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How Much Does India Spend Per Student on Elementary Education?

+1 vote
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 ​                                                                  Image credit: Mint

India spent 1.75% of the GDP (Centre and states combined) on EE, while private expenditure, admittedly an underestimation, was 0.71% of the GDP. Richer states spent less on EE as a % of their GDP, compared to the poorer states. There is significant variation across states in public expenditure per government school student and private expenditure per private school student.

http://cprindia.org/sites/default/files/working_papers/working_paper_series1.pdf​                                             Ambrish Dongre | Avani Kapur | Vibhu Tewary​                                                                                         Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research

On an average, higher the per capita income, higher is the public and private expenditure per government school student and per private school student, respectively. Differences in public expenditure on teacher salaries per government school student are also an important reason why public expenditure per government school student differs so dramatically across the states.

 Preliminary analysis shows that higher per student public expenditure (and per student private expenditure) is associated with higher proportion of students being able to read or do math of a particular level. But we argue that this fact should not be taken to mean that more expenditure is needed to improve learning levels because government expenditure on EE is highly inefficient. It produces low levels of outcomes at high expenditure. Changing this requires reorganizing the financial architecture by prioritizing learning outcomes and demanding accountability toward learning outcomes from all officials, above everything else.

Read more at : http://cprindia.org/sites/default/files/working_papers/working_paper_series1.pdf

posted May 24, 2017 by Krinz Kiran

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Photo Source:The Statesman

By- Jitendra Kumar Das

https://www.thestatesman.com/opinion/india-cant-hold-back-on-education-reforms-1502678755.html

By 2030, India will be one of the youngest nations in the world, with an estimated 140 million individuals in their 20s. In fact, one in every four graduates of the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system.

Education is an essential tool for achieving development and sustainability. In this context, the quality of higher education becomes increasingly important, as India strives to compete and integrate with a globalised economy where highly-qualified, innovative and creative professionals are required.

Our higher education system – be it government universities, private institutes or self-financed bodies – operates in a pincer-like grip of regulations. Broadly, it is only the IIMs and IITs – both effectively outside the traditional Indian university system – that have the autonomy and flexibility of decision-making, and both sets of institutions have done the country proud.

It is a matter of grave concern that a number of higher educational institutions in India have dropped abysmally low in quality delivery over the last few decades. For they have become rule-fulfillers and not deliverers of quality education.

This, typically, is the outcome in such organisations where decision-makers are not accountable for poor performance. Most universities neither get sufficient funds from the government, nor can raise funds to meet their development and research needs.

Therefore, the ability of most Indian universities and institutes of higher learning is unfavourably blunted due to extremely limited flexibility in their decision-making process; the reason, more often than not, is various governance issues. This creates a wide gap in what the desirable outcome is and what is actually delivered by these universities and institutes of higher learning.

To meet the huge, unmet demand for job-oriented education and training, the government must “free-up” public universities and institutions. In addition, it must encourage – through appropriate policy interventions – the private sector to actively contribute to higher education.

However, instead of encouraging the role of private sector in higher education, the public policy so far appears to be unfriendly and discouraging towards the private sector, with conflicting signals coming from various higher education regulating bodies of the government.

If we talk about management education in particular, one must note that there exist many renowned high-quality private institutions in India, providing world-class education. These private institutions are committed to educational excellence and are conscious of their responsibilities. They have quality infrastructure, admirable course curriculum and faculty, affordable fee structure and location, and, above all, remarkable placements.

Management education in India has traversed a long distance over the years and has established itself as a powerful force capable of bringing about a manufacturing revolution in the country. It provides the foundation to young managers to be part of the desired paradigm shift in the Indian growth trajectory.

Due to our vast customer base, businesses across the globe are eyeing the Indian market and are keen to start local operations. Also, a large number of business initiatives have been launched by the government recently in its endeavour to not only make the country a manufacturing hub, but also to make her economic growth more inclusive. These forces have increased the demand for professional managers manifold, making management education more important than ever.

