Higher education institutes need to implement strategies to encourage innovation

Despite steady progress since independence, higher education institutes need to prioritise experimentation, research and discovery and establish a culture to achieve this.

Published - August 13, 2023 05:15 pm IST

HEIs should create a research and innovation culture where students are encouraged to experiment and push outcome-based ideas to the industry.

HEIs should create a research and innovation culture where students are encouraged to experiment and push outcome-based ideas to the industry. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The outcome of higher education has continuously impacted socio-economic and technological development in India. Has innovation helped India scale up to global standards? The implementation of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and the initiatives of the Government of Tamil Nadu towards skill development and entrepreneurial promotion might come to a reasonable rescue.

Looking back

Since independence, the Indian government has taken steps to enhance the quality of higher education and map its objectives and outcome. A number of education commissions and committees were constituted to review various aspects of higher education and suggest specific remediation to the identified issues and challenges. The University Education Commission (1948-49), under the chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan, laid the foundation by emphasising the need to produce skilled technicians who would successfully operate various industries. The Mudaliar Commission, set up subsequently, recommended the implementation of effective methods of teaching and reformation in the system of examination.

For the Kothari Education Commission (1964-66), the implementation of the symbiotic relation between educational and national development at all levels was a high priority. Therefore, a document on Challenge of Education: A Policy Perspective was prepared to initiate a nation-wide public debate and to draw up the ‘Draft of National Policy of Education, 1986’. The salient features included development of education for the underprivileged with sufficient number of scholarships and facilities for special coaching and women’s education with equitable number of educational opportunities in all the fields. A programme of Action (POA), constituted to implement National Policy of Education, envisaged the expansion and enhancement of infrastructure quality and standards in the higher education institutions. As a major step, it converted 500 colleges as autonomous institutions and redesigned higher education courses to meet growing demands of the market.

In 1990, the Acharya Ramamurti Committee reviewed the NPE and insisted on the inclusion of techno-informative knowledge base and creation of opportunities to acquire knowledge, skills and values that would play a catalytic role in promoting national cohesion and unity. Further, the Yashpal Committee and National Knowledge Commission (2006-2009) recommended protecting the intellectual autonomy of educational institutions and the creation of all-encompassing National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) to replace the existing regulatory bodies. The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA 2013) aimed at strategic funding to higher educational institutions based on critical appraisal of state higher educational plans that would describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education. Some of its key features included upgradation of existing autonomous colleges to universities and conversion of colleges to cluster colleges. Thus, revamping the curriculum, skill development, examination reform, upgrading institutions to higher level and strategic funding have been the focus.


Despite steady progress in the field of higher education, there has been a clear lack in the area of experimentation, innovations and discoveries in India. India’s ranking in the patent filing is closely linked to the allocation for research and development. India’s allocation of 0.7% of Gross Development Product (GDP) for R&D is comparatively lower than the U.S.’s 2.8%, China’s 2.1%, Israel’s 4.3% and Korea’s 4.2%.

Another obstacle is the lack of engagement with the industry. Higher educational institutions are yet to find a connect with the industry through which they can experiment, pitch ideas and deploy them appropriately. The practices of academia and the requirements of the industry have not been completely aligned. It is high time that industry-academia collaboration is strengthened to utilise research findings and innovate. However, what is pertinent here is the observation of Lanny Cohen, Innovation Officer of Capgemini, that organisations cannot just open innovation centres and expect an overnight transformation in their creative output. To achieve and sustain real change, higher education institutions should create a research and innovation culture where students are encouraged to experiment and push outcome-based ideas to the industry.

It is in this context that the NEP 2020 assumes importance with its thrust on developing a child’s ‘Creative Potential’ based on higher-order cognitive capacities and to cultivate innovation and creativity in learners through industry-institution linkages and collaborative programme. In addition, promoting thought-provoking research as a pre-requisite for outstanding education will transform India into a vibrant knowledge society. The NEP has prioritised research and innovation over many other aspects with financial commitment to academic research. The outcome is the creation of Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge sharing (DIKSHA), a national repository of high-quality resources on foundational literacy, numeracy, competency-based learning and education through innovative and experiential methods acquired using gamification and apps.

The freedom for select Indian universities to set up campuses in other countries and initiate start-up incubation centres, technology development centres and centres in frontier of areas of research helps foster knowledge creation and innovation that will contribute to the growing national economy. These expected benefits depend on the commitment of all stakeholders from bureaucrats to educationists. Interestingly, the Government of Tamil Nadu has launched the Naan Mudhalvan Scheme to provide free employment-linked skill development training to the youth and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Fellowship Programme (TNCMFP) to harness the energy and talent of young professionals to improve the governance processes. These innovative strategies in the areas of skill development and entrepreneurship are expected to boost a knowledge society that contributes to global education. Certainly, the key is the effort that both the central and state government have to continue to take for successful implementation and sustenance of these policies and schemes.

S. Vincent is former Member-Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Council for Science & Technology (TNSCST), Ministry of Higher Education, Government of Tamil Nadu and Dean of Research, Loyola College, Chennai. K.S. Antonysamy is Director, DDU Kaushal Kendra, Loyola College, Chennai.

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