knowledge may not be restricted only up to their own subjects.
  • The state level HEIs should be revamped and they must come up with a new vision and programmes specifically addressing the needs of the State, its industry, economy and society


  • In the rapidly changing world, if India wants economic, technological gains and development to percolate at the grassroots level, it needs to invest in higher education on a priority basis.
  • Therefore the need of the hour is to realign and reshape the working of the HEIs through reducing operational and administrative complexities and providing more autonomy, funding and freedom of operations to these institutions and their faculty.

Source: Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. India’s Higher education institutions (HEIs) are plagued with many administrative and operational issues, Discuss. Suggest ways to overcome them and improve the state of HEIs (250 words).