Knowledge Commission has recommended 50 national universities; Orissa must plan ahead and be prepared for it

Update: The following was written before I saw this article in Pioneer. has a report on Dr. Digamabara Patra’s request for a national or central university in Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi. A lot of the arguments made there make sense. Many of the recent central universities have been established in rural and semi-urban areas and indeed there is no reason why one should not be established in Bhawanipatna; especially since its citizens have been asking for one for more than 2 decades.

However, as mentioned in the article adequate infrastructure seems to have been an important factor in determining the locations of the new IITs, IIMs and National universities. 

For Orissa to have them in locations ouside of Bhubaneswar, there are two ways to go about it.

  1. Argue that adequate infrastructure should not be a requirement or they will automatically come once the institutions are established.
  2. Develop areas outside Bhubaneswar to have adequate infrastructure.

To me pursuing (2) has a higher chance of success than pursuing (1) and even if (1) is successful the institutes/universities in locations without appropriate infrastructure will struggle until the infrastructure eventually catches up which may take a long time if just left to fate. (Such a struggle may result in Orissa not being given in appropriate numbers additional central/national institutes.) 

[In India people sometime point out that IIT Kharagpur was established in a rural location. First, Kharagpur is only 116 kms from Howrah. Second it has been a major railway junction for a long time. Third it was the first IIT and for a long time only one of 5 IITs. Similarly Roorkee was the oldest engineering college and is close to Haridwar and Dehradun. There are a few top universities and institutions in the US that are in rural areas, but these are exceptions, and the infrastructure in rural areas of US are quite good compared to rural areas of India. For example, Univ of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Penn State University in State College, PA are often mentioned in that context. But both do have small airports with commercial flights.]

Before we suggest what needs to be done regarding developing areas outside Bhubaneswar to have adequate infrastructure, let us address what may be coming in the future and why Orissa needs to do this urgently so as to not risk missing future allocations of national institutions.

The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in its December 2006 note on higher education has explicitly suggested 50 national universities in India. It says:

We recommend the creation of up to 50 National Universities that can provide education of the highest standard. As exemplars for the rest of the nation, these universities shall train students in a variety of disciplines, including  humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, commerce and professional subjects, at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. The number 50 is a long term objective. In the short run, it is important to begin with at least 10 such universities in the next 3 years. It is worth noting that the National Universities need not all be new universities. Some of the existing universities could also be converted into National Universities, on the basis of rigorous selection criteria, to act as exemplars. We recognise that there could be a human resource constraint if faculty members are not available in adequate numbers to establish these universities.

The current government has implemented most of the recommendations of the NKC and exceeded some of them. For example, instead of the recommendation of 10 national universities in the three years following the report (2007-2010), establishment of 14 have been announced. Moreover, the higher education budget has been increasing drastically from one five year plan to the next. The 12th five year plan starts in 2012 and it is expected that it will take up on the long range objectives of the knowledge commission. In other words there could and should be more central and national universities in the 12th plan.

[My impression is that how soon additional national universities are established will depend on the success of the first 14. It seems to me that the locations of the first 14 have been greatly influenced by the consideration of, where in each of the states selecetd,  does it have the best chance to succeed.]

Unless Orissa is prepared for it, Orissa may lose out pieces of those plans on lack of infrastructure grounds. Other states with multiple locations with adequate infrastructure will get preference and Orissa may lose out.

However, 2012 is still 3 years away and if adequate steps are taken very soon, Orissa should be able to get its fair share. 

The pity is there are areas in Orissa which are on the verge of having the necessary infrastructure, mostly through private investment, but because of non-constructive opposition, blind suspicion towards industrialization and the relcucatnce of many to speak out in favour of development and industrialization, the development and associated infrastructure building has been greatly hampered. The governments (state and center) are also at fault for their sluggishness on some aspects.

