Funding for research is the weakest link, says Prof Prem Vrat, Pro-Chancellor, NCU

Dr.Prem.Vrat.Pro-Chancellor.NCUIndia does not have universities at par with world-class universities for a number of reasons. Parameters for world-class universities have factors such as globalization in terms of number or percentage of foreign students and faculty. India ranks very low on these indices.

Enablers of academic excellence hinges around faculty quality. There are not enough financial or social esteem related pull factors in place in India to attract the best and the brightest to take up teaching and research as the most preferred career option.

Budgetary support to higher education in India is quite low from global standards. In India 1.35 percent of GDP is spent on higher education as compared to 5-6 percent that ought to be spent. Even in this meagre allocation; there is huge imbalance in budgetary allocation across the spectrum of institutions. For example, about 60 percent of total budget on technical education goes to few so called elite institutions such as IIT’s/NIT’s which may not account for more than 5 percent of total graduates.

Research differentiates the university from school education. Funding for research component is very weak in Indian universities and in the private universities, the research funding is very low-if at all. Major budget may go on paying the salaries in state-run universities. In private university; how much can be devoted out of tuition fees on research is a moot question because government or even industrial funding for research in private universities is almost non-existent. Paradoxically; many top universities in the developed world are private universities but in India the mind-set about private universities is not very positive-both in public and the government.

Private universities now comprise a sizeable chunk but their funding by government funding agencies such as DST, DRDO, UGC, AICTE, etc. is very low. In USA; the funding is given to individual research proposal irrespective of the form of ownership. Thus the level playing field needs to be created for hand holding private universities for research support-of course with accountability to deliver. Research funding from industry to even government funded institutions is quite low in India.

Focus on quality research will eventually result in quality research publications by increasing research funding and enough free time to the faculty for conducting research.

Balance between teaching and research and reducing non-academic involvement of faculty through e-governance; quality-driven standard operating procedures and have trust and faith in the faculty are needed. Research outcomes are probabilistic and non-linear function of time; hence a creative, innovative, stress-free environment which promotes academic freedom and open discussions must be created to nurture research culture.

Another way is through liberal research fellowships; funding for equipment and interaction among peer groups, attract, motivate and retain brilliant minds as full time research scholars. Do not treat research as a cost centre but something which gives you global visibility, respect and ranking based on quality research publications. Its returns are in the long term.

One should avoid quick publications in non-referred paid journals. Also start good quality journals which will benchmark with best quality standards with top class editorial boards and a rigorous process of quick review of papers. Proliferation of large number of low quality paid journals is not good for the image of the country.

Institutions must invest in top class e-journals and e-library to have access to a large data base of research publications. Invest in large bandwidths and national knowledge network in every educational institute of higher learning.

Lastly, incentivize quality research paper by incorporating high weightage to it in faculty performance appraisal and institute best research paper awards.


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