The president of the All India Federation of University and College Teachers' Organisations (AIFUCTO), A. James William, was in Mangalore recently to attend a convention on higher education. It was organised by the Association of Mangalore University College Teachers (AMUCT). He spoke to The Hindu EducationPlus on issues relating to higher education. Excerpts from the interview.
Q: How do you look at reforms in higher education proposed by the Union government?
Answer: The Centre has proposed introducing various Bills for reforming higher education. They include Bills for establishing a national commission for higher education and research, for creating universities for innovation, for entry and operation of foreign education providers, for creating an independent accreditation authority and for setting up an education tribunal. They are aimed at promoting private-funded education at the cost of public (government) funded education.
Is the standard of education in the country up to the mark?
If not, it is not possible for Indians to prove themselves as capable doctors in the U.S., scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and engineers with Microsoft. If there is no quality in the Indian education system how can our graduates and postgraduates prove their efficiency in companies and education institutes abroad?
It is the investors who are complaining that the quality of higher education in India is not up to the mark. Many of them have been making statements that the syllabi in educational institutes should be revised for suiting market conditions. It is nothing but promoting private sector participation in higher education.
What changes are we witnessing in higher education now?
The higher education sector has become a commodity. This is the paradigm shift in higher education. By proposing various Bills, the Union government is only creating a legal framework to establish that higher education is a commodity.
How will entry of foreign universities help the Indian higher education sector?
More than 142 foreign universities are already operating in India either through their franchises or having tie-ups with Indian education institutes. Many of them do not have a standing in their own countries. This is particularly true with reference to universities from Israel, Malaysia and Arab countries. They come here only to earn profit so that they can nourish their universities. As they charge higher fees, only affluent candidates can join them.
After coming here they will recruit our own people as faculty by paying higher salary. Then it will be another form of internal brain drain. Our public-funded education system will be starved of quality faculty. Government institutes will have no quality teachers.
Have autonomous colleges and deemed universities helped in improving the quality of higher education?
Some autonomous colleges are good. Some, even without autonomy, are doing fine. Autonomy is misused by managements as they have financial and administrative autonomy and not academic, which means autonomy should be given to individual teachers and students. Many deemed universities are using their status only to mint money.
How to increase the enrolment ratio in higher education?
A majority of people will have access to higher education only if the government makes higher education free of cost. High fees in higher education institutes has denied education to many students.
How to bridge the huge gap in salary among teachers?
Now, many teachers are getting the revised UGC pay scales. The government should provide grant to new self-financing courses opened by colleges, and it should not withdraw funding to higher education.