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October 26, 2009

Sibal’s Admission

In an interaction with a Delhi-based newspaper, Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal has rightly pointed out the political grip on higher education in the country and the aberrations arising out of it: ‘‘If you look at any institution of higher education, a representative of the political class is involved. And that makes it very difficult to change the system. The whole education is in the domain of the government. And that is why you get the kind of aberrations that you see. There is a huge amount of political patronizing involved.’’ The best universities in the world are the ones where the government has very little to do or perhaps nothing. They are self-sustaining centres of excellence — in sharp contrast to Indian higher education institutions, including the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). The government fails to realize that if the IIMs and IITs are a globally recognized institutions whose products are respected and cherished all over the world, it is despite the government. India wants to compete with the developed bloc and effect a knowledge society. How can it then afford to put the higher education system in the domain of the government? Now that Sibal has admitted a crippling higher education reality, one hopes that he would embark upon a new HRD course by freeing higher education from the clutch of the government. It is autonomy, institution-industry interface and expansion in research that are the hallmark of a meaningful higher education system. Most of our institutions are bereft of those characteristics because the government has not allowed things to happen that way. It must change now. And sooner the better. THE SENTINEL

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