Challenges in HE in Orissa: Prof. Rabindra Mishra

How to tackle Forthcoming Challenges in Higher Education of Orissa

Prof. Rabindra K. Mishra

Electronic Science Department

Berhampur University

Introduction

      I have closely followed the opinions of all the speakers at the Berhampur University workshop. Also, I have tried to gather the opinion of speakers at other workshops, through my colleagues and friends, as well as from News papers. Moreover, I have been tracking the Web-page www.orissa2020.org (presumably launched by Prof. Chitta Baral).

      What I gather, from all these sources, is that there will be an opportunity for infrastructure building through huge funding and let us grab that opportunity. It is like, let us put forth our demands and hope that the Government will fulfil some of them, if not all.

      If we follow this approach, effectively we will put a demand before the Government in the form of a proposal. In this way, the proposal will become unimportant. It should be other-way around. Hence, we need to look for an alternative approach. We must focus on why HE is indispensable for sustaining development of the State and Country and how it will sustain the development. Then only the proposal will have some merit. Therefore, we should clearly spell out forces that shall affect the Higher Education in future. These shall be our visions. The effect of the forces shall be the issues to be tackled. In the proposals to tackle the issues, our requirements can come as illustrative examples. Thus we can make our points visible and forceful but our proposal will not look a demanding one.

Forces of Changes

      In the following I will focus on some imminent Forces that will affect changes in Higher Education. Also, I will propose short term plans (2011), mid-term plans (2013) and long term plans (2020) to tackle these forces.

  1. Weight of Knowledge Economy
    • It will be extremely competitive and diversifying in nature.
    • Players in this economy shall be whole range of public (including Universities) and private markets of Knowledge.
    • All the players will get benefits, although the share of the Universities shall be the least.
      1. Marketisation of HE (Application of economic theory of market to provisions of higher education).

      The effect of this issue is already evident. In Orissa, in the last one & half decade there has been a spurt of engineering colleges due to job openings in the IT sector. Technical education marketing got a jolt this year (2009) when the IT market crashed. Our HE policy must aim at negating such wild swims of choice of subjects. It must be continuously tuned to match the HR demand of the society.

      1. Removal of disparity between science and technology (Target period 2013)

    There exists a distinct complex between the scientists (with degrees in science subjects) and technologists/engineers (degrees in technical/engineering). It is evident among the employees in BARC, TIFR and other research organizations, BSNL, MTNL and other Public Sector Organisation as well as in Universities and engineering colleges. But, as subjects science and technology supplement and complement each other and cannot flourish without each other. Thus this difference will not augur well for the State or the Country. Both the communities must respect and accept each other as in many other advanced countries.

    Migration of science faculties to technology faculties and vice-versa must be allowed. Conditions like relevant publications may be put-forth to start with. A process must be in place to gradually eliminate the complexes existing between these two streams.

      1. Cafet area approach to learning with rational fee tags for each Paper (or Course Module). (Target Period 2011)

      There can be many interdisciplinary subjects in which students will be interested. Therefore, binding them to one discipline is not fare. At present, the fee is lump-sum per discipline. Instead, the fee may be segregated as a basic admission fee for the Institute and fee for each course module to which the student registers. The fee for course module shall be floating and decided at the beginning of each academic year. The modules, which are expected to be in demand, may be charged at a higher rate compared to those for which demand may be low, in a way so as to keep the net earning stable. So, the subjects shall supplement each other irrespective of market demand. Also, the students will get chance to read subjects of their choices. To achieve this Course Credit based Semester System must be adopted.

    1. Building on Institution’s Strength

      At any point of time, the strength of an Institution is its qualified active faculties. These faculties keep on migrating for better opportunities at different points in their carrier. Many a times, students take admission in an Institute because of good faculties. Therefore, institutes should strengthen themselves by supplementing each other in their areas of specialization. We must develop policies to achieve this.

      1. Developing distinctive missions, building on areas of relative strength. (Target Period 2020)

        Institutions must develop specialized groups around distinguished faculties. Thus, if the faculty leaves the institution, the academic programs can be managed.

