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Navratna universities? Will this idea benefit education?

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You have heard of the Ivy League, haven’t you? These 8 institutions are some of the the most prestigious in the world. They are prestigious because of the difficulties in getting admission, the quality of their students, the curriculum, the highly qualified teaching staff and so much more. It is a taken that a student studying in any one of them has his future in right hands.

But now our ever reform introducing education minister Kapil Sibal has come up with the idea of India’s Navratna universities based on the Ivy League concept. Like we have the Navratnas in the PSU sector, he plans to introduce such a concept in education as well.

Education Navratna University

Mr. Kapil Sibal says that these universities will have good financial support, greater autonomy from government control and access to external funding resources. They will also be able to create posts within certain norms in the Boards and also open centres in India and abroad. These new universities will be an added list over and above the present IITs and IIMs.

Though the idea has a very noble goal of doubling India’s gross enrolment ration (GER) of 15% by 2020, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

The concept seems very similar to deemed universities which all of us know has been a big failure. By giving free autonomy and access to funds the government has put all the aces in the hands of the universities. Capitation fees, under – the – table dealings, poor faculty – all of this has existed in many deemed universities which has been a complete disgrace. This just shows that though government run universities have their flaws, privately run universities with autonomy are even bigger problem.

Then the next question is the kind of universities which would be selected to be Navratna? How many will be selected? Who will select them? What will be the criteria for selection? From what I feel, selecting them will be the toughest job which may make many of them pay bribes to gain the status and thus bring large scale corruption to the fore.

The final question pertains to these universities managing their own funds, setting up centers and also establishing positions within “approved norms”. Who would monitor all this? Which agency is accountable for this?

Until all these questions are left unanswered, another of Sibal’s ideas of improving the GER and developing strong intellectual and social capital could go down the drain. At the moment it looks at best a copy of the deemed university concept which has become all about making money till the sun shines. The question is whether his actions speak louder than words.

Do you think having the Navratna universities concept really makes sense?

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