It is thus essential for all concerned policy-makers, educational planners, administrators and regulators to revive the very thinking of parity in rules and regulations governing both the public and private sector higher educational institutions. A common corporate law that governs public and private business enterprises is a good example to cite.

Such a major reform in higher education might just prove to be even more productive than an open invitation to foreign universities to set up campuses in India – independently or jointly with local institutions. It is time to have a coherent policy framework that acknowledges the complementarity of public and private sector to contribute to the higher education system and ensure its sustainable development.

+2 votes

NEW DELHI: India has taken a firm step towards building 20 world-class educational institutions, which will be termed Institutions of Eminence, with the human resource development ministry moving the proposal to the Union Cabinet for approval. Firmly bearing the stamp of the Prime Minister’s Office, this is a new framework to catapult Indian institutions to global recognition by freeing the best of them from the University Grants Commission’s restrictive regulatory regime and ushering in an unprecedented level of institutional autonomy. Here are some of the finer details:

http://www.bullfax.com/?q=node-modi-govt-firming-plan-create-indias-own-harvard

WHAT WILL MAKE THEM ‘EMINENT’ The UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) regulations, 2017 will govern all such institutions that are conferred with this status, ensuring their complete academic, administrative and financial autonomy. These regulations will override all other UGC regulations and free the institutions of UGC’s restrictive inspection regime, the regulatory control over fee and curriculum.

* The institutions will have to achieve a place in the top 500 of any of the global rankings within 10 years of being declared an institution of eminence and eventually reach the top 100 slot * They will have a teacher: student ratio of 1:20 to begin with and 1:10 in five years, with a student enrolment of 15,000 in 15 years. There will be a good mix of Indian and international faculty, and only those who come with a degree from top 500 institutions in global rankings will be considered eligible foreign faculty. * The institutions will be free to select students through a merit-based transparent admission process to ensure no meritorious student is turned away for lack of funds.

Up to 30% foreign students vis-à-vis the strength of domestic students can be admitted. The institution will be free to decide its fee structure but will have to declare it in a transparent manner. Any reports of capitation fee will be treated as serious violation.

An Ombudsman will be set up to cater to student grievances. * One paper will have to be published per faculty member per year on average in a reputed peer reviewed international journal, with publications included in SCOPUS, Web Science, etc. to be counted as a research publication. A world-class library with subscriptions to reputed journals related to courses offered will have to be maintained along with cutting-edge research in frontier areas.

Read more at: http://www.bullfax.com/?q=node-modi-govt-firming-plan-create-indias-own-harvard

+1 vote

image

Photo Credits: TOI

BENGALURU: It's common for politicians to do nothing but crib about the dwindling number of students in government schools. But a politician-official partnership in Hubballi-Dharwad has managed to arrest this negative trend with a simple strategy: starting pre-primary (kindergarten) classes in government schools.
The move has yielded positive results as the student intake in Dharwad Urban division has increased by 2,247 students in 61 government schools between 2015-16 and 2017-18. Inspired by the outcome, the government is contemplating starting kindergarten classes in all government schools across the state next year. The finance department is currently evaluating the proposal.


MLA, Hubbali-Dharwad (West), Arvind Chandrakant Bellad, whose brainchild it was to start kindergarten classes in government schools, said: "We realized that not many parents were putting their kids in government schools because the entry-level age for first standard is five years and ten months. So, parents preferred to send their kids, who have attained three years and ten months and out of playschool, to lower kindergarten (LKG) in private schools. The usual tendency among parents is to continue their kids in private schools and, hence, the number of kids in government schools was low. We decided to bridge the gap between playschool and first standard by commencing kindergarten classes in government schools."


