Government’s Hold on Higher Education – How Rational and/or Irrational?

The area of higher education is remarkably vast, having a variety of constituents, less or more contributive in nature. Also, like every other part of the social structure, good and bad lie in equilibrium there. Since corruption has radically made it to every sector of our society, there remain all the chances for a sensitive area like education to get affected, no exception.

College managements (private ones, especially) are too big bodies to get stormed away in the fury of corruption. In fact, they need to move with the flow and become a part of corruption in one way or the other. Every now and then, however, the delicate air of the area of higher education can be seen turning out to be insecure for students. Pity!

There is nothing complex in understanding that the weaker unit is always dominated in every social relationship, which students here in this case are. If anything adverse has to happen because of whatever irrational corruption carries along, that will happen to students. Not everyone thinks such thinking is thoughtful, though.

Where the idea of some legal body’s control over higher education institutes comes is the intellectual section of our society. Well educated intellectual people actually care for students, their future and career. They suggest that if there is a body required to govern institutes imparting higher education, it should be government itself. This they believe is the best way to make the control as pure and authentic as it ultimately can be.

Unlike that, those who deny this concept, strongly argue that government’s control on higher education can’t necessarily be transparent and corruption-free. This is exactly when a rich-in-contradiction narrative (always varying from person to person, obviously) of why there should or/and shouldn’t be some decree system to control higher education in India can be felt flowing around.

Is Government’s Control Actually Required?

In December 2010, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) issued its notification with a new set of rules for B-schools. It included instructions to finish MBA entrance exams such as XAT, ATMA and MICAT. It also stated that only MAT and CAT or exams conducted by any state government will be main means of admission in B-schools.

Furthermore, the circular implemented fee related regulations wherein B-schools were denied right to set fee according to their own structure. Also, because of the changes that were introduced, now higher education institutes need to admit students only through a state government controlled process. This is how government has managed to regulate higher education institutes. Though any policy implemented by government can’t be challenged, still common man willing to react on such rules and regulations (to prove them right or wrong in this way?) can’t be ignored. Everything governments do, after all, is for common man.

Mass Reaction – Consensus or Disagreement?

To a reasonable extent, having a regulatory body comprising of an excellent regulatory mechanism to tame higher education institutes is essential. Imparting education to young minds, future pillars of a country, after all, is a task full of responsibility. Then anybody opening up an institute in a residence-like accommodation doesn’t make sense. The worse, they charge enormous fees and provide students with almost negligible facilities and education in this way becomes more of a profit-making thing.

As suggests our original education policy, education can’t be for profit and should be for all, irrespective of which class or caste one belongs to. To make this actually happen, we need a regulatory mechanism in place. Also, this is only through government’s control that we can put a check on low grade and unrecognized educational organizations.

At the same time though, imposing too much regulations is like challenging liberalization. We need to keep in mind that it was economic liberalization which helped India emerge as the fastest growing economy in the world. We can’t, again, set excess of rules and regulations for higher education institutes as they promote innovation. Generally, we don’t see government schools and colleges coming up with new curricula that lead to innovation among students. And when private institutes of higher education want to design and implement new course structure, we deny it in order to defend the rules prevailing for long back. This can’t be called fair, no.

All in all, and for the most part, there is a common belief among us that governments should concentrate on tightening the reins of unrecognized institutes making back-door entries. And if our government, instead, interferes in how established and recognized centres of higher education function, it is completely unfair. Then why do it when nothing worthwhile is going to come out of it?

Higher Education and Society

Institutions of education, and the system of which they are a part, face a host of unprecedented challenges from forces in society that affect and are influenced by these very institutions and their communities of learners and educators. Among these forces are sweeping demographic changes, shrinking provincial budgets, revolutionary advances in information and telecommunication technologies, globalization, competition from new educational providers, market pressures to shape educational and scholarly practices toward profit-driven ends, and increasing demands and pressures for fundamental changes in public policy and public accountability relative to the role of higher education in addressing pressing issues of communities and the society at large. Anyone of these challenges would be significant on their own, but collectively they increase the complexity and difficulty for education to sustain or advance the fundamental work of serving the public good.

Through a forum on education, we can agree to: Strengthening the relationship between higher education and society will require a broad-based effort that encompasses all of education, not just individual institutions, departments and associations.

Piecemeal solutions can only go so far; strategies for change must be informed by a shared vision and a set of common objectives. A “movement” approach for change holds greater promise for transforming academic culture than the prevailing “organizational” approach.

Mobilizing change will require strategic alliances, networks, and partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders within and beyond education.

The Common Agenda is specifically designed to support a “movement” approach to change by encouraging the emergence of strategic alliances among individuals and organizations who care about the role of higher education in advancing the ideals of a diverse democratic system through education practices, relationships and service to society.

