Creating globally competitive higher education institutes has been a crying need for India, reflected in the poor show of Indian varsities and institutes in international rankings. Thus, the government’s vision to create 20 Institutes of Eminence (IoEs)—dropping the world-class nomenclature notwithstanding—is commendable. Except, it is difficult to see how most of what the HRD ministry is proposing as rules for IoEs take the nation down that road.
The proposal to keep the 20 IoEs out of the purview of the UGC is definitely a sound one—without government fetters on academic and administrative matters, the institutes are more likely to evolve models that are up to global standards. But the government’s insistence on the threshold corpus required for private institutes to earn the coveted tag—though the prime minister’s office and the HRD ministry both, as per The Economic Times, have differed on the amount—just ensures that the money is locked-in and there is that much lesser funds at the institute’s disposal. Similarly, IoEs need to be free to select their own faculty/student mix and zero down on an ideal faculty-student ratio, though the PMO suggested 1:10 is close to what seven out of nine Ivy League varsities, as per the Times Higher Education rankings, have. The HRD ministry fixing a 1:20 ratio or a R60 crore corpus threshold for the IoEs doesn’t do much for attaining world-class standards. In fact, such rule-setting would mean a repeat of the show thus far.