However, the southern universities have a long way to go in achieving excellence in higher education, according to a survey by CII and Deloitte.

Higher education in southern India has fared better over the years in comparison to the overall higher education scenario in the country. For instance, Tamil Nadu has the highest number of universities, while Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka rank third and fifth respectively. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of all States in the region is better than the national average. However, the region has its own set of issues which could potentially affect the growth of higher education.

This is the inference drawn from a report ‘Annual Status of Higher Education in Southern Region 2013’ based on a survey jointly made by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Deloitte. The report was released recently at the national higher education conclave of the CII in Coimbatore.

Key pointers

The survey began with administering of a questionnaire, designed by CII, containing questions on key challenges in higher education under eight broad parameters — admissions and student intake, implementing quality systems, governance and regulation, funding and investment opportunities, international collaboration, research and innovation, fostering entrepreneurship and industry-institute interaction initiatives.

The respondents, belonging to higher education institutions in the Southern States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and the union territory of Puducherry, were asked to rate the challenges on a scale of 1 to 10, wherein 10 signifies the ‘most challenging’ issue and 1 signifies the ‘least challenging’ issue.

The parameters, and the issues and challenges under them, were summarised in a table (see box). According to the Deloitte Education Sector Team, the findings of the survey will be useful in providing insights to regulatory authorities in addressing the challenges by way of suitable policy intervention and other measures.

“Of the recent reforms initiated by the government in higher education, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is the most important measure, as it seeks to address some of the challenges in the existing system by developing an efficient funding mechanism and improving the quality in existing institutions, among others,” it adds.

Another observation made by the team is that, despite the overall growth — over 700 universities, 35,000-plus colleges and numerous stand-alone institutions, having an enrolment in excess of 25 million students — the higher education sector in the country is facing enormous challenges, which need to be addressed urgently to achieve the country’s vision of becoming a knowledge economy.

RUSA initative

According to C.R. Swaminthan, Co-Chair of CII National Committee on Higher Education, CII will request State governments to extend support and help address the issues, put forth in the report, at the State levels.

“I am happy that the RUSA initiative touches some of these issues that have been brought out in this report. But there are certain issues that need to be addressed with the help of policies, processes and controls,” he says.

The report, along with the outcome of the conclave, will be sent to the Commissioner of Technical Education, Higher Education Secretary and Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, at the State level, and to the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, All India Council for Technical Education, and University Grants Commission, at the national level.