The demand-side in India’s tertiary-level education does make it seem like the country needs more colleges—and, as a corollary, larger universities. But large varsities don’t always make for high—in some cases, even moderate—quality given the administrative challenges their size is likely to cause. So, it is good that Bangalore University—with 650 affiliated colleges—has decided to split into three different universities. Although the plan to resize the university has been on since the past seven years, it was only last year that the state government ratified the trifurcation. Whether the trifurcation would lead to better management or not is not clear. But, the university which serves 3.5 lakh students was certainly in need of this, given how most of its colleges had a poor standing in terms of accreditation by the NAAC. Moreover, the varsity does not figure in the university rankings recently released by the Centre.
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Given smaller institutions in the country have been more successful in terms of academic and research achievements and global standing, it makes sense to create more of these and split large universities. Consider the case of IISc, Bangalore, which had figured in the top-10 small university rankings by Times Higher Education. More important, if one considers World University rankings, none of the 31 Indian universities in the top-1,000 had a student-strength of more than 50,000. This, when the country, according to AISHE 2015-16, has 268 universities—of which 17 had over 500 affiliated colleges—and over 39,071 colleges. In fact, Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Kanpur University, Kanpur, had 1,177 colleges affiliated, with only a handful being graded highly by NAAC. Even in the case of Delhi University, which has just 77 colleges, no college was able to get the highest NAAC grading. Most universities in the US have a bench strength of close to 50,000; even those in the top-10 have over 10,000 students. While India certainly does better with smaller institutes, the country would do well if the same could be replicated for the larger ones.