Managing the new HEIs | The Financial Express

Managing the new HEIs

With increasing global competition and rising costs as well as the expectation to be able to fend for themselves, higher education institutes require leadership with the appropriate skills to guide them.

education, education sector
As highlighted by NEP 2020, budgetary allocation for research and innovation is comparatively low among several countries. (IE)

By Jai Mohan Pandit

Universities in India have enormously evolved during the last two decades. Indeed, with the introduction of the National Education Policy 2020, higher education in India is in the process of a complete structural overhaul and a massive expansion. In this context, the next ten years will be crucial for higher education in India.

Traditionally, worldwide, universities were run on a collegiate and scholarly basis, but imparting education has now become a business model. This means higher education institutes (HEIs) need to have a blueprint for generating, delivering, and capturing value, while making revenue to cover costs and explore innovative models to face global competition. However, most HEIs in India still follow the conventional academic and administrative leadership model, characterised by sluggishness, lack of innovation, and professional development. Even though higher education has grown enormously since independence, its quality and global rankings have remained almost the same. The employment opportunities for the younger generation are under enormous stress, particularly with a large-scale demand-supply mismatch.

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These challenges demand professional management, strategic planning, and new leadership models. Indeed, there is no compromise on the academic and research quality of the HEI leader. However, empirical research has validated that additional skills, such as new leadership styles and strategic management, are suitable for fostering a conducive environment and modernisation. The leadership must believe in participatory democracy and combine collegiality with a proactive business-like approach. Leading and managing a change is a vast and critical huge responsibility which may lead to conflicts and failures.

HEIs also need innovative hybrid and triple-helix models, i.e., the relationship between the university, government, and industry, to overcome financial constraints and impart the industry skills students need. Neoliberal financial transformations have drastically reduced the financial support for the higher education sector. Such a shift in the original concept of higher education, considered a public good, has driven the adoption of business models in higher education. The push for the marketisation of higher education results from its hybridisation. This means that organisations that function in the public and private spheres must fulfil public and commercial agendas. The triple-helix model brings together the trio.

As highlighted by NEP 2020, budgetary allocation for research and innovation is comparatively low among several countries. It is around 0.69% in India compared to 2.8% in the US, 4.3% in Israel and 4.2% in South Korea. However, NEP acknowledges that investment in higher education is crucial towards the society’s future and the betterment of our students. Accordingly, to achieve excellence in education, public investment of 6% of the GDP in the education sector was recommended. The committee of the central advisory board of education, in 2005, recommended 1.5% of GDP for higher education, while India spends approx. 1.25% even now.

NEP 2020 intends to offer leadership positions of HEIs to people with high academic and leadership calibre to manage critical situations. Moreover, the policy has envisaged a leadership succession planning to ensure that good practices are continued. It has also suggested a pipeline to confirm the identity and develop new leaders. Furthermore, the government has announced the transformation of the regulatory system of higher education. The new system is to have four verticals—regulation, accreditation, funding, and academic standard—empowered bodies brought under a chief body, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).

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Higher education is a priority of the government; but given the affordability challenges, the state and central governments discourage financial dependence on them. At the same time, the management of universities and delivery of knowledge through traditional methods have become exorbitant. With the advent of the NEP 2020, HEIs are expected to raise more resources apart from government grants. This will also allow full autonomy to the leadership and the universities, and a combination of good leadership with full autonomy could result in a high-quality HEI. Indeed, the funding from the government is expected to be linked with the institutions’ performance, which could impact government- and private-funded HEIs. It is expected that the HEIs may study the practices that their peers in western countries, corporates, and other private firms follow and adopt some of the best practices to deal with the strategic management and funding crisis.

Fundraising has become a critical priority for higher education and, therefore, a crucial job skill required for leadership. Indeed, financial planning and revenue generation are complex and involve adherence to regulatory and compliance frameworks, governance, strategic planning, analytical thinking, and entrepreneurial and data skills. Therefore, HEI leaders must possess a strong acumen in strategic management, brand building, recruitment and retention of excellent faculty and staff, good human resource management policies, result-oriented performance management, financial management, balanced scorecards, financial plans etc., to ensure better management. These aspects will be more critical in the wake of the global recession and economic crisis.

The author works at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai. Views are personal

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First published on: 14-01-2023 at 04:00 IST