Skip to main content

Plug Inefficiencies in Indian Higher Edu Invest…Configure a Growth Engine

For most countries, primary education is the priority sector. This is the long term regenerative investment in the education sector. In India too, since the early 90s, higher education has gotten lower down in invest priority and understandably so. Large investments go [and should go] to SSAs with the IITs / IIMS and other premium higher education institutes are more and more asked to seek less budgetary support.

But Indian certainly needs more and more higher education institutes, that are global powerhouses. When one reads that we have single digit numbers of institutes that are counted in the global rankings – it doesn’t just hurt, to me it scares. Unless we get this act together, coupled with the brain drain, we will in another 50 years be another vegetable case.

Probably, the big wigs understand this, therefore in the last 5-7 years [after this long lull for decades] we keep hearing of these big bang higher education projects – more IITs, IIMs, NLS, CUs, NITs, IISERs/NISERs etc. That’s laudable, probably inevitable too considering the abject failure of private sector to provide class man-power and research. [that’s going to be a topic for another blog. Surprise! surprise!! – this is one sector, where private enterprise lags the government institutes by miles]
While from one dimension, it is always heartening to hear Rs. 500 crores ear-marked for so and so institute. But, after having watched higher education sector from close quarters for more than half a dozen years now, it is difficult to miss that the investment is not optimally directed. Rs. 500 crore [100mio USD] is a good deal of money. It has enough potential to create high quality higher education engine – that can be a fertile place for education, research, IPR, consulting, destination of donation money. Enough to create wealth [both social and economic] that can power another university of greater magnitude in 10-15 years time. A compelling economic model is certainly in place. More than 100 deemed universities of much lesser quality standing have proven the economic model. It should only be easier for patient, long term/subsidised funds backed, premium organizations to create greater wealth. A few [very few] quality focused private institutes have also done it. The problem is not in economic model.

It is in the perspective, the configuration, in the cultural block in actively seeking or not seeking enterprise. And in the policy inertia of budgetary support for revenue expenses. Government grants for survival of a giant institute to support sprawling campuses and concomitant inefficiencies is a drain. It needs to be mandatory, that in 10 yrs time such institutes should take care of all of their capital and revenue expenses and in 15 yrs time need to be mandated to create an institute of greater standing or add as much capacity to itself.

This blog is certainly not a call to create mercenary educationists, it is about creating a culture of academic entrepreneurs and its is about proactively promoting the culture of creating, disseminating, monetizing IP; getting grants, scholarships; loans, consulting etc etc etc. Not that India doesn’t have those people, there are many already. Also there are equally as many in corporate world happy to take up the gauntlet if such a challenge is thrown. But the starting point is a change in mandate and objectives. The rest would flow automatically.

To start with, [in addition to the planned budgetary support] India would need a 100 such hungry academic entrepreneurs [they are different from the investors – who could be the government or private sector] who build a business model around quality education and research [they can fuel 1000 high quality patents and other IPRs in just 5 years]. Only this can support bank loan / scholarship funded premium higher education that creates man-power in tens of thousands that the global for profit and not-for profit sectors lap up.
In addition to fine tuning the policy perspective, getting the HR story and the culture story would be both necessary and sufficient conditions to build to a vibrant, viable and regenerative higher education.

We may need to put our identified academic entrepreneurs through a rigorous year long [or quarter] orientation programme – send them to power packed training programmes, at global institutes, or create our own high performance MDP programmes. But key is to equip motivated people, and get them [us] to embrace quality focused accountability with a glee. Even if MHRD needs to invest in this training, it can consider without winking an eye-lid. Flat 1 year, 10 mio USD – 100 top flight academic entrepreneurs can be created. This money would be less than a quarter percent of the money ear-marked to create physical assets. Building human capital is more important, as it has to harness all the investments pumped into labs and buildings.
A quick arithmetic to what a perspective change coupled with the planned investments in physical assets and miniscule investments human capital do. Like if we invest in 10 new institutes [already planned in current budgets], these new and the extant established 10-20 others ones, should be able to create…25-30 more in 10-15 years; and they all together should create at least in another 50 or so. So in 30 years, i.e one generation, we can have 100 plus world class institutes - from the current max 10 that we have. So that can really be India shining.

August 28, 2010


  1. There does not exist harmony in what we think, what we talk and what we do. We still possess a mind-set; the Govt. (just a new format of kingdom) should do this, do that.We must possess 3Ds: Determination, Dedication and Diligence. We need to be national minded and nation making. We start our terms late (as against the dates on paperm), we declare results late, we give many hours off, the nation is at loss. More schemes, more funding, more corruption. In present days, Rs 1000 crores scam is a normal incidence, accepted by everybody. Treat degrees as "social" goods and let the country decide how to use it, e.g., an MBBS/MBA/BE is going to a village to conduct literacy classes for 3 years, if nation wants it. We have forgotten: Education is charity, what will happen to the world if mothers start demanding fees from their husbamds for feeding their babies (Acharya Vinba Bhave: Shikshan Vichar: 1932). Optimize regulations, give a free hnad to institutes/universities, it is upto them to survive on their own or not. Implement 5 yeras tenure, continuation or promotion be based on contribution to R & D and consultancy. Living and tuition be free, and get 3% of the income back to alma-matter throughout life after graduation. Primary and Secondary education be the responsibility of Govt and higher of private sector. We had world-class universities and colleges in 18th and 19th centutry like Delhi, Calcuuta and Bombay and Roorkee College, BHU, COE, Sibpur and others many. Tokeyo University of Technology established in 1986 has become world-class university. Where do we stand? We are alreday 5 decades back; how to make good of this gap and have world clsss institutes? Ours is the only country where high-profiles are hardly booked. Adopt 3D, think in terms of nation whatever we do and see the sea change.

  2. 3Ds...lovely thought...someday, i hope to write a post with this theme...thanks.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Dura Pahada Sundara [Far-away Mountains are Beautiful]

I realize how seriously we take a place we visit specifically to see it – an event in itself, and how much taken for granted are those places that we can hop in an out with regularity and ease.

Interestingly I had never wrote or thought of writing about Puri or Konark or Cuttack. Places for which reams have been and can be written. The history, the culture, the cuisine and the local chutzpah [espl. Puri / Cuttack]. Even more interestingly, I have never pondered enough on these places and their unique niceties to have them simmering in my cerebral consciousness. They are somewhere deep there sedimented at best; and at [likely] worst, I do not have the desired ammunition to do justice to write anything substantial. Probably, I will have to resort to the frivolous flourish of the might of the language as a cover.

A point to note - I have never seen the Bali Yatra [Cuttackis don’t faint please]. The Puri beach and temple I have always felt is my backyard [so had the taken for granted attitu…

2019 – Winner takes home nothing

For a country of 70 years and many more years to come – one election that is likely throw up either a hung parliament or a toothless government is quite insignificant. Unless we follow elections only for adrenalin rush, we should not follow 2019 general elections at all.
The earlier blog was based on current sentiments and elementary game theory. It has thrown up some names and scenarios. We all know that the electorate is fickle and so are the sentiments. We also know, that the BJP election machinery is the best in the country today {sans probably the BJD in Odisha – which has an equally hard nosed and through machinery; in addition it has the finesse to be not seen as giving war rhetoric despite ruffling many a feathers) so the tables can turn.
However for the purpose of this blog, lets assume my prognosis in the last blog holds true. It is a good read and nice spice for future story-telling, but such situations will not result in lasting success for the winners.
What this would …