Following are some suggestions:

  1. The state government should push for the completion of the airport in Jharsuguda within a year.
  2. It should make an all-out effort to have commercial flights operating out of the existing airport in Rourkela. In general, the people of the area need to recognize the existing infrastructure and potential of Rourkela and take advantage of it. Currently, as a friend of mine would say, Rourkela is an orphan. This is a pity. It is a big asset to Orissa, especially to the western parts of Orissa; but is severely underutilized and undermined.
  3. Coming back to Jharsuguda, the people there should follow a smarter approach in not opposing and rather facilitating industries coming up there, and at the same time being vigilant about environmental and land acquisition related R & R issues. If these industries and investment are allowed to materialize there soon, then Sambalpur-Jharsuguda area would become a large metro with adequate infrastructure to have and support any and all kinds of institutes and universities. But will the people do that? Or will they continue to be controlled by or scared of the anti-industry activists.
  4. Similarly, both Bhawanipatna (Lanjigarh to be precise) and Rayagada areas have industrial investors who have been senselessly opposed. If the people would take a smarter approach that mixes development with being vigilant about environmental and land acquisition related R & R then both these areas would be able to get infrastructure where a central university (and possibly more) would flourish. But will the people do that? Or will they continue to be controlled by or scared of anti-industry activists. In Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, the local MP has recently taken a more sensible approach. I hope there is a quick resolution as this area desperately needs development and the resulting infrastructure.
  5. The state government should push for the rail infrastructure, particularly, the Khurda-Balangir line, the Talcher-Bimlagarh line and connectivity to Kalahandi, to be completed at the earliest.

The above is extremely important for the development of the western parts of Orissa where there is often a feeling of neglect. If the people there do not follow a smarter approach and only follow the strange approach that many (not all) seem to be following (such as opposing industrialization and thus infrastructure building but wanting things that need infrastructure) the places that follow a smarter approach (inside and outside Orissa) would be gainers. The same is happening in some other places in Orissa too  – Paradeep and Kalinganagar come to mind, but these places are in closer proximity to Bhubaneswar and because of that they may be less harmed.



October 4th, 2009

Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Puri to have 25 universities

The Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Puri area will have 25 universities. Following is a slide on it from my presentation at the Invest India Symposium.

The color coding in the above slides is as follows:

  • Red – Central govt funded universities/institutes
  • Navy Blue: State govt. funded universities
  • Light blue: PPP
  • Green: Privately created universities and deemed universities
  • Orange: Mention about colleges that are part of various universities

To compare this with the universities in the major metropolitan areas of the US and the state of California, please see: 

  • Boston: 18 four year colleges and universities in the city and  24 in the surrounding areas, some listed twice as they have campuses in the city as well as in the surrounding areas.
  • New York:83 colleges and universities in New York City, not counting the 22 individual colleges of CUNY.
  • Los Angeles:
  • Chicago: 43 colleges and universities
  • California

The reason we use California as a reference point is that the population of California (34,600,463 in 2001) is close to the population of Orissa (2001: 36,804,660).


November 8th, 2008

Excerpts from “The Higher Educational Transformation of China and Its Global Implications”

Following are some excerpts from the paper "The Higher Educational Transformation of China and Its Global Implications" by Yao Li, John Whalley, Shunming Zhang, Xiliang Zhao.

… The number of undergraduate and graduate students in China has been grown at approximately 30% per year since 1999, and the number of graduates at all levels of higher education in China has approximately quadrupled in the last 6 years.

… Much of the increased spending is focused on elite universities, and new academic contracts differ sharply from earlier ones, with no tenure and annual publication quotas often used.

… The educational transformation underway in China seemingly differs from that in other low wage economies at either similar or earlier stages of development, in focusing heavily on tertiary education rather than on primary or secondary (unlike, say, India).

… A further feature of recent Chinese higher educational policy has been both to promote so-called "elite" universities and also to consolidate other universities and reduce their numbers.

…  The focus of policy is to elevate a small number of Chinese universities to world class status, and both strengthen them and make them bigger.

… In many of China’s major cities there has also been consolidation of universities, with, say, 4 or 5 small universities in the city consolidated into a large single entity as a way of improving their ranking.

… For example, Beijing Medical University was incorporated into Peking University and was formally renamed Faculty of Health Science,
Peking University in 2000. Eventually, the Central Arts and Design College was incorporated into Tsinghua University and was renamed Faculty of Arts and Design, Tsinghua University in 1999.