The move was not an easy one, given the legal hurdles and financial implications involved. Bellad started with the government school at Kelageri village near Dharwad by taking members of the school development and monitoring committee (SDMC) and local education department officials into confidence."We decided to pool in resources and rope in teachers from outside for kindergarten classes. It worked and the number of admissions gradually shot up. The same model was replicated in 36 out of the 63 schools in 201415. It was extended to 40 schools in 2015-16 and 61 schools in 2017-18."

The education department officials too joined hands by redeploying staff."Some schools had teachers who had little work and some had physical training teachers with less work load. Such teachers were engaged in kindergarten. Of course, they were sensitized about the needs of kids and the larger goal of getting and retaining more students in government schools. We also got teachers from outside by paying them a monthly honorarium of Rs 3,000-4,000," said Bellad. What has made these kindergarten popular among parents is the fact that emphasis is being laid on teaching English along with Kannada.

Education department officials recently briefed primary education minister Tanveer Sait about the initiative and he was quite appreciative of it

By Rakesh Prakash

0 votes

        

Picture Source: artofliving.org

By- Grin

https://grin.news/how-learning-sanskrit-literally-expands-and-improves-the-brain-307770cb12b4

Dr. James Hartzell studied Sanskrit and India studies at Harvard and Columbia University. He then went on to do cognitive neuroscience research at the University of Trento (Italy). His work shows that people who memorize long Sanskrit texts have brains that literally expand and become better with sharper memory and cognitive skills. His research paper shows results of tests done on a group of verbal memory specialists to determine whether intensive oral text memory is associated with structural features of hippocampal and lateral-temporal regions implicated in language processing. Professional Vedic Sanskrit pandits (priests) in India train from childhood for around 10 years in an ancient, formalized tradition of oral Sanskrit text memorization and recitation, mastering the exact pronunciation and invariant content of multiple 40,000–100,000 word oral texts. Tests conducted structural analysis of gray matter density, cortical thickness, local gyrification, and white matter structure, relative to matched controls. The tests found massive gray matter density and cortical thickness increases in pandit brains in language, memory and visual systems, including i) bilateral lateral temporal cortices and ii) the anterior cingulate cortex and the hippocampus, regions associated with long and short-term memory. It must be noted that increased grey matter density is not the same thing as increased grey matter volume (“expansion”) — in fact the researchers found a slight decrease in the volume of the right hippocampus in pandits when they did a volume-specific analysis. Differences in hippocampal morphometry matched those previously documented for expert spatial navigators and individuals with good verbal working memory. The findings provide unique insight into the brain organization implementing formalized oral knowledge systems. He told Grin why his research is a breakthrough.

                     

Picture Source: grin.news

1. How long and to what extent have you studied Sanskrit and what first brought you to study Sanskrit?

I completed an undergraduate major in Sanskrit and Indian studies (BA magna cum laude) at Harvard. I also did part of a PhD at Harvard but eventually withdrew with just a Masters in Sanskrit and Indian Studies. Later I did a second Masters and finished the PhD at Columbia University under Prof. Robert Thurman. Since then I have continued part time work translating from Sanskrit and Tibetan, and I have a translation forthcoming from the American Institute of Buddhist Studies and Columbia University Press. Since I have taken complete breaks from work with Sanskrit at several points in my career it is difficult to quantify the exact length of time.

What first brought me to study Sanskrit is amusing: one of my brothers (who is now a Sikh yogi and yoga teacher) became interested in Eastern studies — we were roommates at home and I started reading some of the books he had collected. I then spent a year as an exchange student in England (at The Rugby School) and my housemaster there introduced me to more material about the eastern traditions. When I arrived at Harvard as a freshman I decided to take a comparative religions course. I was drawn most strongly to the eastern traditions — Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist, and I decided initially to major in Comparative Religions. We were required to choose one scriptural language to study, and I chose Sanskrit since both the Hindu and the Buddhist traditions have strong Sanskrit roots, so I thought this language would give me the best access to both of these very large traditions. I was also frustrated by the multiplicity of English translations for Sanskrit terminology that appeared in secondary sources, so I wanted to learn the language for myself and see what the original meanings were. Soon after starting my sophomore year I became frustrated with the approaches typical of comparative religion studies, and I decided to major in Sanskrit and Indian studies. This was over the objections of both my parents and the head of the Sanskrit department — I later learned that I was only the third person in the history of Harvard to major in Sanskrit as an undergraduate.

