India needs more quality institutions. But any licensing will only lead to hoarding and trading of licenses. Besides, the only way to push quality education is to allow greater supply where the bad ones perish and the good ones prosper. Rule of Law would also ensure that every one gets an equal opportunity in setting up a quality educational initiative. If we were to prevent supply, we would never have had universities with great prospects like Azim Premji University, Shiv Nadar University, Ashoka University and so on.
Here are some suggestions with regard to setting up of institutions and expansion of capacities:
• Liberalise the setting up of institutions. Make LOIs redundant. Prescribe minimum standards for each institution. Anybody who meets the requirements must be accorded approval. Approvals must be automatic and time-bound.
• Across the world, standard setting and approval has been distinctly separated from accreditation and funding. Make the University Grants Commission (UGC) and professional councils the standard setting and approval body. Remove accreditation to a totally separate unit. For example, take the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) out of the UGC.
• Stop setting up of universities by fiat, especially by the state. If land, essential infrastructure and minimum faculty do not exist, no institution, whether public or private, must be allowed to function. The state is the bigger culprit here. There are institutions that have neither land nor own buildings even a decade after being set up. Stop this by legislation. The write petition (civil) no.19 of 2004 Prof. Yashpal & Anr. Versus State of Chhattisgarh & Ors. should be made the guiding principle in this regard.
• No restrictions on the number of seats should be imposed. Prescribe required minimum standards per students. As long as the standards are met there should be no restrictions on number of seats. Institutions like ISB are out of the regulatory regime primarily because of issues like this.
• No seat quota for state should be allotted where there is no funding by the state. The case no. Appeal (civil) 5041 of 2005 of P.A. Inamdar & Ors. State of Maharashtra & Ors.dated 12/08/2005 must be the guiding force in such cases. It very clearly said that quotas are forms of backdoor nationalisation. Get quotas out of privately-funded systems completely. Make it common for both minority and non-minority institutions.
Private investments in public institutions
We understand the resource constraints imposed on the country. However, contributors in education sector are there for the asking. The number of corporates entering education is very heartening. The recent amendments to the Companies Act (with respect to corporate social responsibility, or CSR, activity) will hasten the clamour of corporates funding education.
The Indian School of Business (ISB), Mohali is a good case study for setting up an institute. The land of 70 acres came from the state government; donations of Rs 50 crores each came from Punj Lloyd, the Munjals of Hero group, Max group and Bharti Airtel. All came with naming rights for respective institutes, that too within the ISB umbrella. I am sure they will be more than happy to fund an entire institute in their name. This trend can be harnessed to create great public institutions with private investments:
- Let each state identify and allocate 100 acres of land for an IIT, IIM and AIIMS and 10 acres in each district for a Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) school.
- To cover the capital costs, let the government sell naming rights with set conditions. The naming rights can be given to corporates/individuals for Rs 200 crores each for a higher education institution and Rs 10 crores for a school. India has 675 districts and about 1,100 KVs. We need to double the number of KVs in 3 years flat.
- To cover the operating costs, let the central government fund the cost of salaries for 5 years. These institutions can become self-sufficient in those many years.
This will ensure that at least 50 such higher-education institutions and 1,000-plus KVs are set up and become operational within 3 years. It will also lead to an investment of Rs 40,000 crores (including land). It will ensure we create good state supply at minimal cost to students. These measures will also act as a good check on the fees charged by private players.
This is the second part of a series of articles on the New Education Policy.
Also on HuffPost: