Future Of Research - Based Educationin India

Professor Mohan Krishnamoorthy, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research Partnerships), University of Queensland (UQ)What Are Your Thoughts On The Current State Of Research-Based Education In India?
In general, India is struggling with the education challenges posed by its demographic profile. The demographic dividend also creates a substantial, large and unprecedented demand for education. The gross enrollment ratio(GER)in India is 27 percent, which is behind China(43 percent), Brazil(51 percent) and South Korea(over 90 percent). Given the Indian Government’s ambition to increase the GER to 50 percent by 2035, this will mean that, at that point in time, one in four graduates in the world will come from the Indian higher education system. This will also mean that the country will need to build substantial additional capacity to meet the growing demand. A recent estimate indicates that some 1000 new universities will be needed. This unprecedented growth must not come at the cost of quality. Quality is defined by adoption of advanced pedagogical methods and curriculum. It must also be driven by research-backed and researchled education. However, if we look at India’s education sector today, we see some what outdated pedagogical methods and curriculum and a low level of international research collaborations (relative to other countries). Even some of the more recently created IITs and IIMs institutions of repute have difficulty in recruiting good academics.

All of this is reflected in rankings, where India has no entrant in the top 100. In comparison, Australia, a country with a population of almost equal to that of the state of Chattisgarh, has six of its 39 universities in the top 100. While, there is no doubt that research-based education in India is improving, more needs to be done, and one way to do this is through intensive, scale based research collaborations & partnerships with highly ranked international institutions.

One exciting signal, through the setting up of the Institutions of Eminence(IOE) is that, India appears determined to improve the number and quality of PhD students in the system. The sector in India just does not have the capacity to meet the demand for PhD graduates. Just in the last 18 years or so, the number of R&D centers in India many of them multinational company R&D centers grew from about 100 in 2001 (when GE established their JackWelch R&D Center in Bangalore) to about 1300 in 2013. R&D expenditure by overseas companies has seen a massive increase from Rs.2,860 million in 2002-03 to Rs.28,830 million in 2009-10(in other words, there has been a near 10-fold increase in overseas company R&D in India in less than 10 years). All of these point to a requirement for more PhD graduates.
In relative terms, India produces a tenth of the number of PhD students that Australia does.

How Will Educational And Research-Based Partnerships Help India And Australia Build Better International Relationship, Besides Enhancing The Overall Growth Of Indian Education System?
Research collaboration with international partners is vital to the health of the education and research sector of any country. Today’s problems of energy, food and water security are global in nature. Moreover, digital communication and collaboration tools, have influenced a significant growth in internationalization. Universities across the world have internationalized and have formed institutional education and research partnerships over the last 40 years or more. India must do so too. Everyone benefits. Students benefit through opportunities to learn at international partner universities, which in turn equips them to be a part of a global society. Researchers benefit because they can work on solving problems that are truly global in nature. In 2018, research data collected by the US National Science Foundation showed that worldwide one in four publications were co-authored internationally(by authors with institutional addresses from at least two countries) by institutions also.

For Australia, the need to collaborate with the Indian research ecosystem is multifold: (a) talent, (b) networks (c) challenging research problems and (d) industry. Despite a low GER India has an ever-growing base of students who want to pursue research careers. The IITs, IIMs and IISERs are strong institutions of research & collaborations with these will provide Australian researchers with access to challenging problems as well as access to industry driven transdisciplinary problems. Multinational companies are increasingly locating R&D centres in countries like India and China. In the last 30 years, US multinationals have moved away from their traditional links to R&D hubs in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, France and Canada. Where these five countries once conducted 74 percent of all US multinational R&D in 1989, they represented just 43 percent of that spend in 2014.

What Can India Learn From The Methodologies Of Research-Based Education Across Other Countries?
Research intensive Indian institutions must work with carefully chosen overseas institutions to ensure that their pedagogical methods and curricula are current. Moreover, there is a lot to be learned from the research processes and research frameworks (particularly for applied and industry focused research) that overseas research intensive institutions practice. Today’s research is much more transdisciplinary than ever before. The need is to be able to pull research capabilities from diverse disciplines together from across the institution (and beyond) to help shape research that translates into implementable solutions.

What Potential Trends And Advancements Do You Foresee In The Indian Education Sector For 2020? Do You Have Any Suggestions For The Indian Educational Institutions To Hone Their Existing Systems?
The draft National Education Policy(NEP) that was released on 5th July 2019 in India is forward-looking, courageous and remarkable. For example, the NEP sets a target of 50 percent of youth being enrolled in universities by 2035 but notes the widespread decay or underdevelopment of higher education across India, especially the state run universities and college where 93 percent of students study. Part of the NEP’s approach is to tier the sector which is comprised of large universities and many colleges into a substantial number of institutions in three tiers:(a)education & research intensive(b) teaching focused and (c) undergraduate education only institutions. This is a good move. The other signal in the NEP which is a substantial improvement is to see these institutions as centres that move away from an exam culture of education to building cohorts of broad-based thinkers who are able to bring interdisciplinary enquiry and critical thinking through their education. These, along with a new regulatory structure, will position India really strongly by 2035. As usual though effectiveness of such bold (and necessary) initiatives will depend on funding and implementation. The other exciting facet in the sector is digital learning.