2. When you began to start learning long Sanskrit texts by heart, as is traditionally done, what did you observe about your learning capabilities?

I have never learnt a Sanskrit text by heart, as is traditionally done. At Harvard and Columbia we were trained as translators, using the traditional training methods used in western universities for classical languages — we were not trained to speak, write, or recite the texts, but simply to translate them from Sanskrit into English. The lack of use of spoken (or recite) Sanskrit I found unfortunate, since, as I later learned, Sanskrit is still, and always has been, a living language in India — there have always been Sanskrit speakers and reciters, although the total number is relatively small compared to other languages.

It’s difficult to parse exactly what the specific effect of learning to translate Sanskrit has had on my learning capabilities — it would be an interesting scientific study to try and identify such an effect, though perhaps difficult to do. What I have noticed is that if I work intensively in Sanskrit then my mind seems to shift gears in a fundamental sort of way. Sort of like getting into a car and driving as compared to walking, or going swimming as opposed to walking on dry land. The effect of thinking in Sanskrit is really interesting — I find my mind somehow works more fluidly. One time, when I was working in South Africa on one of the committees of the Medical Research Council Board of Governors, a colleague (I believe he was a cardiologist) turned to me and kindly said that he had never met anyone who had such an ability for lateral thinking as I demonstrated regularly in those meetings. Other times ,when I was taking cognitive science courses in the masters program in Italy, my fellow students (some of whom are still very good friends) would corner me and ask — okay, how do you do that? You remember exactly the words the instructor has used, and you can ask them questions quoting them back to themselves? I wasn’t able to answer my friends on this point.

3. What did you find our engaging and enriching about the Sanskrit texts?

The Sanskrit tradition is very deep and rich. I have been told that the volume of Sanskrit texts still just in manuscripts in institutional and private libraries all over India exceeds by many multiples the entire corpus of ancient Greek literature that played such an important role in the development of modern western civilization. There is extensive Sanskrit literature in yoga, mantra, philosophy, ritual, poetry, drama, music, history, myth, ancient astronomy and astrology, mathematics and many other disciplines such as traditional Ayurveda medicine. For some reason I’ve long been drawn to the tradition. After years of study and reading I think that probably the most engaging domains for me are those that relate to the person — i.e., how are we who we are, how are we constituted physically and mentally, and what are the potential dimensions of us that can be developed and enhanced.

4. Why did you decide to run MRI scans and other scientific study of the brains of Sanskrit pandits (priests) used to learning, memorizing and reciting long texts?

Given my own experiences as a Sanskrit-to-English translator and longtime student of the Sanskrit and Indic traditions, as I was trained as a cognitive neuroscientist I wanted to try and begin to scientifically investigate what I’ve called the Sanskrit effect: why is it that when working in the language I experience such significant shifts in cognitive function? This is also a topic discussed in many ways in the Sanskrit tradition itself. So when I had the opportunity to begin scientific research on this topic I thought it appropriate to begin with the oldest part of the tradition — i.e. the tradition of Vedic memorization and recitation — out of respect for the Sanskrit tradition as a whole, and as a way of beginning to establish a scientific baseline for further studies.

3. Tell us the process in which you went about doing this study: how many people (Sanskrit scholars/priests) did you run scans and tests on, and what were the most astonishing results and revelations?

The details of some of this are in our Neuroimage paper. We scanned 21 professionally qualified Shukla Yajur Veda pandits from the Delhi region (since this was the population available that was closest geographically to the NBRC scanning facility) and 21 controls matched for age, gender, ethnicity, multilingualism, handedness and eye dominance, and approximate education levels.

