Mint Explainer: India’s Path to a Center for Higher Education

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has proposed a four-year honors degree consistent with the blueprint for higher education outlined by the new National Education Policy (NEP). It could usher in an overhaul of higher education in the country with an emphasis on skills and multidisciplinary education. NEP seeks to build a flexible higher education ecosystem that encourages students to learn at their own pace, rather than graduating in three or four years at a time. That would require a radical shift in the mindset of Indians. The NEP says it will work with some of the world’s top institutions to make India a Vishwa guru – a world leader – in education.

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Why have a four-year bachelor’s degree

It promotes a multidisciplinary approach to higher education to promote holistic and competency-based education. This vision is clearly formulated in NEP. A student will delve deeper into the chosen subject and also learn the best of other disciplines. IITs have promoted a similar approach over the years, and the NEP says these elite institutions will place even greater emphasis on it in the future. The four-year program offers the student multiple exit options – after one year (certificate), two years (diploma) and three years (degree). Students can rejoin within three years of leaving and must complete their bachelor’s degree within seven years.

So dive in and out of the education system and learn at your own pace. It may be an attempt to encourage competency-based training, and students can return to complete their honors course when they need that knowledge most or when they have the time. This would require a change in the mindset of Indian families, who essentially see education as something to be done in one fell swoop.

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Remember how IIMs struggled to convince Indians that it pays to gain work experience before an MBA program? The best and brightest talents from India’s top colleges would appear for the Common Admission Test (CAT) with no work experience; So IIMs would mostly have fresh graduates on their campus. Things have gradually changed and now about half the batch size at IIMs has some work experience. Now the Indian government and our best universities face the same challenge. Convincing Indians that in order to maximize the benefits of the degree, the degree must also be completed in stages rather than all at once will take a number of years.

Establishment of an academic credit bank

The new education policy aims to convert the education system to an academic credit-based system. Credits awarded to a student for a program by one university may be transferred to or redeemed by another institution. There is essentially student mobility and he or she can study at various academic institutions and obtain a degree based on the bank of credits. The Ministry of Education has already launched the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC), which has 56 central and 430 state universities on board, including Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Indira Gandhi National Open University.

How India can become a global center of education

The NEP aims to have a significant number of international students in India and to “provide greater mobility for students in India … to study, transfer credits or conduct research to institutions abroad and vice versa”. Can India increase its academic performance? System global or join a similar global initiative and possibly bring the best universities to the platform?

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Some of the world’s leading universities, such as Harvard, have an academic credit system. However, the Harvard website clearly states that “only courses comparable to the level and merit of a Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences” are accepted toward a master’s and PhD degree. In fact, learning mobility requires credit recognition – a process by which a university certifies that a course offered by another institution meets its own standards. For a global credits-based system, India needs to work with an education ecosystem, and possibly an education ecosystem build up, which shows obvious similarities with the offer of foreign universities. Year Honors Degree will help Indian students gain admissions into US universities and colleges which essentially follow a 12+4 model.

A Vishwa guru in training?

A higher education system that adopts the pattern of colleges abroad or has a common curriculum, possibly through collaboration with foreign universities, will have obvious advantages. It is becoming easier for Indians to study at top foreign universities, many of which remain in other countries, contributing to their economic growth and prosperity. And in doing so, India will emerge as a “talent factory” for the world. If India is successful in its pursuit of quality and affordable higher education, it will also become a magnet for foreign students and a Vishwa guru as envisioned by the NEP.

THE NEP AGENDA

* Transform higher education institutions into large multidisciplinary universities

* Building an integrated higher education system, including vocational and vocational education

* Transfer to a four-year multidisciplinary undergraduate program

* Establishment of an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) for higher education

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* Make India a global center for higher education

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