Higher education, especially professional education, is witnessing institutional proliferation at the cost of quality, said Yashavantha Dongre, Registrar, Vijayanagara Krishnadevaraya University, Bellary.

He was speaking on the inaugural day of a two-day University Grants Commission (UGC)-sponsored national conference on “the Impact of WTO agreement on higher education in India” at Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) College of Business Management here on Wednesday. Mr. Dongre said the trend should be checked. That was why industries complained of a lower percentage of employable engineering graduates. He said higher education in India had become part of “tradable services” after India endorsed the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

It had long-term (10 to 20 years) implications on higher education policy, especially in education administration and curriculum design, he said.

He said Karnataka had demonstrated that corporate investment in higher education was in the offing (as with establishing the Azim Premji University). Last year's Global Investors' Meet in the State highlighted opportunities for private capital investment in educational sector, which was welcome. But one had to be wary about the motives of private capital. The State universities and colleges might be left craving for resources while private institutions could easily grow through corporate investment, he said. Mr. Dongre said academic professionals were exposed to increased pressure and scrutiny.

Quoting the UNESCO, he said the quality of academic professionals had been declining and talented people seem reluctant to take to the profession. “This cat needs to be belled without losing time,” he said.

Mangalore University Vice-Chancellor T.C. Shivashankara Murthy said: “We have signed the WTO pact but we have to be cautious. It can overrule Central and State governments. When the Government of Karnataka won't have a hold, where will we go?” What impact would the WTO had on regulatory bodies that do the work of accreditation and assessment? “One suggestion is to have a National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). Who will oversee its quality?” he said.

According to National Knowledge Commission, India needed 1,000 universities and 50,000 colleges by 2020. That was a gloomy scenario. “From where do we get the teachers and the infrastructure?”said Mr. Murthy. At present, 49 per cent of teaching posts in colleges were vacant and 68 per cent of teachers did not have Ph. D or M. Phil., he said.