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Implications for higher education in India

The Financial Express
By Professor  

Globalisation has had a profound impact on the changing landscape of higher education around the world. India aspires to build a knowledge-based society that critically values research and scholarship through publications as a central component of University development. International collaborations and global initiatives are critical for developing academic standards and research capacities within our Universities. While there are significant milestones that the post-independent India has achieved in various sectors both in the economy and society, transformational reforms relating to higher education is an urgent need of the hour.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-12 glaringly demonstrates that not a single university from India is ranked as one of the world’s top 200 universities, while universities in other parts of the world including in China and East Asia have a number of Universities that have made great achievements in the last few decades. The criteria for these rankings are: teaching (30%); research (30%); citations (30%); industry income (2.5%); and international outlook (7.5%). It is clear that research and the impact of research alone constitutes 60% of the weightage for determining the rankings.

International collaborations are central to developing research agenda not only in terms of the thematic framework for research, but also for understanding the best practices of research capacities that prevail in different parts of the world. It needs to be noted that collaborative research between scholars from different institutions is a well-established phenomenon that prevails in most of the top universities. Increasingly, there is a strong commitment in pursuing research with an international and comparative dimension. There are a number of issues that affect the world at large and there is a strong need for developing research collaborations between universities in India and other parts of the world. Pursuing such research partnerships in the form of international collaborations between faculty members from two or more institutions, or research centres help in fulfilling the research objectives.

Most of the universities in India are focused on studies and research relating to a single  iscipline. Even if there are many disciplines in a University, the interaction between the faculty members, research scholars and students between these faculties and schools either do not exist or at best, limited. There is a threshold challenge to our higher education system, if the best of our institutions foster research that is germane to only a single discipline. Some of the most reputed institutions in this country in the field of sciences, engineering and management happen to be largely single discipline institutions.

The experience of OP Jindal Global University (JGU) with four schools: Jindal Global Law School; Jindal Global Business School; Jindal School of International Affairs; and Jindal School of Government and Public Policy is a useful example to demonstrate the strong focus on developing substantive international collaborations that focus on institutionalising global education through a global curriculum, global courses, global programmes, global faculty, global research and global interaction. JGU’s international outlook is central to its vision as a Global University. The Jindal Global Law School has collaborated with universities around the world including in relation to faculty and student exchange programmes, joint teaching and research initiatives and joint conference and publications. One of the earliest such initiatives is with the University of Cambridge in which both JGU and Cambridge jointly have been undertaking a training programme for senior IPS officers on issues relating to policing and criminal justice. JGU had signed a MoU with the University of Cambridge which involves the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India nominating for nearly 100 senior police officers at the level of DIGs and IGs to participate in this programme taught by faculty members from both the Universities and police leaders from across the world. The Jindal Global Business School has established a Global Immersion Programme with the University of Texas Dallas at the Naveen Jindal School of Management in which several of our MBA students pursue a study abroad programme and industry interaction with corporations in the USA.

Another substantial international collaborative initiative by JGU is in relation to a video conference enabled Global Classroom experience in which an entire course is taught through this technological interface. This collaborative initiative is undertaken by JGU with the Cornell University and the University of Michigan. In addition a research centre known as Michigan-Jindal Centre for Global Corporate and Financial Law and Policy as been established by both the universities. Most recently, the Jindal Global Law School and Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law have collaborated in launching a unique programme that will lead to the award of two degrees in law from India and the USA. 

India is poised to seek a transformational change in the landscape of higher education. While many developing countries look up to India for our ability to provide leadership in many aspects of international relations and development, we need to recognise that international collaborations and global initiatives among institutions around the world will help in institution building which a sine qua non of nation building.

Dr C Raj Kumar, a Rhodes Scholar is the Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University. He can be reached at CRK@jgu.edu.in