Explained: A Roadmap for Indian Universities Post COVID-19


Recently, the Karnataka State Higher Education Council (KSHC) has called a proposal to implement a uniform curriculum across universities in the state.

Historical Background of Universities in India

  • The concept of the university in modern India was incubated with the establishment of three universities in 1857 i.e. the Universities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
  • As the British intended to create mere second-class clerks (not thinkers) to help them with their administration, these universities played the major role of issuing degrees to the students.
  • After Independence, the number of universities increased and research activities were initiated in many of them in correspondence with the Western model.

Status of Universities in India

  • The Indian Universities have neither remained loyal to the European model nor have completely shifted to the American model.
  • As per the study conducted by India Brand Equity foundation, the number of colleges and universities in India stood at 39,050 and 903, respectively in 2017-18, with 36.64 million students enrolled in higher education in 2017-18.
  • Standing the second largest in value terms, after US, the education sector in India is estimated at US$ 91.7 billion in FY18 and is expected to reach US$ 101.1 billion in FY19.
  • The biggest problem with the Indian education system is that it is not holistic in nature i.e. teaching the basic skills on which professionals are tested on a daily basis which is the reading, writing, comprehension and reasoning.

Post COVID-19 challenges for Universities in India

  • Sustaining education standards and employability: It will become a challenge for Indian Universities to maintain academic standards as India will be the most populous country in the world, and will grow to about 1.5 billion people by 2030.
  • Low proportion of people has access to the internet: There are only 45 crore people of total population of the country who have access to the internet and thus to e-learning.
  • Exclusion of Rural Population: The people residing in rural areas are still very much deprived of the latest advancements and therefore hampering the cause of online learning.
  • Lack of e-content and online study material: India is not fully equipped to make education reach all corners of the nation via digital platforms or online classrooms.

Issues associated with Universities in India

  • More Focus on Degree than Skills: The degrees matter more than skills, leading to high number of graduates with low employability.
  • Low technology adoption: There is low technology adoption in tier II and III towns, creating pockets of high efficiency in an otherwise slow sector across the country.
  • Emphasis on Rote Learning: The education policy focused on rote learning and lack of availability of quality vocational training.
  • Lack of academic-industry engagement: There is inadequate academic-industry engagement, which is still limited to select few institutions.
  • Limited Quality Education with Global Exposure: The quality education with global exposure, which is the cornerstone of excellence, is limited and expensive.

Concerns associated with uniform curriculum across Universities

  • Objections from Academicians: The uniform curriculum across universities faced serious objections from academicians and thinkers.
  • Discretionary Power of University: It is left to the discretion of the individual university and its Board of Studies to follow “model” curriculum for universities. 
  • Loss Regional Identity and Autonomy: The main cause of apprehension among academicians is that uniform curriculum by the central government might lead to loss of regional identity and autonomy.

Impact of Covid-19 on students’ education in Universities

  • Switch to Digital Education: The switch to online education has been ensuring that students suffer no loss of studies and their progress is being tracked simultaneously with timely evaluation.
  • AI-enabled learning by universities: The universities are providing AI-enabled learning as they offer diverse courses in association with other collaborations, is only making the country envision a new tomorrow based on educational reforms.
  • Learning beyond Curriculum: One of the opportunities to focus amidst the crisis is the virtual internships, which are allowing the students to go beyond their curriculum and learn about the practicality of their professions.

Roadmap for Post COVID-19 era of Universities

  • Western Idea of Universities: It is crucial to revisit the idea of university in the West, as the concept of the modern university in Indian academia is to an extent borrowed from it.
  • Integration of immediate communities in Universities: In Europe, many of the universities integrate into their immediate communities a university is considered a centre of knowledge which gets students from local communities.
  • Academic exploration of Community: A university is a platform to deliberate regional issues as well as a knowledge centre to explore solutions for communities academically.
  • Universities to be based on offering Knowledge: The students are likely to choose universities based on what they offer rather than the location or prestige of the university.
  • Flexible courses and Range of Subjects: The focus should be on attracting students as well as faculty from across the world and universities should provide liberal education, where courses are flexible and students have a vast range of subjects to choose from.
  • Strengthening of Universities at grass-roots level: The Indian universities need to be strengthened at the grass roots level and also we require quality classrooms, proficient teachers, better infrastructure and a congenial academic atmosphere to contribute research to the society.

Way Forward

  • The KSHEC’s decision to design a “model” curriculum gives space to individual universities to decide texts of their choice and maintain regionality.
  • The change in demographics in India could propel us in becoming a powerful engine of economic growth and development but only if the education system changes as per the needs of this growing economy.
  • Providing unlimited teaching and learning opportunities will enable an equitable approach to high-quality education.
  • Uncertain times call for stronger measures and the education industry has been stepping up to take some and the pandemic has been working as a catalyst for the educational institutions to grow and opt for platforms and techniques, they haven’t used before.

Source: The Indian Express

Leave a Reply