The IoE regulations allow universities to tinker with fees of both domestic and international students, and offer flexibility in terms of hiring foreign nationals, and industry leaders as faculty.
Given the Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag from the Centre comes with a grant of Rs 1,000 crore, autonomy to design courses and programmes, and independence to not only earn but also allocate financial resources, it is very hard to understand why Delhi University (DU), after applying for the tag and getting selected, has decided to defer “acceptance” of the same. The university administration perhaps yielded to pressure from the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA), which had threatened a strike, claiming that the IoE tag was a gateway to privatisation of the university, and the executive council of the university that has protested the move. DUTA, among other reasons, bases its objections on the argument that , since the grant will be limited to just Rs 1,000 crore or 50-75% of the projected requirement following the grant of the IoE tag, if the requirement is significantly higher, DU will have to hike fees or look to the market to meet funding requirements. However, the IoE rulebook says that the grant will be over and above the regular funding that the IoE is entitled to. The grant cap, therefore, doesn’t force the IoE to hike fees or approach the market for funds—neither of which is summarily undesirable, though—if it adds courses or infrastructure at a lower cost. For perspective, Ashoka University abutting the national capital raised Rs 750 crore to offer top-class infrastructure and faculty to students.
The IoE regulations allow universities to tinker with fees of both domestic and international students, and offer flexibility in terms of hiring foreign nationals, and industry leaders as faculty. It also relaxes significantly the norms for offering online and certificate courses. While it is true that, in the past, autonomy has been linked with self-financing, the IoE tag goes beyond self-reliance. DU, or for that matter any Indian university, government-funded or otherwise, has not been able to figure in the top-100 in any of the well-known global rankings. DU not only doesn’t feature even in the top-500 in the Times rankings but also slipped six positions in the national rankings, to 13, this year. The decline was due to fall in teaching and learning resources, and research, professional practice and collaborative performance. Research funding in the university fell to Rs 50 crore in 2017-18, from Rs 60 crore a year earlier. The university, thus, is in dire need of reforms, and these can’t be carried out without an upgradation of infrastructure, and a policy incentivising teachers who outperform peers; colleges, under the new rules, would be able to provide a variable pay component for better-performing teachers. While this practice is quite common in world-class foreign universities, DUTA claims it would create a reward for those who raise funds rather than contribute to academic excellence. A permanent job doesn’t offer the university teachers incentive to perform better, giving the lie to DUTA’s claims. Indian universities must jump across a wide divide to catch up on the global stage, the Delhi University administration and its teachers must not become roadblocks.