There were several results that were impressive. First was simply the extent of the changes in grey matter density and cortical thickness. Over 10% of the neocortex in pandits had more grey matter density than the controls. One could even see the difference in the raw data scans early in the data analysis before the final results, particularly in the prefrontal cortex where we found a huge cluster. We were quite surprised by the extent of the grey matter density increases in the right hippocampus and the associated lateral temporal regions. As with the overall pattern of brain differences between the two groups, the extent of the differences in the hippocampus and lateral temporal regions was unprecedented. The extent of the relative increase in grey matter density of the pandits’ cerebellum was also remarkable — over one-third of the entire cerebellar grey matter.

4. What do these results mean for medical and educational science? Are they are breakthrough?

It’s difficult to say at this point what the results could mean for medical and educational science. Certainly the between-group differences we documented are dramatic and suggestive. One important point is that they demonstrate very clearly the remarkable structural plasticity potential of the brain — the mere fact of the extent of the group differences we documented indicates that the brain has a much larger and more complex structural plasticity potential than has been previously considered. While the blog piece focused on the memory-related brain structures involved and the possible implications for verbal-memory related pathologies, we documented in the Neuoimage paper many other remarkable differences with other implications. For instance, the very large relative increase in the pandit orbitofrontal cortex is interesting: my PhD examiner in Italy pointed out that that region is involved in cognitive control (among other things) and that they had noticed in their clinical work that criminals tended to have diminished grey matter in the same region suggesting that the loss of grey matter in this area was associated with loss of impulse control.

5. Your findings are likely to have an impact on cures for neuro-diseases like Alzheimer’s too, you have suggested. Please tell us more about this.

I am not a specialist in verbal memory-related pathologies such as Alzheimer’s, but from what I know it’s pretty clear that Alzheimer’s, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Semantic Dementia, and Aphasic anomia typically involve degeneration of the medial temporal lobes and related brain structures and circuitry. There is also evidence from other studies that certain types of cognitive training can increase grey matter density in these same regions. This suggests that some version of the type of mental and physical practice the pundits use (i.e. the memory dimension, the training dimension, and the recitation aspect) could potentially have a beneficial effect. This would need to be carefully researched and tested to find out — right now we have just a suggestion.

0 votes

       

Photo Source: The Wire

By- Pramod K. Nayar

https://thewire.in/education/the-spectre-of-rankings-haunts-the-higher-education-sector-in-india

There is a variety of ranking organisations – QS, THE, NIRF, NAAC, IoE, ARWU, etc. – in almost every conceivable acronym, compiling gigabytes of data to determine where universities stand, sit or crawl, and it is mind-boggling. The ranking parameters and criteria, including undergraduate teaching (especially in the Times Higher Education list), research (volume, citation index, income), teaching, employability, industry income (knowledge transfer) and internationalisation have been endlessly debated. So what roles do the modalities of evaluation and classification play in shaping the way we have started to think about these institutions?

This is not a plea for a variant of jingoistic nationalism in thinking about higher educator, rather an evaluation of what we do, are required to do, as we rush into the headlong halls of globalised ranking. Another question this shift into the rankings mode begs is: how best can we recalibrate ourselves to alleviate the tensions between a quantitative ranking system and the social needs higher education has been designed for until now? Can the former enable the latter?

Utility and the higher-education hierarchy

Ranking introduces a set of notions about the utility of a higher education institution. One can think of this as introducing a tension between the ideal of educational values, as we have understood if not articulated for years, and the market value. The former focuses on critical thinking, analytical abilities, social agendas and the inculcation of citizenship ideals that are unquantifiable and intangible because they manifest in our primary beneficiaries (or victims, depending on how we see higher education) in the long-term. The market value scheme, which is industry-driven, orients the project of neoliberal higher education training towards developing particular skill-sets for the labour market.

Also read: The New Colleges Ranking Framework is a Good Idea – But Will it Help?