      1. Diverse yet increasingly interconnected HE Sector (Target Periods 2013)

        The traditional subjects are gradually becoming less preferred. From the philosophical point, all subjects are meant to enrich the human knowledge and the society. Insufficient tuning of our policies to social requirements has led to such a situation. The University departments must be identified for their excellence and engaged in formulation & implementation of Government policies as well as private sector policies. Adjunct professorships for Government and private personnel in different University Departments must be available and strictly adhered to. Then only the graduating students will be inducted to different social life successfully and entrepreneurships will get a boost. It will lead to less pressure on Government for jobs, but reduce the unemployment problem to a great extent.  

      1. Encouraging more collaborative working (Target Period 2020)

        Learning can be of two types, formal and experiential. We must formulate programs to recognize experiential learning. At present, we have two types of degrees: earned and honorary. We must think to add the third dimension, i.e. experience to it. Some formal tests may be designed to assess the level of knowledge of a candidate and when found successful, a degree may be awarded. It will result not only keep the HE sector interconnected with the society but also encourage people from a wide-spectrum of society to collaborate with the HE sector. (I distinctly remember that, when I was a child, I had seen my doctor uncle, who was an assistant professor in SCB Medical college, evaluating the Physical Hygiene paper of Matriculation Examination. Similar things can happen to-day also, if we are interested in maintaining quality.)

      1. Flexible Affiliation Process for Healthy Competition (Target Period 2011)
        • The present method of affiliation practically standardizes the course. There is no scope for innovation and freedom in course design and evaluation method.
        • Full academic autonomy to colleges in many cases can dilute the standard of teaching.
        • Therefore, the affiliating University may fix standardized core course modules for each degree course and give autonomy to the affiliated college for elective courses.
        • The colleges (medical, Engineering and traditional) shall be free to choose Universities of their choice for affiliation of the degree courses offered by them.
      1. Diversity and Excellence (Target Period 2011)

        Substantial amount of transfer of students takes place among different institutions and/or courses in the HE sector. In most of the cases, the student loss the time and money spent in the previous Institution. This can be avoided by adopting the credit transfer system. Each institute/University must recognize and respect every other Institute/University. A student earning credit in a course module in one Institute/University shall be allowed to carry it over to another Institute/University. After acquiring the required number of credit for a degree, the student shall be eligible to receive the degree from the last institute/university, where he/she has been admitted. Even, the student may be admitted to one institute/university and get registered for one or more course modules at another institute/university. The credit earned in the later institute can be transferred to the institute/university where he/she is originally admitted. A credit transfer policy needs to be formulated properly.

        The advantage of such a system is that, the student will get an opportunity to save time & money as well as to learn from teachers of his choice. Thus it will diversify the HE and encourage excellence in HE by helping to establish parity among different institutions/universities.

    1. Widening Participation and Fair Access

        There are two major bottlenecks in making HE accessible to a large part of our society. We are primarily a very conservative society. Most of women in our society prefer to look after their family and children rather than taking up jobs. Thus either they do not come forward for higher education or they get educated and go back to the shell of their family. Similarly, a substantial population of our State and Country is Tribal. They are far away from the modern society. Being mostly poor, superstitious and conservative they cannot afford to pursue higher education. Our policies can aim at widening the participation of these two categories in Higher education.

