How to reform Higher Education
Rajaram Sukumar, 30 Jul 2014

WE are still in an era where a student primarily goes to class to register his/her attendance and appears in the examination to secure a good grade. Those were appropriate for the days when a candidate needed a piece of paper called “degree” to get a job – knowing fully well that such a paper generally helps one in hiding (and not showing – as the common perception suggests) his/her lack of knowledge in the corresponding subject.

In today’s world characterized by fast changing technology and very dynamic market requirements, acquiring (and upgrading) knowledge and skill happens to be the ultimate necessity.  A formal degree is still important – but only to a certain extent – probably in getting a job, but it is grossly inadequate in retaining the job and growing with the industries. Furthermore, academic and professional decisions of students in our country are still largely influenced by the parents and/or teachers – and this leads to a huge mismatch between the students’ potential and credentials vis-à-vis his/her branch of study.  But, convergence of profession with passion is a must for the success and happiness of any professional.

In this background, changing the mind-set is the biggest roadblock.  We must understand – love and passion for the subject a student is learning is of ultimate importance – and this also happens to be irreplaceable recipe for his/her future professional success.

 

Regulatory regime 

The purpose of any regulatory system is to ensure conformance to prescribed set of norms and procedures. This is definitely required for a country with extremely large population. However, respect for self-regulation is a mandatory prerequisite for ensuring effectiveness of any externally imposed regulatory system. 

  • A strict regulatory system ensures “mediocrity” which is definitely required for a large average population. However, unless appropriate measures are taken, such an initiative also acts as a major impediment for nourishing excellence.  This is one of the primary reasons for our inability to come up with innovation-driven outcomes emerging out of our higher education system.

  • In a globalized environment characterized by predominantly market dynamics, regulatory system must act as an enabler for the well-performing institutes to emerge stronger.

  • Since media plays a very significant role in developing idea about perception, role of regulatory procedure becomes even more important.

 

Research publications

First aspect we all must appreciate – in a domain predominantly dealing with intangible issues (as applicable for academics), quality cannot be quantified completely.  Any effort to develop metrics for such quantification has the inherent potential in failing to recognize excellence.

Prof. Swapan BhattacharyaProf. Swapan Bhattacharya

Director, National Institute of
Technology Karnataka, Surathkal

A formal degree is still important today – but only to a certain extent – probably in getting a job, but it is grossly inadequate in retaining the job and growing with the industries

Recent efforts in trying to measure research publications by some numbers – and then, linking this outcome with the promotion of faculty members, have resulted in an extremely uncomfortable trend to publish in sub-standard forums. It may also be noted that platforms for quality of research publications also varies depending on the discipline concerned.  As an example, in the domain of Computer Science & Engineering, publication in the proceedings of several very well-known international conferences is internationally acknowledged as a much greater achievement than publishing in many internationally well-known journals. Similarly, when a research article is contributed by several authors, the ordering of the names of the authors varies in accordance with the convention followed in the concerned Institutes/countries.

Naturally, it is imperative to focus on the perceived quality, as observed by world-class universities, while encouraging our researchers to publish their research outcomes. 

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