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July 18, 2009

Of the Yash Pal Impact

Satya Ranjan Doley

Higher education plays a pivotal role in building a nation. No one can imagine the progress of its country without having a good system of higher education. Higher education is the key that shows the nation which direction it should proceed. A nation is progressive and enlightened when the people of that country are highly qualified in diverse fields. Invention and innovation are the result of research, and fruitful and effective higher education alone can give research the right direction and enrich the country scientifically, socially, economically and politically. In the present context, it is imperative that there should be reform in higher education.

The Government of India constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Professor Yash Pal to review and offer recommendations on the existing system of higher education. The committee after consultation with many academicians had prepared the report and submitted it to the Ministry of HRD for follow-up action. The HRD Ministry accepted the report submitted by the committee and also agreed to execute the recommendations made by it on the renovation and rejuvenation of higher education.

The report outlines that, first, there is need for greater autonomy for colleges and universities. For that the UGC should give some powers to these organizations for smooth functioning. New colleges and universities should not be prevented from mushrooming. The UGC should rate the universities and institutes of higher education and publicize the ratings in detailed manner every year. The ratings should also be easily available in a website.

Second, the report spells out that it is not possible for any government to run over 300 universities with equal generosity. The old system in which the pay package of every professor was same is not feasible in today’s times.Thus, special pay packages should be paid for star researchers and professors, as in the US where this system first began. The exact modality of this will entail discussion and debate. The average salary of all professors all over India can be held constant and this may be achieved by simply creating a graded salary system. It is expected that this would transform the quality of India’s higher education.

Third, the report mentions that private sector money be allowed to come into higher education. The purely private colleges should of course not be subsidized by the state. They should be allowed to set colleges fees as high as they choose. Let the rich students enroll themselves in such institutions. There is no harm in this. In fact it has some advantages also as the state will then be able to allocate more money to the colleges and universities under its charge and provide good education to the remainder at a lower cost. But there is a common presumption that private institutions want to make money at the cost of quality. This is not logical and if private parties intend to set up educational institutions, it is a welcome step.

Fourth, it is outlined in the report that it is time to make India the world’s hub of higher education. The advantage in higher education in India is our strength in English language and low cost of living. For this reason, India can attract students not only from the underdeveloped countries but also from the developed countries. In the US, the annual cost of education is approximately Rs 25 lakh. If India can build some good universities and publicize them well, foreign students will be attracted to study in India because of low cost and this will bring in money into the country. This will make it possible for the Indian government to subsidize Indian students pursuing higher education.

In the context of Assam, the existing higher eduction in the State is horrible and not catering to the needs and requirements of the present day. The people of Assam are witnessing the deteriorating condition of higher education. This is a matter of serious concern and needs to be given immediate attention so that appropriate steps can be taken early to reform the whole system of higher education.

So far as the Yash Pal committee report is concerned, it will have some impact on higher education in Assam. The advantages may be pointed out: that differential pay packages, as mentioned in the committee report, will give an impetus to faculty members to work harder and contribute to the enhancement of professional skill. This in turn will result in improvement of the quality and rating system of institutions. It will give scope to upgrade institutions as every institution of higher education will try to be rated among the top ones.

The report speakes about the entry of private institutions in the higher education sector without any prevention from the regulatory authority. This may be a drawback because there is every possibility that talented and meritorious students would prefer these institutions because of their infrastructure and other benefits. Non-availability of meritorious and talented students in government-run institutions will make it difficult for these institutions to survive in the market for long. How this problem can be solved is a big question mark.

Nevertheless, the advantages of the Yash Pal committee’s main report outweighs the disadvantages, if it is executed in true letter and spirit.

(The writer is a faculty member of DHSK Commerce College, Dibrugarh.)


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