      1. More Central Universities (Target Period 2013)
      • Central universities may be opened to bring quality higher education to people in backward areas. One example in the context of south Orissa is given bellow.
        • Binayak Acharya Central University at Berhampur, which can have many constituent institutions like
          • IIIT Berhampur (Target Period 2011)
          • AFMC, Berhampur (It is to be noted that the AD College at Golabandha, was originally destined to be a Army Hospital. Therefore, an Armed Force medical College (AFMC) can be opened at Golabandha as a constituent college of the Central University.) (Target Period 2020)
          • National Institute of Forest Technology, Bhanjanagar (Target Period 2013)
      1. Women in higher Education Program (Target Period 2011)
      • Subsidised or Free Education
      • Scope for life-long learning
      • Scope for participation: Women shall be allowed to take up research projects or consultancies in higher education. Formal employment in the institute should not be mandatory for this. They may earn a fellowship through the Institute from the funding agency. They may take up teaching, if sufficiently qualified, on part-time basis and earn accordingly. Experience earned from such participation shall be counted and recognized.
      1. Missionary approach for tribal (Target Period 2013)
      • Let us accept the fact that the vast majority of the tribal shall not come forward for higher education. Therefore, the Government must identify locations to establish institutions of higher education for them. For example, the Government may consider opening Indira Gandhi National Tribal University – Kandhamal Campus, in Orissa’s Kandhamal District which is densely populated with Tribal.
    1. Enhancing Excellence in Research

      Higher education is an off-shoot of research, both fundamental and applied. The policy makers must understand that it is practically impossible to achieve any goal of development through borrowed research. When we depend on other States or countries, they provide us the technology that is rejected in their respective country or a product based on a technology unknown in our country. In effect, we lose our independence. Therefore, it is extremely important that indigenous research programs should be given utmost importance.

    1. Removal of Regulatory Provisions on Research Funding (Target Period 2013)
      • It must be mandatory for each University Faculty to be engaged in research. The faculty may be given seed money to start research work and sustaining money in every three years. A mechanism may be developed to determine the amount of sustaining money.
      • The funding of research should be unaccounted. Definitely, in the initial stage it will be misused. The rationale behind it is, fundamental research can’t be regulated. Young minds budding with ideas channelled through experience is the mantra for successful research. This is therefore possible only in Universities where young scholars work directly under the supervision of experienced professors. Out of hundreds of research projects, one may be successful. But this success will be worth all the spending on all other unsuccessful ones. An illustrative example is the emerging of India as an IT champion. In the initial days of IT research and development, there was no Government control on it at all. The result is for everyone to see.
    1. Research Institutions in Backward Areas
      • Centres of Excellence under Berhampur University
        • Centre for Electronic & Information Sciences and Technology (Target Period 2011)
        • Bio-Medical Instrumentation Research Centre, Chattrapur (Target Period 2013)
        • Centre for Nano-Technology Research, Berhampur (Target Period 2013)
        • Geographic Information Research Centre, Gopalpur (Target Period 2020)
        • Financial Engineering Research Centre, Paralakhemundi (Target Period 2013)
        • Centre for Societal Effects of Technology, Berhampur (Target Period 2013)
  1. Government Policy and Funding of Higher Education

      In the State level there is no institution to formulate and regulate the HE policies. As a result it has almost become a burden on the bureaucrats to manage this unregulated sector, where more than 95% of the available fund is spent on salary alone. Therefore, the scope for any development has become very narrow.  

