Educación superior en India
Noviembre 13, 2018
November 12th, 2018 – Alex Usher
I spent the last couple of weeks in India and the Middle East. Over the next couple of days, I thought I would lay out some of my observations about higher education in these countries.
First up, India, which has maybe the world’s most complicated higher education system (which I detailed in a three-parter back in 2014,  here ,  here , and  here  – this blog will probably make more sense if you read them first). Stripped to its essentials, India has the world’s second largest public higher education system, and the world’s largest system of private education. And both of them have some truly odd features which set them apart from the rest of the world.
Let’s start with the public system, which is maybe the world’s most baffling. Start with the problem that the Indian constitution lists higher education as an area of “concurrent” jurisdiction, which means both Delhi and the states can make policy in the area. Combine that with a hyper-active Supreme Court, whose views on judicial activism make Rosalie Abella look like Anton Scalia, and it works about as well as you’d imagine.
From a policy perspective, Indian governments treat the public system as if it were two different systems. At the very top, there are a handful of institutions – the famous Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, and the National Institutes of Technology – that  get 50% of all public funds while teaching less than ten percent of all students in the public system and just 3% of students overall . The Indian Government funds these institutions to the hilt partly because it wants national champions that will look good in international rankings and partly because these schools are where the children of the upper-class aspire to go, and both major national parties compete intensely for their votes.
Meanwhile, the rest of the public system is largely left to stagnate. Governments won’t or can’t fund them; the courts put limits on their ability to charge fees. The last time there was a serious discussion about their function and purpose was a decade ago when the government ordered them to reserve 27% of their seats to the “other backward classes” (OBCs) in addition to the 15% reserved for “scheduled castes” and 7.5% for the “scheduled tribes”. In some respects, this is a reasonable way to reverse centuries of entrenched prejudice; in other ways – mainly, that it totally ignores Muslims, who also suffer from discrimination – it does not.
(If you really want to understand the politics of courts, castes, quotas, and universities, try following the debate about the students known as the “ creamy layer ”, or occasionally just “creamy students”. It will make your head hurt.)
That leaves the private universities, many of which are the kind of low-quality demand-absorbing institutions we see in the rest of the world. But occasionally you get universities like Manipal, Amity and the excellently-named Lovely Professional University (founded by the Lovely Group – story  here ) which are offering serious education, not just in the usual business programs but also in IT, medicine and engineering.
Private philanthropists, instead of supporting public universities as they do here, aggressively set up their own universities. For example, Shiv Nadar University (named eponymously for its  billionaire founder ), offers PhDs in a number of Engineering fields while at the same time sporting a  mission statement  which would not be out of place at a liberal arts university. The Times of India group has set up  Bennett University  to become – among other things – one the foremost institutions for graduate-level AI research in Asia.
The barriers to reforming the public sector universities in India are formidable: as many authors have noted over the years, they have become intensely politicized and there is deep resistance among the faculty to the kinds of changes that would push Indian education in a more research-intensive direction. The Modi government is fiddling with change around the edges – for instance, by floating the idea of  killing the University Grants Commission and replacing it with a new regulato r – but this doesn’t get to the root of the problem because it doesn’t really do much to change institutional culture.
Napoleonic France finally changed its higher education system by allowing the universities to be more or less superseded by another type of institution altogether – the Grandes Écoles. India may be in the process of witnessing something not altogether different – a withering away of a sclerotic, public higher education sector in favour of an elite private-sector model. There are obviously a lot of potential drawbacks to this, but it’s hard to ignore the failure of the public sector and the flat-out bewildering funding model that sustains it.
Whether or not this happens, India’s higher education sector is, for the moment, almost certainly the world’s most gloriously chaotic and inventive and it bears watching closely.


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