A majority of educational institutes in Rajasthan fall way below benchmarks set by State education regulators, finds a study

Most of the higher and technical educational institutions in Rajasthan fall short of the standards prescribed by regulators such as the State government, the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). There is a general lack of awareness and concern towards quality issues as well as accreditation of courses.

With these findings, a recent study titled ‘Innovative applied research in technical and higher education in Rajasthan’ has recommended institutional reforms ensuring collaboration between industry and academia for research and coming together of institutions for creating new knowledge at the intersection of existing disciplines. The report was submitted to the Rajasthan State Planning Board by president of Manipal University, Jaipur, Prof. Sandeep Sancheti, at a round table conference on ‘A roadmap for higher education in Rajasthan” recently organised by the Board in collaboration with the Central University of Rajasthan in Pushkar.

The report is based on a comprehensive survey carried out in 75 institutions of higher learning over a period of six months. The areas in which the appraisal was made included industry-institute interaction, societal connections, funding, creativity and innovation, mentoring and promotion, scientific research, technical education system brand and stakeholders’ groups supporting the institutions.

Prof. Sancheti said that talented students from the State choose their destinations elsewhere for fulfilling their career ambitions because most of the higher educational institutions do not enjoy any direct or indirect branding or any effective partnership with reputed organisations. “The benchmarks prescribed by various agencies are not followed in right spirit so as to raise the bar to the best of national or global level.”

Private universities functioning in the desert State are often family-driven, rather than professionally driven, and lack the right set of experts in the governing boards. With such leadership and control (or the lack of it), even with the best of intents, they are unable to achieve the desired level of outcomes and performance.

Barring a few cases, Rajasthan does not have educational institutions set up or run by big industrial houses. The local entrepreneurs with limited financial capabilities often start the institutions, which do not enjoy good financial health and most of the revenue is consumed in paying salary to the staff and meeting other essential requirements. The same is the case with the government-run institutions, according to the study. Research is generally not promoted or not considered to be an integral part of academic activities. While the investment of time and money in research activities is meagre, the provisions for recognising brilliance in research or funding the State-driven project are also missing.

There are hardly any institutions with high standards in the State awarded by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) and other agencies such as ABET, CII, NASSCOM and ISO. The mushrooming of educational institutes from only one private engineering college in 2001 to 134 in 2013 and 33 private universities in a matter of eight years speaks volumes about rise of demand, states the study.

Fifty per cent of the surveyed institutions admitted that they have no grants or finance to carry out research, while the other half agreed that they have funds only partially to meet the research purpose. Besides, most of the courses run in the institutions are stereotyped and lack multi-disciplinary approach. “A large number of institutes are unitary type and they are unable to groom students in a holistic manner and impart knowledge of associated fields essential for their survival in profession in the later years,” said Prof. Sancheti. Eighty per cent of the institutions surveyed admitted that they have no professional development fund for faculty development.

Experts at the round table conference made several recommendations for improving the higher education scenario in the State and laid emphasis on augmenting investment in research and supporting innovations and entrepreneurship. Planning Board member and chairman, working group on education, Prof. Ashok Bapna, said youth must be trained for developing necessary skills which can help them get meaningful employment. “To harness demographic dividend of the young population, we need an education system that can deliver quality and create skilled and industry-ready workforce.”

The desert State, thus, faces an enormous challenge for bringing the standard of higher education on a par with the benchmarks at the national level. Clearly, the challenge is compounded by the factors such as excessive burden on teachers, limited opportunities, inadequate resources and other lucrative career options, which make it difficult to retain the faculty of high quality.