This is not to say that there are segments of a population that only want to contemplate the absolute, live on love and fresh air and not want jobs. But the expected skill-sets from a quality higher education programme, as it stands today, does not seek a unidimensional product. This is changing with the neoliberal turn in higher education. The noted scholar Henry Giroux has this to say about the ‘attack’ on public institutions:

What we are witnessing is an attack on universities not because they are failing, but because they are public. This is not just an attack on political liberty but also an attack on dissent, critical education, and any public institution that might exercise a democratising influence on the nation. In this case the autonomy of institutions such as higher education, particularly public institutions are threatened as much by state politics as by corporate interests. How else to explain in neoliberal societies such as the U.S., U.K. and India the massive defunding of public institutions of higher education, the raising of tuition for students, and the closing of areas of study that do not translate immediately into profits for the corporate sector.

Ranking systems ensure that, globally, all universities seek to fit into a single model of the university because all higher education institutions seek to gain in more or less the same set of parameters, irrespective of where they are located and the local cultures/societies they were set up to serve. This eventually leads to an alienation of the university from the immediate requirements of the locality, region and nation, as it strives to compete with very differently located (in terms of geography, demography, educational ecosystems) universities worldwide. If, for instance, a university was set up to provide greater access to higher education for a particular region and begins to shift its emphasis towards internationalisation and research (two key parameters in rankings), then does it serve its immediate populace better through quality classroom teaching? Would it then result in an alienation of our higher education institutions from our ecosystems because we are trying to fit into a global one?

Research and teaching, or research versus teaching

Greater emphasis is laid on publications and a concomitant emphasis, therefore, on research – but far less on teaching. Thus, one of the most widely used ranking systems, the QS World University Rankings, has only one indicator connected to teaching: the faculty-student ratio. To this it assigns 20% weightage. According to QS:

… teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of highest importance to them when comparing institutions using a ranking. It is notoriously difficult to measure, but we have determined that measuring teacher/student ratios is the most effective proxy metric for teaching quality.

A study published in March 2018 found the following:

A total of 24 ranking systems were identified and 13 eligible ranking systems were evaluated. Six of the 13 rankings are 100% focused on research performance. For those reporting weighting, 76% of the total ranks are attributed to research indicators, with 24% attributed to academic or teaching quality. Seven systems rely on reputation surveys and/or faculty and alumni awards.

Such weightage provided for research in most ranking mechanisms has resulted in the making of what Pushkar brilliantly described in an article for The Wire as ‘pretend research’. This results in, and in turn is driven by, the massification of publication. As an ironic consequence, India is finally an academic capital… for predatory journals. Seeking to boost rankings, universities emphasise – and perhaps fund (we need exact data on how funding for research has changed since the quite literal ‘ranking business’ began) – research rather than teaching. Weird results have also been reported – such as attempts to inflate citation (20% weightage in QS) through the unethical practice of excess self-citations – in the academic debate on rankings.

Eventually, unless teaching becomes central to evaluative and ranking processes, the basic work of most universities in India – teaching – will collapse if it hasn’t already. Teachers preparing for classes from Wikipedia (the chosen source for several colleagues in English is Spark Notes) is now a common feature, since student feedback on teaching quality is not factored into rankings or even for teacher-evaluation. When ‘publish or perish’ becomes the motto, we could perhaps ask if we publish perishable materials. (My senior colleague therefore asks that we distinguish between a ‘print-out’ and a ‘chapter’ in what faculty members write.)

Competition, standards and standardisation

An enhanced spirit of competition enters the system. Ranking introduces an element of competition between institutions, and parameters such as internationalisation imply that universities will have to compete for these resources. For example, as internationalisation is a key parameter attracting foreign students, it entails the development of programmes that will attract these students, ironically in a context where most higher education institutions have refused to upgrade their syllabi or pedagogies for Indian students. My own institution has sought, at least in principle, to strike a balance between the race for global ranking and our immediate mandate – good quality higher education for India – by thinking in terms of ‘national needs and global standards’. Nothing stops an institution from boosting its quality of teaching and research such that it impacts positively on our students’ futures.

