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Quick note on higher education




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Postings not related to the writing of the Manifesto or policy chapters
are likely to be summarily rejected. Thanks for your understanding. IPI
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On Fri, 15 Jan 1999, Prof. R. Jagadiswara Rao wrote:

> I fully agree with you that the universities should have real autonomy. 

Excellent! We speak together. I think reason has a way of uniting people
across millions of miles.

> This is possible if the government provides a fixed annual grant to each 
> university and make the vice-chancellor not only responsible to generate 
> other resources through various national and international funding 
> agencies, consultancy to government and industry, tuition fee from 
> students, etc., but also be made accountable for the entire development 
> of the university. Similarly, the Departmental Heads can be made 
> responsible to look after the affairs of their respective departments. 

> Their performance should be judged periodically from an objective 
> assessment of the achievements of the university and the departments 
> through various development indices such as publications, patents, 
> honors to staff, placements to students, etc. Only under such 
> conditions, some good can come out of the universities.

Actually, the private market does this best. Parents (who are the ones
who demand higher education) do a tremendous amount of research before
they put their progeny into a particular university. This is true
everywhere. (In fact, for my 11 year old son, I have started reading up
on colleges across the world right away!) There is a huge private
industry which collects info from colleges and publishes rankings in the
USA. All these issues mentioned by you automatically get built into the
demand side. 

The best students will AUTOMATICALLY enter those universities which are
efficient. I don't see any role for government in evaluating
universities. I was myself the Secretary of the Education Department 5
years ago in Assam, and believe me, we have NO (i.e. absolute zero)
mechanism or capacity to determine the quality of any university
(particularly since universities have tens of different departments). I
had not even known how the world works then; how could I have evaluated
any university? (By the way, there were 2 Secretaries of Education; I
did not look after higher education). The level at which bureaucracy
operates is very very primitive (and the level at which politics
operates is even more primitive). 

In this world of increasing specialization, NO ONE can evaluate anyone
else. It is the forces of the market (i.e., millions of people making
their best choices) which should automatically determine where the money
flows. 

Places like Harvard University do not need any approval or certificate
from the President of USA to attract the best students from across the
world. Such universities also attract such huge endowments from their
alumni that most of them spend more than the entire budget of various
state governments of India. The word is : lavish. Such huge investments
- totally private - into higher education are mind-boggling. 

In India the IISc is an example of what the private market will do to
the education sector as soon as we get rid of this great lust for
government control in education. We have thousands of NRIs and hundreds
of Indian industrialists who will invest enormously into higher
education if it is declared as an industry. 

Government can promote higher education by setting up endowments for
research which can be tapped into by the best departments and best
students. 

> If the IPI has a program of 
> attacking the very politicians, who are presently ruling India, on 
> charges of corruption, it will not be able to play this role 
> effectively.  Corruption is practiced by politicians all over the world, 
> including India. 

I beg to differ. Attacking politicians in NOT the fundamental conclusion
of this forum, I think. The fundamental conclusion is that WE THE PEOPLE
have caused the corruption by completely blocking out the possibility of
good people entering politics (well: this is a tentative conclusion). I
am waiting for 150 responses to my 2 questions. Please consider my
questions and let me know why you are not in politics and why your
children are not going to join politics. You and I want to be
represented by high quality politicians while asking our reps to
bankrupt themselves! Who else but the corrupt will ever rise to
represent us then?

Let us determine the root causes first. Then we can solve the issue. I
repeat, we are not attacking politicians or anyone else. If anything,
this is a more serious attack: it is an attack on the People (including
us) who have failed to sit together and understand basic incentives.

We always get the government we deserve.

> There is a well-establshed mechanism followed in India 
> to take action on such corrupt politicians. If that mechanism is not 
> properly functioning, the IPI has to work out a methodology by which 
> such cases could be settled quickly. 

There is no mechanism as claimed by you. Even the Lok Pal act is not in
operation. Fiction is easy to believe in. Please read the Vohra report.
Reality is that there is NO check on anyone in power today. But such
checks are only part of the solution. 

The real solution lies in good people rising and entering politics. You.
Your children. What will it take to motivate our millions of good people
to work together to rise and seek to provide good governance to India?

Let us never delude ourselves by imagining that "systems are in place."
There is nothing but hypocrisy in place today. Since the times of VP
Singh I have been hearing that the Official Secrets act will be
scrapped. Nothing has yet happened. Since tens of years we have been
hearing that Freedom of Information will be allowed. Today, Kishwar has
gone to the Supreme Court against this right not being allowed. We have
nothing in place to help the honest and good citizens to run their lives
properly.

I therefore suggest that the IPI 
> takes a pragmatic look to solve at least some of the major problems 
> faced by India and thereby bring some quick improvement in the quality 
> of life in India.

This is an excellent suggestion. We in fact will carry out such a
dialogue with everyone, including politicians, once we agree on what
good policies are constituted of. As of today, we have only a
preliminary draft. I would urge you to give deep thought to this draft
and send us your comments. 

Thanks,

Sanjeev


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