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Research Questions

  1. What inefficiencies and sources of conflict currently exist within India's system of higher education?
  2. How are policies that link higher education funding and quality used internationally, and how might they be adopted to improve higher education in India?

Abstract

India has joined a worldwide trend in which nations are seeking to improve the quality of their higher education systems by giving greater autonomy and accountability to lower levels of government (e.g., states) and to the higher education institutions themselves. India's 12th Five-Year Plan, released in December 2012, suggests a range of reforms to higher education to change the role of the national government from "command and control" to "steer and evaluate." One approach that has proven effective in other countries is explicitly linking funding to well-defined quality measures and quality assurance processes. While India's 12th Five-Year Plan discusses the importance of quality improvement and funding, it does not discuss how quality and funding can be linked to support quality improvement under a "steer and evaluate" approach to governance. In this report, the authors review India's and other countries' efforts to reform their higher education systems and suggest seven policy actions that the Indian national government and other stakeholders can take to improve higher education by linking funding to quality.

Key Findings

India's 12th Five-Year Plan Offers a Unique Opportunity to Improve Quality

  • Higher education institutions in India have a quality issue, as evidenced by a lack of presence on world ranking measures and low employment rates of graduates.
  • It is challenging to improve quality under India's current higher education system, because the roles of various higher education stakeholders overlap substantially, and their agendas and the means by which they implement them often conflict.
  • The call in India's 12th Five-Year Plan for a shift from "command and control" to "steer and evaluate" will require policies to support this decentralized governance.
  • Three aspects of India's higher education system make it particularly suitable for adopting policies that link quality and funding: the large size of its higher education system, which may require unique policies to reign in quality across all institutions; the recent increases in India's higher education investment; and the consensus among stakeholders that reforms are needed.

Lessons Learned from International Approaches Linking Funding and Quality

  • Countries that want to link quality and funding must find good measures of quality and apply these measures across all institutions.
  • Careful planning and strategic implementation over time is necessary to implement policies linking quality and funding.
  • Capacity-building is likely to be necessary, including building data systems and providing additional funding to those responsible for linking quality and funding.
  • Stakeholder roles are likely to shift under these types of systems, with a larger role for institutions, students, and families.

Recommendations

  • Continue the process of developing and implementing a robust accreditation system for Indian institutions.
  • Develop, implement, and publicize a quantitative data system to measure quality of higher education institutions and institute policies for continuous improvement over time.
  • Gradually phase in methods to link funding to quality measures.
  • Continue efforts to develop and implement a student financial aid system and gradually tie eligibility to accreditation and quality measures.
  • Continue efforts to expand funding available for competitive grants to individual researchers.
  • Develop a system to provide competitive grants to states, institutions, and departments to spur innovation and achieve specific national and state goals.
  • Provide funding to states and institutions to build capacity for self-governance in the new "steer and evaluate" model.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    India's Current System of Higher Education

  • Chapter Two

    India's 12th Five-Year Plan: A Paradigm Shift

  • Chapter Three

    International Experiences with Decentralized Governance and Policies That Link Funding of Higher Education with Quality

  • Chapter Four

    Implementing the 12th FYP's New Approach to Governance and Introducing Policies to Link Quality and Funding in India

This research was funded jointly by RAND's RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP) and RAND Education and was supported in part by the generosity of RAND's donors and by the fees earned on client-funded research.

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