For the country to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, it will ?have to provide skills to millions of youngsters who come out of school ?and graduate from colleges
There are 719 universities in India, including about 300 public universities, 223 private ones, 140 deemed-to-be universities and 44 central varsities. The concept of private universities has its origins in the late 1970s.
Private universities have in many ways shown that they are a good alternative to public universities. Many private universities have invested heavily in faculty and other resources and are doing much better than most public universities. The resource requirements of private universities are based on tuition and they are perceived as being somewhat more expensive than public universities. But the additional funds they get as a result of charging a little bit more fees are well spent.
Dr Madhukar Angur, Chancellor
Public universities on the other hand constantly face resource shortages. While there are some very good public universities, many of them suffer from shortage of resources and are unable to implement many academic initiatives. Consequently, public universities are not growing now.
The combination of public and private universities is common elsewhere in the world. In the US, many of the great universities - Harvard and Stanford, for instance - are private. There are also many good public universities including the University of Michigan. Even in India, this model of public and private universities is catching up.
For instance, when Alliance University was established as a private university about five years ago, there were just 75 private universities in India. Today, there are 223. Almost 40 per cent of students in India study at private universities.
Decision-making at private universities is somewhat faster than at public ones. Private universities are usually adequately funded by entrepreneurs who establish them. But public universities are not-for-profit entities, and all the surplus funds have to be channelled into the university.
While public universities have affiliated colleges, private universities own the constituent colleges that are part of the universities. This was done as the government wanted to move away from the concept of affiliated colleges, where the quality of colleges is not uniform and some colleges may not be as good as the parent university.
Another feature of private universities is that many of them have flagship colleges or schools. At Alliance University, our school of business is the flagship. We have also been spending huge amounts on infrastructure to ensure top-quality faculty maintains levels of excellence. Private universities are able to establish better standards.
The number of private universities in India is growing rapidly, while public universities are not able to keep pace. Ultimately, however, we in India have to be worried about the low gross enrolment ratios (GER), which reflect the proportion of students passing out of the plus two-stage and getting into colleges.
In India it is still below 20 per cent, while the global average is closer to 70 per cent. Even among the BRICS nations, India has the lowest GER. We need more colleges and universities to ensure that a larger number of students enter the mainstream higher education sector.
A GER of 20 indicates that the remaining 80 per cent of the youth enter the job market. But many of them do not have the necessary skill sets. The Indian government has unveiled an excellent step to encourage skill development among the youth. The ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and the National Skill Development Corporation aim to encourage the setting up of institutions that will impart skills' training to the youth.
In the US, community colleges providing training in skills such as carpentry and plumbing. Those who do not get into mainstream college education take up such programmes. Of course, in the US hiring a plumber - in terms of dollars per hour - is far more expensive than hiring an engineer.
Sadly, many among the 20 per cent youth who study at colleges and graduate are not employable. Last year, of the 150,000 management students who graduated from B-schools in India, just 15 per cent were employable. Same is the case for law graduates. Only about 20 to 25 per cent of engineering graduates are found to be employable, though the percentage for medical graduates is higher at 40 per cent.
The skills development programme should ensure that undergraduates are made employable by offering them additional skills in college.
For India to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, it will have to provide skills to the millions of youngsters who come out of school and graduate from colleges. By 2020, India will become one of the youngest countries in the world, with a median age of 29. There will be plenty of opportunities for young Indians to work abroad in ageing countries including in Europe and the US. But for this to happen, the youngsters - both graduates and those undergoing vocational programmes - should be thoroughly trained.
The author is Chancellor of Alliance University, Bengaluru.