India’s New National Education Policy: The UKIBC Perspective

By Tara Panjwani

The UKIBC applaud the announcement of the long-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) which was confirmed earlier this week by the Union Cabinet and ushers in an exciting new era for the Indian education ecosystem. 

The new policy’s emphasis on enhancing quality, equity, universal access, social inclusion, flexible degrees, teacher training, research and embedding technology in all aspects of education is to be commended, as is the decision to rename the HRD Ministry as the Ministry of Education and replace the UGC and AICTE with a common higher education regulator, namely the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).

Other welcome developments include the move to set up an Inter University Centre for International Education (IUCIE) specifically to support internationalisation of universities, a National Research Foundation to incentivise research through funding and mentoring, and the National Education Technological Forum to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration.

In addition, the policy envisages making all universities and colleges multidisciplinary by 2040 with a focus on holistic education, soft skills and vocational training.

It was also encouraging to see some of the UKIBC’s key recommendations mentioned in the NEP – namely the simplification of the education regulatory framework (HECI replacing UGC and AICTE), embracing online courses and digital platforms to increase access, integrating vocational training into mainstream education and gradually allowing for greater international collaboration.

However, there were also some missed opportunities. For example, the new NEP states that only the world’s top 100 universities will be “facilitated” to operate in the country through a new law.

The UKIBC believes that the Government of India’s intention to allow foreign education providers to partner with Indian institutions is a step in the right direction but, as set-out in our November 2018 report, “Beyond the Top 200”, we believe that limiting participation to the top 100 will not achieve the Ministry of Education’s goals. International ranking systems are designed to help students choose where to study, but they are not a sophisticated enough tool to judge which foreign universities have what India and Indians want. For example, a UK University that does not fall into the top 100 may actually be in the top 10 globally for, say, mechanical engineering, a skill needed to support Make in India. Conversely, a top-ranking UK University may not excel when it comes to their mechanical engineering course.

Yet, the New Education Policy would allow the top-ranking university to bring a lower-ranking mechanical engineering course to India but stop a top-ranked course coming from a university that falls outside the overall top 100 ranking.

Another point to consider is that some UK Universities are ranked outside the top 100 because they are not very research intensive, but they do provide a very high quality of teaching. With millions of young Indians and employers hungry for quality education, it is the UKIBC’s belief that India would benefit from bringing in a greater cross-section of foreign universities with diverse skills in areas that match India’s needs.

To truly unlock the potential of India’s young population, the UKIBC believes that a more flexible approach is needed. By looking beyond the global ‘Top 100,’ the new policy will facilitate collaboration with foreign higher education institutions in a way that matches India’s social and economic priorities with the best curriculum from across the world.

Additionally, the new policy also doesn’t mention the mutual recognition of qualifications.

Mutual recognition of qualifications, and allowing universities to award dual degrees, will be a true gamechanger for India’s Higher Education system as it will give a real boost to collaborations and will attract more foreign students to come and study in India – one of the key objectives of the new policy. Mutual recognition and dual degrees will enable students to seamlessly transition between India and other countries, unleash new opportunities, and create wide ranging cross-border linkages that go well beyond the Higher Education sector. In our experience, mutual recognition continues to be the single most desired reform from both UK and Indian universities and would be transformational for the Indian economy when it is launched.

The UKIBC, in consultation with our member universities, has been consistently advocating for these and other reforms which we believe will significantly amplify the existing policy measures and help propel the Indian education system – and wider economy – into the 21st century and beyond.

UK universities are keen to work with India to share best practices and help accelerate its progress to becoming a knowledge superpower and a global force to reckon with.

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