As I have been saying for more than a year, my hope from IoE process was that if 10 private institutions are given complete autonomy, they will improve in their quality of education and research and that would create a constituency for greater autonomy for everyone. And my reason for disappointment with the process was that only 2 private institutions were selected (Greenfield does not count since there is no comparison between pre-autonomy and post-autonomy era in their case), and even from these two, one's autonomy has been withheld. I really wish they had given autonomy to the best 10 institutions without bothering about whether they would be in top 500 in 10 years or not.
A question that I have been asked is whether graded autonomy wouldn't serve the purpose. The answer is NO. IoE autonomy is greater than the highest level of graded autonomy. Most importantly, IoE autonomy is taking them away from state government control by converting these private universities into deemed to be universities (if they are not already deemed to be universities). And many states have controls which are sometimes even worse than what UGC/AICTE impose. For example, in some states, tuition control is so rigid that there is no way you can follow all UGC/AICTE guidelines on faculty:student ratio and the give the salaries to faculty members that are recommended by UGC.
Over the last couple of decades, I have been hoping that the competitions between states to attract the best educational institutions would ensure that they come up with policies giving more autonomy to their institutions. I was hoping, for example, that other states will notice how Rajasthan has so many private players setting up good quality institutions and will realize that it is because Rajasthan has very light regulatory framework for private universities. But this hasn't happened. On the contrary, in some states the regulatory framework is becoming more rigid, reducing autonomy for their private universities. Unfortunately, quality is not a focus of our education policy, only cost is. Worthless degrees at low cost are considered better than good education at higher cost, particularly in an election year, and the changes done in an election year cannot be undone after the elections.
So given that worthless degrees at low cost will remain the focus of higher education policy of most states, is there any way we can have some quality institutions in such state (other than central government ones and the deemed universities). Recently in a meeting, I heard this solution. (So this is not my idea, but I loved it, and hence sharing it here.) Have an IoE scheme at the state level. Just convince the state governments that they can have 100s of colleges where all their voters can get admission, but just give autonomy to 5 private universities in the state based on whatever criteria of quality you decide.
Just imagine if 20 states declare 5 private universities each as autonomous and these are also able to get autonomy from UGC under the graded autonomy scheme, we would really have 100 universities who can then try to improve their quality of education and research way beyond the expectations of our regulators. If we don't worry about top 500 but only about the quality, there is a greater chance of our universities being in top 500.
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