Strategic Inflection Points in the Higher Education System in India

According to Andy Grove, the co-founder of Intel, the USA MNC giant, a strategic inflection point "is an event that changes the way we think and act". There have been some good strategic inflection points in the higher education system in India as well. This article is an attempt to discuss these strategic inflection points in some detail.


When we consider that a strategic inflection point is an event that changes the way we think and act, the natural extension of this thought is to identify who this "we" are in the first place. In the higher education system in India," we " refers to the policymakers, that is, the Government of India and the State Governments and the Managements of educational institutions, students, the parents, and the teachers.

Translated into action, the strategic inflection points totally changed the higher education system in India, and the numerous choices available to study any good course leading to viable and profitable careers, both in India and abroad, are now so varied and numerous than ever before. These changes have India a big educational hub among the developing countries. We just need a little fillip to go ahead and once this happens, we will be able to reach new heights in higher education. This augurs well for the country as a whole.

In the main, the strategic inflection points in the higher education system in India, have been centred around a) The massive increase in the number of State Universities b)The emergence of very good Deemed Universities b) the emergence of dozens of new courses and careers c) The "to be" spirit of youngsters in metro and urban areas d) Influence of the global linkages and e) Inclusive growth in higher education in many parts of India.

The massive increase in the number of State Universities

The UGC Website lists a total of 417 State Universities. Similarly, there are 780 autonomous colleges in our country; a massive number of 215 out of these colleges are based in Tamil Nadu. Each of these colleges is a fabulous college of repute. For example, St. Joseph's College is a 150-year-old institution, that has produced some of the finest technocrats and scientists in the country.

The emergence of very good Deemed Universities

It was the late Chief Minister, Mr.M.G. Ramachandran, who gave away 99 acres of land in Vellore, to one of his able former Ministers, Mr. Vishwanathan, to set up an Engineering College of repute, some three decades ago. The college grew from strength to strength, but when the chance came to convert itself into a Deemed Unversity, Mr. Vishwanathan, pounced on the opportunity. Today, Vellore Institute of Technology, VIT, as it is well known all over the world, is one of India's largest export houses for higher education in IT, Mechanical, and even Civil disciplines, and year after year, the placement record is improving with global placements now becoming common with the best quality of students graduating from the institution. Its cousin brother, the prestigious SRM University

Ditto for the likes of Amity University, Symbiosis International, Loverly Professional University, which have a big reputation for quality.

In the composite Andhra Pradesh, the GITAM University stands out for its high quality of education. Even within Tamil Nadu, there is the SAASTRA University
that operates from a C class town called Tanjore but has acquired a status of its own. Down South, in a remote town called Srivilliputhur, there is another Deemed University called the Kalasilingam Universitythat is now making waves in that part of the country and also attracting students from all over India. This trend is now continuing, with the various Deemed Universities like the Hindustan UniversityChennai, introducing a string of job-oriented courses to make a difference to the students.

The emergence of dozens of new courses and careers

Some 25 years ago, none would have thought that Organized retail will emerge as one of the best careers. Or, that Event Management would become the multi-crore business that it is today. Those who are event managers employ a large number of college students on a part-time basis and also on regular rolls. The profession is booming with every single day and the newer forms that the careers are taking are breath-taking. This is a big strategic inflection point in higher education in India.

For example, the award functions to announce the best actors for the year, from among the various television serials, on each major TV channel in Tamil Nadu, is a big event in Chennai. There are hundreds of sponsors and advertisers. The event managers are laughing all the way to the bank. Apart from the products of the B.Sc( Visual Communication) course conducted by the likes of the prestigious Madras Christian College, Chennai, and at least one hundred colleges throughout Tamil Nadu, the manpower pool also comes from the MBAs who specialize in Marketing. There are too many MBA graduates to be hired from the tier 2 and tier 3 cities of South India and this is a massive business in each of the Indian metros.

Today, we have under-graduate and post-graduate courses in microbiology, biotechnology, bioinformatics, pharmaceutical chemistry, industrial chemistry, tourism, investment management, insurance management, and what have you. The emergence of such courses has meant that the choices for different careers for the youngsters at the higher education level are so massive and the increased choices also have different options. For example, if a commerce graduate is so desperate to take up the job of an Accounts Assistant by force of circumstances, within two years, he can easily pass the interstage of the prestigious ICWA course at low cost. And with this qualification, he will graduate to an executive position. He or she can go on to do the ICWA final course and qualify as a cost accountant. Furthermore, he or she can easily go on to do the Executive MBA course, on a part-time or weekend basis, as this course would help him or her to be equal to the IIM graduates. The part-time Executive MBA to be offered by the different B-Schools, on the weekends is likely to be a sure winner in the years to come.

This is the best way to equip oneself in a commerce career. Today, the options available are so huge and the youngsters are thus not bothered about career options.

The "to be" spirit of youngsters in metro and urban areas

The spirit to experiment and strike out on one's own is now seen in the urban areas like never before. Those with a taste for Hindustani music or Carnatic music have joined the event managers to offer their packages called "Sangeet" at various weddings. These music specialists combine their offerings with the dance of a different kind. There are dancers who dance to the tune of melodious music. This trend is now pronounced than ever before. The youngsters do not hesitate to quit their well-paid IT jobs; similarly, there are many who undergo special courses in organic farming and then go into a full-time business of organic farming. The scope for off-beat careers is increasing like never before. For example, take those in the beauty business. This is a multi-million dollar industry now.

Influence of the global linkages

There are so many collaborations between the foreign institutions and the deemed Universities and the IIMs and the IITs. For example, the prestigious Indian School of Business (ISB) has many collaborations that enable the highest standard of research in India.

The scope of these linkages is likely to increase in the years to come. The various linkages will not only increase the standards of education but will also increase the standing of India as one of the best sources for educated manpower.

Inclusive growth in higher education in many parts of India

It is not that the forward caste people alone have benefitted from the reservation policies followed by almost every State Government. Though the 69% reservation stands out in Tamil Nadu, the 50% reservation for the socially backward classes and the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes has created a vast manpower pool that finds itself comfortably placed in the middle-class economic spectrum. Those who have managed to acquire good qualifications like the PGDM from the IIMs or the B.Tech from any of the IITs have managed to go up the economic ladder and are comfortably placed in the rich class as well.

The churning in the Higher Education policy is set to happen when the New Economic Policy begins to roll out. However, the complexities that obtain in various States need to be taken into account to make any meaningful advances in higher education at a macro level. For example, courses in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, SAP, and the like are likely to be offered by high-quality engineering colleges even in remote areas. And the Indian Institutes of Technology might as well offer new courses in emerging areas like Sustainable Development and Management of Non-Government Institutions. The scope for such specialization is very wide.


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