Standards need not come from, or result in, standardisation. To adopt world-class standards within any domain of knowledge does not necessarily entail fitting into a global ranking mechanism. Updating and upgrading teaching materials, pedagogy and testing mechanisms, even research within the funding possibilities offered, can still be world class. Humanities and social sciences, deeply defensive in all evaluative mechanisms, are surely not quantifiable by the same indices (impact factor, H-index, etc.) but that does not ever mean that we cannot publish in the world’s top-ranked journals.

Also read: So You Think You Can Make Sense of University Rankings?

Even Indian faculty members, admittedly few in number, have done so in the past and continue to do so. These are aspirants to global standards but either do not homogenise or standardise their work. Seeking exclusion from rankings and global standards is to simply seek a state of (postcolonial) exception – although no one would refuse global funding for conference travel, fellowships or collaboration opportunities. For the latter, one doesn’t hear excuses that ‘we are different and need to be evaluated differently’, do we?  What we have to do is to ask if standards equal standardisation, given the mandate of different universities across the country, but at no point is it wise to abandon any and all discussion of standards.

With ranking tied to ‘graded autonomy’ that the Indian state is now proposing for select institutions, new parameters come into play. The relative freedom the latter provides, at least in theory, can (or must?) be suitably leveraged to generate resources that will then subsidise a higher education institution’s social agenda and programs. Cross-subsidy is an established mode of operations. For example, global publishers make enough money from their dictionaries and school textbooks to fund their higher education publishing, which has far lower sales.

The way we can see these two – ranking and autonomy – is that we raise standards to global levels to attract high-paying international students, which in turn funds the ‘regular’ programmes of an institution – programmes that are running aground for lack of state-provided funds (and this is one example). A two-tier system, therefore, seems inevitable in the current context.

The prestige economy

Greater emphasis is laid on publications and a concomitant emphasis, therefore, on research – but far less on teaching. Thus, one of the most widely used ranking systems, the QS World University Rankings, has only one indicator connected to teaching: the faculty-student ratio. To this it assigns 20% weightage. According to QS:

… teaching quality is typically cited by students as the metric of highest importance to them when comparing institutions using a ranking. It is notoriously difficult to measure, but we have determined that measuring teacher/student ratios is the most effective proxy metric for teaching quality.

A study published in March 2018 found the following:

A total of 24 ranking systems were identified and 13 eligible ranking systems were evaluated. Six of the 13 rankings are 100% focused on research performance. For those reporting weighting, 76% of the total ranks are attributed to research indicators, with 24% attributed to academic or teaching quality. Seven systems rely on reputation surveys and/or faculty and alumni awards.

Such weightage provided for research in most ranking mechanisms has resulted in the making of what Pushkar brilliantly described in an article for The Wire as ‘pretend research’. This results in, and in turn is driven by, the massification of publication. As an ironic consequence, India is finally an academic capital… for predatory journals. Seeking to boost rankings, universities emphasise – and perhaps fund (we need exact data on how funding for research has changed since the quite literal ‘ranking business’ began) – research rather than teaching. Weird results have also been reported – such as attempts to inflate citation (20% weightage in QS) through the unethical practice of excess self-citations – in the academic debate on rankings.

Eventually, unless teaching becomes central to evaluative and ranking processes, the basic work of most universities in India – teaching – will collapse if it hasn’t already. Teachers preparing for classes from Wikipedia (the chosen source for several colleagues in English is Spark Notes) is now a common feature, since student feedback on teaching quality is not factored into rankings or even for teacher-evaluation. When ‘publish or perish’ becomes the motto, we could perhaps ask if we publish perishable materials. (My senior colleague therefore asks that we distinguish between a ‘print-out’ and a ‘chapter’ in what faculty members write.)

