In this issue of the Journal, we present five research manuscripts and one illustrative case-analysis. While the research manuscripts are eclectic and varied in topics and methodologies, they are high on relevance and rigor. That is why they find a place in this Journal. We are thankful to the authors for sharing their manuscripts, and we are confident that academics and scholars will find the research insightful and interesting.
As the editor, I am presenting below an essay that Dr. Rajan Saxena and I wrote about three years back for a Conference Proceedings at Nirma University of Science and Technology on metrics of quality higher education. We produce that essay here, because we think that this is timely and highly relevant in today’s debate on quality of higher education in India.
Institutional Excellence Beyond Traditional Metrics of Quality
Higher education is a driver of economic development, prosperity, social justice and empowerment. So, as stewards of higher learning and education we have an obligation and responsibility to enhance these outcomes. This not only requires an understanding of science and technology, commerce and business but also cultivation of values and critical inquiry.
Transformative discoveries in science and technology have come from compelling curiosity. For example, Newton did thought experiments and postulated the laws of motion, the gravitational theory and the differential calculus. Einstein’s theory of relativity is more an outcome of his deep reflection, than work in large labs. Mahatma Gandhi experimented new forms of protests, and demonstrated their effectiveness and universality. Rabindranath Tagore explored new forms of teaching and learning. All these exemplars advise us that our learners should be endowed with values and critical thinking.
In India, where inclusiveness and innovation are central to our shared prosperity, such attributes are even more urgent. Therefore, our urgent need of the hour in higher education is to excel beyond traditional metrics of quality of satisfaction and service to the customers.
State of Higher Education in India
Annual enrollment in higher education has been growing at over 6 percent since mid-1980s when measured cumulatively. However, in the last decade the growth has been even more aggressive – the annual enrollment for most of the years has been over 10 percent. The demographic shift to a younger population has increased the demand for higher education. It is estimated over 60 percent of India’s population is less than 30 years old. The estimated median ages for United States, United Kingdom, Russia and China are 36.7, 40.2, 38.4 and 34.1 respectively. But for India the estimated median age is 25.3, a dramatically lower number. The lower median age suggests higher potential work-force productivity for India, but such higher productivity will not materialize without education and skills development. Here, our responsibilities and challenges are monumental but so are our potential rewards.
Accordingly, we have to design policies and programs to create high-quality education which is not exclusive or elitist but democratized. Thus, high-quality education should be relatively easily accessible and available. As demonstrated by researchers (Frei, 2006) in other areas, excellence and efficiency or accessibility can be complementary, and they do not have to adversely impact each other.
In this context, liberalization and privatization in higher education have propelled the growth of educational institutions. For example, in the decade 1999-2009, the number of private educational institutions has grown from about 200 to 730 in pharmacy, about 660 to about 1600 in engineering, about 680 to about 2,500 in business and management, and about 780 to about 1,000 in computer applications. The expansion in the number of medical colleges was modest, from about 174 to about 223, probably because of greater regulatory control¹.