Private Universities are a business like any other. And most of them are family owned business aimed at generating profits.
In India, where the risk taking appetite is low, quality is generally given a damn before profits, Private Universities will be in no-way different.
And mind you, these are not negative qualities of Indian Psyche. In India, sustainability is the basic need. Indians have developed their characteristics to suit the need of sustainability.
In anything we do in India from bedrooms to boardrooms, risks and quality are considered anathema.
How can Private Universities be an exception to this..?
There are several points that can be said in support of Private Universities. They are
1. They are staffed with mostly highly qualified teachers
2. They provide better infrastructure than public universities
3. They have very high number of Campus Recruitments
4. They provide better facilities to students
Highly Qualified Teachers
Most these Universities are staffed in majority, with teachers, who have had higher educational qualifications from the University itself! So in theory, they have teachers with Post-Graduate qualifications and doctorates. Reality is different.
Education is not just about teaching a subject. Education is about transferring the knowledge content from a Teacher to student. Teacher is a source of knowledge. More important, in my view, Teacher is also a facilitator, who facilitates the learning of student, from multiple sources, by providing the correct understanding for the student.
In most Private Universities, our teachers do not have this ability. This is the situation even in most Public colleges and Universities. In Private Universities and colleges it is very acute.
Teachers who themselves do not understand what they are teaching, teach the subjects, just to finish the courses.
While this is a problem in Private Colleges too, since Private Universities have the scales of quality with themselves. They compromise on the quality of education offered and do irreparable harm to the future of the Country.
Good Educational Infrastructure
Our largely held Indian view, even in the minds of several ‘experienced educators’ is that infrastructure simply means availability of lab space, equipments and some technicians who know to switch on and off these devices and administer the lab.
Is this what is infrastructure..? What is the use of expensive equipments and labs, if no one knows how to use it or simply don’t use it ?
Most of the educational infrastructures in Private Universities are show-case pieces that are not used.
In some cases they don’t know how to use it. In some cases, they are so expensive that they don’t want to use it. In some cases they don’t know how to use it meaningfully for any application.
In many public universities and colleges, these expensive pieces of equipments do not exist. Yet their quality of education is far better than the private universities, as they have people who know to use whatever they have and teach that to students.
Unless the educational institutes have some research or entreprenuerial focus, there is no use of any kind of infrastructure they have. Such research or business focus should not be just for the cause of marketing (as in the case of most private universities), but should be with real intent.
One question that comes to everyone is, how is it that large organizations recruit people from these Private Universities, if the quality of students is very poor. Number of Campus Recruitments has been a significant marketing tool for very many of these Private Universities.
The Private Universities and Colleges created a marketing blitz with the help of media-houses and created a perception and market value for them in the minds of people. Based on the perceived value they created, they were getting above average students into their fold from many parts of the Country.
Media-houses vied with one another to capture a part of the money going to these Private Universities and Colleges , providing useless ratings, bordering on absurdity. The role of Media-houses was and remains very shady in promoting these Universities.
As the demand for Software Professionals exploded with Industry in the last decade, Industry was ready to recruit from anywhere. Engineering Colleges and Universities offered a big pool of students who (mostly) were above average.
Hence irrespective of what was being taught in the University or College, Industry used to go to institutions in the order of perceived market value and hire students. The real need for the Industry was above average intelligent student with some programming language introduction. A four year degree was treated as relevant to bill the customer.
Hence these Universities, irrespective of what they taught to students (Civil, Mechanical, Electronics, Communication, Bio-medical, Chemical or Architecture) got their students into various Software companies, which they touted as their achievement.
Not one University has achieved anything with their students in real technical terms. Not to fault with them, but it takes time and real effort to have real achievements.
Better facilities to students
Most Private Universities are run as another form of hospitality business.
Hire an experienced educational (hotel) administrator or set of them. They know what courses (menus) are to be structured, what materials (cooking items) to procure, which regulatory authorities to be pleased in what way. To top it up, hire landscaping contractors to beautify the place, offer top-class boarding and lodging facilities and know how to market. You are ready to run a Private University.
Only thing to be in addition is to call seasoned politicians and scintillating cine-actors to their convocations and confer them honrary doctorates, to ensure that they are seen as an University.
Here I am not belittling those into Private University business. Indeed it is as tough as any other business to run.
Privatization of Education – A need
I think Privatization of Education distribution is good for its spread, while public spending on it also should be increased to 10% of GDP.
I truly applaud the entrepreneurial spirit of those private University entrepreneurs who are pioneering this business in India. But then, a big thanks. And no. We are not yet there, when it comes to running an University.
Education business calls for more ethics and control than any other business. Hence even at the cost of growth, lot more regulations and controls need to be in place in this sector. India is not yet a place for Private Universities to prosper.
The Deemed University Dhamaka initiated by the BJP Government and carried on by the Congress Government might have benefited the pockets of politicians. But has not helped the country in its long-term educational goals. It has only created educational barons, who have amassed huge amount of real-estate with no real educational goals for the country or their institution.
The best method seems to be to allow privatization of education, but keep the scales of quality be firmly with the Government. This means that while Private Colleges are allowed to flourish under Universities run by UGC, Private Universities (which hold the quality scales themselves) are not allowed.