India Higher Education Seminar, March 17, 2009

It was a busy day today. We went to three different institutions of higher education. We started at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration and met the Vice Chancellor as well as the Chairperson of University Grants Commission.   NUEPA is the home institution of Dr. Sudha Rao.  The UGC is like the U.S. Dept. of Education. THe UCG allocates money to colleges and universities through a granting system. It was quite an honor to meet with the UGC Chairperson. Below is a picture of the USIEF delegation with the chairperson of UGC who is seated in the middle in the front row. We also learned more about the structure of higher education in India. Instititions can be established by Parliament (National Universities – most prestiguous), by the state (State Universities), working their way to university standing (deemed universities), institutions of state importance, institutions of national importance (such as the Institute of Science in Bangalore), or private. Private institutions have been recently introduced to India – within the last 10 years – and are working hard to get recognition by the population. We also learned that 11% of the population of 18 to 23 year olds in India attend an institution of higher education. In developed nations, this number is 52%. India wants to increase this number to 15% by 2012 and 20% by 2020. Currently, India spends about 3.5% of its GDP on higher education and the target is 6%. As the chairperson of UGS said, “We’ve come a long way.” But much work is needed. The XI Five Year Plan include a proposal to create 453 new public institutions of higher education to accommodate the nearly 7 million additional students thus bringing the total enrollment to 20%! The challenges facing Indian higher education include: access, quality of students and teachers, existing disparities (rural-urban, male-female, culture-class), funding, public versus private, and mobility issues.

USIEF delegation with University Grants Commission Chair in front of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration

USIEF delegation with University Grants Commission Chair in front of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration

I was totally blown away with Jawaharlal Nehru U and also with Jamia Millia Islamia. JNU seems like a great place and has some fabulous facilities. The new biotechnology center has world class instrumentation. It seems more like a center we would see in the U.S., not a developing nation. Too bad JNU is exclusively graduate studies because I could see IWU students being comfortable there. JMI was established as a minority serving institution because it is a Muslim institution. JMI has a mixture of undergraduate and graduate programs. The two centers that are very intriguing are the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace & Conflict Resolution and the Centre for Third World Studies. Although both of these centers are graduate programs, they would welcome our undergraduates and faculty for research projects.
I was also struck by the number of women faculty members – more than I had thought there might be. I spoke to the first woman scientist at JNU and she was delightful. She is so proud that she helped JNU hire three women science faculty last year. Progress does happen!

We see Indian Institute of Technology, Indira Ghandi National Open University (largest distance learning institution in the world), and Amity University (largest private institution in India) tomorrow.

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About bethacunningham

Professor of Physics
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