The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) was released on July 30, 2020 and will replace the National Policy on Education, 1986. In respect to the higher education, the NEP recommends increasing gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education to 50% by 2035, and improving research in higher education institutes by setting up a Research Foundation. As of 2018-19, the GER in higher education in the country stood at 26.3%.
The NEP plans to increase GER by increasing the capacity of existing higher education institutes (HEIs) by restructuring and expanding existing institutes. NEP recommends that all institutes should aim to be large multidisciplinary institutes, with enrolments above 3000 students, and there should be one such institution in or near every district by 2030. The institutions should have the option to run open distance learning and online programmes.
The NEP mentions that the higher education in the country is severely fragmented. The existing nomenclature of higher education institutes like ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university’ and ‘unitary university’ shall be simply called ‘university’.
As per the All India Survey on Higher Education 2018-19, India has 993 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions like technical institutes such as polytechnics or teacher training institutes.
The NEP recommends that all higher education institutes should be distributed into three categories:
- research universities focusing equally on research and teaching,
- teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching, and
- degree granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.
These institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy in academic, administrative, and financial.
NEP recommends that the curricula of all HEIs should be made multidisciplinary to integrate humanities and arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The undergraduate degree will be made more flexible with multiple exit options with appropriate certification. For example: students will receive a certificate after one year, diploma after two years, bachelor’s degree after three years, and bachelor’s with research degree after four years. In addition, an academic bank of credit will be established to digitally store academic credits earned from various HEIs for awarding degrees based on credits. HEIs will have the flexibility to offer different designs of masters’ programmes. The M.Phil. programme will be discontinued.
Nep recommends to overhaul the regulatory structure of higher education in India so that they have their own independent distinct functions of regulation, accreditation, funding and setting academic standards. To ensure this, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be setup with four independent verticals:
- the National Higher Education Regulatory Council as a single regulator (including teacher education, excluding legal and medical education),
- the National Accreditation Council for accreditation of institutions,
- the Higher Education Grants Council for financing of higher education institutions, and
- General Education Council for specifying the curriculum framework and learning levels for higher education. Disputes between the four vertical will be resolved by a body of experts under the HECI.
In order to enhance research, the NEP recommends to setting up an independent National Research Foundation (NRF) for funding and facilitating quality research in India. The Foundation will act as a liaison between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry. Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, will continue to fund independent projects. This Foundation is tasked to collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.
The NEP has recommended that the vocational education should be integrated in all school and higher education institutions in a phased manner over the next 10 years. A national committee for integration of vocational education will be setup under the MHRD for this purpose. The national skills qualifications framework will be detailed further for each discipline vocation and profession. The NEP aims to ensure that at-least 50% of learners in school and higher education should be exposed to vocational education by 2025.
NEP recommends that the high performing Indian universities should be encouraged to set up campuses abroad and selected top global universities should be permitted to operate in India. Such universities will be given exemptions from regulatory and governance norms on par with autonomous institutions in the country.
“We welcome the move made by The Cabinet to rename the HRD ministry to the Education Ministry as the role of the department is to further and provide education. Allowing global institutes to set up campuses in India is also a positive move as it will increase competition because it will open up our education system and it will also help sustain high talent in the country as students don’t have to move out to pursue education. Changing the pedagogical structure from a 10+2 system to a 5+3+3+4 system is in line with international educational standards. Due to the small structure of our IIMs and IITs, despite having ample talent, they were unable to figure in the top 100 institutes of the world. Allowing technical institutes to become multi-disciplinary will help IIMs and IITs to start other departments like medical etc and make their size bigger and allow them to admit more students. This will enable them to compete with the elite institutes of the world and become at par with them in the coming years. Diversification makes education more complete and helps increase intellectual outcome. Overall, the changes have been made according to the global system of education. This will also help attract foreign students to India and help the economy as well” says Prof Mahadeo Jaiswal, Director, IIM Sambalpur