Competition, standards and standardisation

An enhanced spirit of competition enters the system. Ranking introduces an element of competition between institutions, and parameters such as internationalisation imply that universities will have to compete for these resources. For example, as internationalisation is a key parameter attracting foreign students, it entails the development of programmes that will attract these students, ironically in a context where most higher education institutions have refused to upgrade their syllabi or pedagogies for Indian students. My own institution has sought, at least in principle, to strike a balance between the race for global ranking and our immediate mandate – good quality higher education for India – by thinking in terms of ‘national needs and global standards’. Nothing stops an institution from boosting its quality of teaching and research such that it impacts positively on our students’ futures.

Standards need not come from, or result in, standardisation. To adopt world-class standards within any domain of knowledge does not necessarily entail fitting into a global ranking mechanism. Updating and upgrading teaching materials, pedagogy and testing mechanisms, even research within the funding possibilities offered, can still be world class. Humanities and social sciences, deeply defensive in all evaluative mechanisms, are surely not quantifiable by the same indices (impact factor, H-index, etc.) but that does not ever mean that we cannot publish in the world’s top-ranked journals.

Also read: So You Think You Can Make Sense of University Rankings?

Even Indian faculty members, admittedly few in number, have done so in the past and continue to do so. These are aspirants to global standards but either do not homogenise or standardise their work. Seeking exclusion from rankings and global standards is to simply seek a state of (postcolonial) exception – although no one would refuse global funding for conference travel, fellowships or collaboration opportunities. For the latter, one doesn’t hear excuses that ‘we are different and need to be evaluated differently’, do we?  What we have to do is to ask if standards equal standardisation, given the mandate of different universities across the country, but at no point is it wise to abandon any and all discussion of standards.

With ranking tied to ‘graded autonomy’ that the Indian state is now proposing for select institutions, new parameters come into play. The relative freedom the latter provides, at least in theory, can (or must?) be suitably leveraged to generate resources that will then subsidise a higher education institution’s social agenda and programs. Cross-subsidy is an established mode of operations. For example, global publishers make enough money from their dictionaries and school textbooks to fund their higher education publishing, which has far lower sales.

The way we can see these two – ranking and autonomy – is that we raise standards to global levels to attract high-paying international students, which in turn funds the ‘regular’ programmes of an institution – programmes that are running aground for lack of state-provided funds (and this is one example). A two-tier system, therefore, seems inevitable in the current context.

The prestige economy

It is the prestige economy that alters the demographics of incoming students, faculty and funding. To be associated with a high-ranked institution translates in most cases to improved employer perception for students, more visibility for faculty work, collaboration, funding, travel, among others. Ranking then cannot be dismissed as a mere number. Over time, it can bring in benefits for stakeholders as well. Elsewhere, Ellen Hazelkorn lists these benefits:

For students, they indicate the potential monetary or private benefits that university attainment might provide vis-à-vis future occupation and salary premium; for employers, they signal what can be expected from the graduates of a particular HEI; for government and policymakers they can suggest the level of quality and international standards, and their impact on national economic capacity and capability; and for HEIs they provide a means to benchmark their own performance. For the public, rankings provide valuable information about the performance and productivity of HEIs in a simple and easily understood way.

Both rankings and the newly proposed autonomy systems reorient higher education into accountability regimes that are ruthless, unrelenting and multilayered, a study published by the Centre for Global Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, London, in 2017 made clear. As the world clamours for greater transparency, accountability and return-on-investments, the public institution, for long never held to account – although its faculty has always asked everybody else for accountability – faces a frightening situation of having to fit into this new economic and accountability regime.

Unfortunately, this shift comes when funding has decreased. A public university is, in the last instance, accountable to its public – but that it is the state that creates these mechanisms of accountability generates the anxiety in these places. At the same time, who else would do it? Accountability regimes, like the prestige economy, are here to stay – as are rankings.

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