Govt. to increase checks on private universities

Amid the rising issues of fake degrees, irregularities in finances and other operations and a multifold rise in complaints against the privately owned universities in India has prompt the government and higher education regulator (UGC) to strengthen its monitoring mechanisms in order to have close look and deal with the issues involving malpractices by these private universities.

Increasing Number of Private Universities:

• Private participation in Education is a good step in India and has played a significant role in higher education given the less accommodation in Government schools and universities. 

• The recent decade has seen a multifold increase in the number of state private universities from 16 out of 368 in 2007 to 235 out of 744 till Feb 2016. While the total universities have doubled in the last nine years, private universities have grown 14-fold in the same period.

• Education impacts the human societies in all positive aspects hence the increasing number of private universities and multiple increase in complaints against them has made the government to bring effective monitoring mechanisms, in order to bring transparency and accountability in Universities functioning and providing quality education to citizens.

Measures taken by UGC:

• In order to curb the illegal practices by the private universities, Universities Grant Commission (UGC) has made a committee of experts for inspecting the various universities to check their irregular and illegal practices. In the past several months the committee has inspected at least 137 Private Universities asking to rectify their shortcomings and submit the action taken reports by July 2016.

• The expert group has also found at least three universities, including one in Rajasthan and two from North-Eastern States, fit to be shut down and the UGC has instructed the concern states for the same but a formal announcement is still waiting.

Privatization of Education in India:

• India has private education institutions in the form of so called public schools (like Mayo College, Doon School) and Christian Missionary Schools and Colleges prior to the independence. These institutions used to be run by their own Board of Management without much government interventions.

• Post independence huge surge in population with less accommodative government schools have escalated the demand of private schools/universities which has actively been supported by the central and state government. The allowances of the teachers’ at all levels are determined in accordance with the national and state wage scales. 

• With the active support of the central and state governments to establish state-owned or government-aided schools the number has gone up. After 1990s interlinked process of globalization and liberalization have also tremendously affected the educational process in India.

• These positive initiatives have opened up many forms of privatization and has witnessed rise in private tuition, subcontracting the publication of textbooks to private agencies, selection and appointment of teachers by their own management boards on their own terms and conditions.

• The active support from both the governments (Centre and State) has encourages many reputed foreign education institutions (e.g., Oxford, Harvard) to foothold their foundational branches in India which in turn has brought both opportunities and challenges. 

• Witnessing the benefits and opportunities with the quality education over the years among all strata of society including the most vulnerable one and marginalized, the demand of schooling has grown many folds. 

• In the wake of widespread demand of degrees and prompt action for acquiring degrees by any means has given opportunities to many private universities to sell out their degrees and thus practicing illegality and irregularity in their process. Despite an increase in enrollment, the content and quality and process of schooling and teaching practices are not only degrading but also discriminatory.

• However, faulty and improper monitoring mechanism encouraged these private institutions to adopt unethical practices in terms of distributing fake degrees, irregularities in financial transactions & operations and degrading educational qualities.

• There is much that must leave us unhappy about the functioning of India’s public higher education sector. It has held the country back in many ways, principally by not responding with solutions for our pressing needs. It cannot be left the way it is. So it is time that its record be subjected to open social audit, prior to it being thoroughly reformed.

• All expansion should be put on hold till the latter task is completed. But there is no case for it to be privatized wholesale, not even its professional colleges. Equivalently, once an effective regulatory framework is in place, it makes little sense to stymie the growth of the private sector in higher education.