… institutions of high education in China are now subject to extraordinary pressures to upgrade themselves in terms of objective rankings. High priority is placed on international rankings taken as publications in international journals, citations, and international cooperation.

… It is now accepted as important for universities and related institutions to achieve publication in journals of good ranking and what is generated by publication citations counts equally for Chinese scholars in appointment, maintenance of position, and promotion.

… It is not uncommon for an annual target of three international publications to be set for faculty members, with termination of
employment to occur on non fulfillment.

… The primary stress on education attainment is on traditional academic disciplines, especially sciences, but social sciences and business also enter.

… There are three separate sources–government funds, commercial income fiom university-owned companies and entities, tuition and other educational charges such as fees paid by students and parents, …

… In 1998 under a special "985" I’roject,l4 10 of China’s leading universities were given three-year grants in excess of 30 billion RMB (current price) for quality improvements (Wang, 2002). Included in the first round of 985 Project grants were Peking, Tsinghua, Fudan, Zhejiang, and Nanjing Universities. l5 Peklng and Tsinghua universities, the top two ranked institutions, each received 1.8 billion RMB. Afterwards, the Ministry of Education cooperated with provincial or municipal governments and other departments to also develop Shanghai Jiaotong University, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Science and Technology University of China and Harbin Industry University …

… In addition to government funding, higher education institutions in China, also generate significant support by engaging in commercial activities. These include companies and other entities owned by the institutions and which the institutions operate.

… Table 9: Education funding for elite universities in China (2004)

… The main tasks for the higher educational development strategy in the 1 lth 5-Year Plan are as follows. The gross enrollment rate of higher education is to reach 25% of each entering age cohort by 2010 and the total enrollment of higher education is to hit 30 million.

… The "211 Projects" and "985 Project" are to be continued, with an emphasis on technology innovation, cultivating talents with creativity, and improving the capacity for self-innovation, so that top universities in China become an important force in an increasingly innovative nation.

… The educational component of the llth 5-Year Plan is clear in providing for large injections of funds into China’s tertiary educational system. Education is a major focus over the 5 year period of the plan, with the proportion of education expenditures to GDP increasing to 4% in 2010, from 3.4% in 2002. Much of the additional spending is focused on the elite universities, a group of around 20 universities in China, which are thought to have the best students and the capability to grow and mature into major global educational institutions which are comparable to those in the OECD. The research component of university activities is also seen as a central element in generating new ideas and eventually process and production methods which will improve profitability. Educational improvement in both research and student generation is thus seen as a central element of a continued high Chinese growth process.

… The prime emphasis which is now placed on international publications in China has already resulted in large increases in paper submissions to international journals and paper submissions are likely to grow further in the next few years. According to a recent study "Key Figures 2007 on Science, Technology and Innovation", China is now one of the largest producers of scientific output as measured by its share in the world total of peer reviewed scientific articles.

… Evaluated by the most frequently cited papers, China is ranked seventh, lower than South Korea, but still higher than other large developing economies, such as India and Brazil.

… The contractual arrangements in universities in China are a further element of China’s educational transformation, and portend future global change.

… , the tenure system for professors in universities and colleges has been changed significantly. The first changes were made by Peking University in reforming its deep-rooted academic tenure system, and this was followed by other Chinese elite universities. These reforms were implemented in February 2004. Taking Pelung University as an example, the reforms are that only professors enjoy lifelong employment, and the university does not offer tenured positions to associate professors, lecturers and assistant professors. Associate professors in arts and sciences and lecturers in all subjects are offered employment contracts up to 12 years. If associate professors and lecturers fail in their promotions after appraisal and examination of their academic attainments within the contracted period, they are dismissed.

… It is now common for researchers and scholars in many Chinese universities to receive only 3 year contracts and these contracts differ sharply by individual circumstance. And individuals receiving contracts are often given quotas in terms of the number of the publications in designated journals which should be attained within a limited period of time. It is not uncommon for these quotas to specify 3 papers per year in international journals, although what is accepted as an international journal varies sharply from institute to institute.

April 3rd, 2008


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