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Millennium Post

Education: our best is not good enough

The QS World University Rankings are out. We as a nation have drawn a blank again when it comes to the top 200 – as in previous years. That is no great news; we may reflect something like this: It is an annual feature and who knows how much of this information comes to us doctored or based on parameters that do not suit emerging economies like ours. There can be no comparison with the advanced economies of the West. Europe and the US have attained very high levels of development – often at the cost of poor countries of Asia and Africa – and therefore have today the resources to make such huge investments for setting up five-star universities; it also brings them moolah as foreign students in large numbers are attracted to their institutions. On the other hand, we are trying to put our house in order after years of imperialistic exploitation. Then we have to feed and clothe our poor before we focus on such trivia as higher education.

Having relied upon this rather unreasonable caveat, we perhaps do need to do some soul-searching. Let us look little closely at the list of the top 200 universities. It will transpire that we are too much Europe-centric; we need to look beyond. The list contains 40-odd universities from Asia, including two from South America – one each from Brazil and Mexico.

If we do not worry even now, then there must be something wrong with us. A country with a large human resource base and a huge pool of technical work force still lags behind many tiny countries, some of these just about the size of our metros. It does not give us a reason to smile. Many of these universities have multiple campuses, with high student enrolment, a good number of international faculty and overseas students. They have sprawling campuses with highly developed infrastructure, well qualified teachers, rich libraries and advanced research facilities. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), established in 1971, with 10,249 students today, has an annual budget of $765 million. This was around the same time when the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) was set up in Delhi as a premier postgraduate institute of research for liberal arts and sciences. Its budget last year was Rs 262 crore. JNU since its inception has contributed considerably to the cause of higher education in India but does it compare today with any of these acclaimed Asian universities, let alone those in the US or Europe? If Taiwan, Malaysia and Chile can build institutions of international repute, where have we faltered?

On arrangement with Governance Now
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