    1. Non-existence of any Institute for formulation & regulation of HE Policies.
      1. Establish Binayak Acharya Academy for Higher Education at Hinjilcut. (Target Period 2011)
      • It will be jointly under the Department of Higher Education, Department of Health & Familywelfare and Department of Industries under the Government of Orissa.
      • It will have a board of Directors in honorary capacity. (The task force may be converted to board of directors of this Academy, to start with.)
      • It will conduct research on formulating policies for HE and give its reports on different aspects to Government at regular intervals.
      • The Government policies will be framed according to these reports.
      • All institutions of higher education (Traditional & Professional) will be under its purview. The Technical Education, shall also be under its purview and not under the purview of Industry Department any more. Otherwise, the discrimination between various HE institutes will continue and it will become impossible to bring together Science and Technology education.
    1. Non-existence of any Funding Organization
      1. Establish Orissa Higher Education Funding Council at Balasore. (Target Period 2011)
      • It shall be jointly under the Control of the Department of Finance and Department of Higher Education in the Government of Orissa.
      • It shall formulate methods of earning funds for development of higher education.
      • It shall have two divisions, one for salary of employees in higher education and other for development of higher education. They shall work independently.
      • It shall engage industry, private sector and others to generate funds for higher education sector.
    1. Non-invasive Acts, Statutes & Rules
      1. The more the autonomy, the better the continual re-inventing and re-engineering of Institutes (Target Period 2011)
      2. Light-touch Acts/Rules, which encourages State/National objectives without stifling innovations. (Target Period 2011)
    1. Voucher based Partial Funding
      1. Make fees realistic (Target Period 2011)
      2. Allow student loan to all students (Target Period 2011)
      3. Bank giving loans should issue Loan Certificates to students and deposit the fees in Institute Account (Target Period 2011)
      4. Needy students can get vouchers against these certificates from the Government. Initially, it may be extended to all students and gradually withdrawn based on need and merit. (Target Period 2020)
      5. Students can re-pay loan, using the vouchers against which Banks get money from the Government. (Target Period 2013)
    2. Enhancing Contribution of HE to Economy and Society
      1. Faculties shall be allowed to take 2 months unpaid leave per academic year. This period shall be treated as on duty, without any break in their service. They can use this period to earn from other sources like community service, foreign service, consultancies. Also, the salary for this period may be compensated from overhead of research projects undertaken by the concerned faculty. (Target Period 2011)
  1. Demand led Higher Education Services
    1. Engaging employers in Higher Education
      1. Understanding and enriching curriculum (Target Period 2011)
      2. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (Target Period 2011)
      3. Sandwich Degrees (Target Period 2011)
      4. Membership of Advisory Boards (Target Period 2011)
  2. Effect of Technology on Experience, Expectation and Opportunity

      It has led to the Information age mindset. We observe some typical characteristics under this mind set:

      • Zero tolerance to delays
      • Preference to typing over handwriting
      • Preferring Internet over TV
      • Computers are a way of life, no more a technology
      • Staying connected
      • Reality is no more real
      • Doing rather than knowing
      • Multitasking way of life
    1. Blended Learning Opportunities
      1. Full and Part Time Courses (Target Period 2011)
      2. On-Campus and Distance Courses (Target Period 2011)
      3. Work-based Courses (Target Period 2011)
      4. Electronic Learning (Target Period 2013)
  1. Acute shortage of dedicated and experienced Faculties
    1. Compensating the shortage
      1. Distinguished Professor Program (Target Period 2011)
      • A pool of distinguished teachers be formed in each subject, consisting of serving as well as retired faculties.
      • When an institute needs help in conducting a course module, it can ask a distinguished professor to visit them. If the concerned teacher is free, he can visit the institute.
      • The Government shall bear the cost of travel as per actual.
      • The host institution shall bear the cost of hospitality and remunerations.
      • One distinguished professor may conduct maximum of 4 course modules per year.
      1. Re-employment of faculties up to 70 Years of age (Target Period 2011)
      • Faculties retiring at the age of 60 years may be re-employed.
      • The re-employment shall be for a period of 5-years initially. It can be extended by 3-years and further 2-years.
      • The re-employed faculties shall not be given any administrative responsibility.
      • The re-employed faculties shall not be eligible for additional contribution to provident fund, during their period of re-employment.
    1. Enhancing Excellence in Learning (ELT) and Teaching
      1. Establish Centres of learning in Teaching and Learning (e.g. Model Colleges) (Target Period 2013)
      2. Promote the activities of ELT across the sector (Target Period 2013)
      3. Promote Professional Development of Staffs (Target Period 2011)
          1. Encourage membership and participation in Professional Bodies
      4. Reward to encourage excellence in Teaching (Target Period 2011)
  1. Student Politics and Indiscipline
    1. Diversity in Campus
      1. Start life-long learning programs in campus. (Target Period 2011)
      • The campus shall have young students, continuing their study for earned degrees.
      • The campus shall have middle aged and beyond people, along with young students, for getting knowledge they need to re-enter their profession.
      • The campus shall have local business community to maintain their professional skills through earned and experiential degrees.
    1. Compulsory Academic Service
      1. Mandatory period of 2-3 Years for Government Servants (Class-I) to offer Breadth Courses. (Target Period 2013)
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