NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 14, 2008

Loosening the Indian government's famously bureaucratic "License Raj" when it comes to governing businesses has helped spur an economic surge that has transformed the country and its standing in the world.  In contrast, critics say India's educational system remains mired in red tape that stifles expansion and innovation.

The system falls far short of meeting the demand among young people for places in good colleges and universities.  And it deprives India of the ranks of well-educated graduates it needs to supply crucial industries such as information technology and pharmaceuticals, says the Wall Street Journal's Geeta Anand:

  • The mandate that pharmacy colleges must provide 168 square feet per student, for instance, means that nearly 75 percent of the 25,000 people who took the pharmacy-college entrance exam this year in the state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, were turned away because there weren't enough seats.
  • The regulatory restrictions are especially severe in technical fields such as engineering, pharmacy, business administration and computer science; almost every aspect of operations for about 8,500 private and public colleges and universities is overseen by the All India Council for Technical Education, a New Delhi-based government body empowered by law in 1987.
  • The council was created with the goal of setting high, universal standards for technical education and reducing corruption; it employs thousands of inspectors and administrators who enforce its standards.

The council approves the opening of new colleges and accredits existing colleges.  It requires that college principals and professors hold doctorates and assistant professors have master's degrees.  It forbids colleges from introducing new programs or courses without its sign off.

The council's vast purview is prompting an outcry from educational and business leaders who want to see the higher-educational system reformed.  The Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry earlier this year proposed abolishing the council altogether.

The National Knowledge Commission, an advisory committee appointed by the prime minister, is proposing to set up a new independent regulatory authority, invest more government funding in higher education and build 50 national universities.

"There is a quiet crisis in higher education in India that runs deep," said Sam Pitroda, chairman of commission, in a report.  "The system as a whole is overregulated."

Source: Geeta Anand, " India's Colleges Battle a Thicket of Red Tape," Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2008.

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