A Common Agenda

The Common Agenda is intended to be a “living” document and an open process that guides collective action and learning among committed partners within and outside of higher education. As a living document, the Common Agenda is a collection of focused activity aimed at advancing civic, social, and cultural roles in society. This collaboratively created, implemented, and focused Common Agenda respects the diversity of activity and programmatic foci of individuals, institutions, and networks, as well as recognizes the common interests of the whole. As an open process, the Common Agenda is a structure for connecting work and relationships around common interests focusing on the academic role in serving society. Various modes of aliening and amplifying the common work within and beyond education will be provided within the Common Agenda process.

This approach is understandably ambitious and unique in its purpose and application. Ultimately, the Common Agenda challenges the system of higher education, and those who view education as vital to addressing society’s pressing issues, to act deliberately, collectively, and clearly on an evolving and significant set of commitments to society. Currently, four broad issue areas are shaping the focus of the Common Agenda: 1) Building public understanding and support for our civic mission and actions; 2) Cultivating networks and partnerships; 3) Infusing and reinforcing the value of civic responsibility into the culture of higher education institutions; and 4) Embedding civic engagement and social responsibility in the structure of the education system

VISION We have a vision of higher education that nurtures individual prosperity, institutional responsiveness and inclusivity, and societal health by promoting and practicing learning, scholarship, and engagement that respects public needs. Our universities are proactive and responsive to pressing social, ethical, and economic problems facing our communities and greater society. Our students are people of integrity who embrace diversity and are socially responsible and civilly engaged throughout their lives.

MISSION The purpose of the Common Agenda is to provide a framework for organizing, guiding and communicating the values and practices of education relative to its civic, social and economic commitments to a diverse democratic system.

GUIDING PRINCIPLES

I believe social justice, ethics, educational equity, and societal change for positive effects are fundamental to the work of higher education. We consider the relationship between communities and education institutions to be based on the values of equally, respect and reciprocity, and the work in education to be interdependent with the other institutions and individuals in society.

We will seek and rely on extensive partnerships with all types of institutions and devoted individuals inside and outside of higher education.

We realize the interconnection of politics, power and privilege. The Common Agenda is not for higher education to self-serve, but to “walk the talk” relative to espoused public goals. We understand the Common Agenda as a dynamic living document, and expect the activities it encompasses to change over time.

THE COMMON AGENDA FRAMEWORK The general framework for the common agenda is represented in the following diagram. It is clear that while goals and action items are organized and aliened within certain issues areas, there is considerable overlap and complimentarity among the issues, goals and action items. Also, following each action item are names of individuals who committed to serve as “point persons” for that particular item. A list of “point persons,” with their organizational affiliation(s) is included with the common agenda.

ISSUES

ISSUE 1: MISSION AND ACTIONS

Public understanding more and more equates higher education benefits with acquiring a “good job” and receiving “higher salaries.” To understand and support the full benefits of higher education the public and higher education leaders need to engage in critical and honest discussions about the role of higher education in society. Goal: Develop a common language that resonates both inside and outside the institution. Action Items: Develop a common language and themes about our academic role and responsibility to the public good, through discussions with a broader public.

Collect scholarship on public good, examine themes and identify remaining questions. Develop a national awareness of the importance of higher education for the public good through the development of marketing efforts.

Goal: Promote effective and broader discourse. Action Items: Raise public awareness about the institutional diversity within and between higher education institutions.

Identify strategies for engaging alumni associations for articulating public good and building bridges between higher education and the various private and public sector companies. Develop guidelines of discourse to improve the quality of dialogue on every level of society. Organize a series of civil dialogues with various public sectors about higher education and the public good.

ISSUE 2: DEVELOPING NETWORKS AND PARTNERSHIPS

Approaching complex issues such as the role of higher education in society that requires a broad mix of partners to create strategies and actions that encompass multiple valued perspectives and experiences.

Broad partnerships to strengthen the relationship between higher education and society involves working strategically with those within and outside of higher education to achieve mutual goals on behalf of the public good.

Goal: Create broad and dispersed communication systems and processes.

Action Items:

Create an information and resource network across higher education associations Create information processes that announce relevant conferences, recruit presenters and encourage presentations in appropriate national conferences Develop opportunities for information sharing and learning within and between various types of postsecondary institutions (e.g. research-centered communities).

Goal: Create and support strategic alliances and diverse collaborations.

Action Items: Establish and support on-going partnerships and collaborations between higher education associations and the external community (e.g. civic organizations, legislators, community members) Explore with the public how to employ the role of arts in advancing higher education for the public good Promote collaboration between higher education and to address access, retention, and graduation concerns

ISSUE 3: INSTILLING AND REINFORCING THE VALUE OF CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY INTO THE CULTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS

Education should attend to the implicit and explicit consequences of its work, and reexamine “what counts” to integrate research, teaching and service for the public good to the core working of the institution.

Goal: Emphasize civic skills and leadership development in the curriculum and co-curriculum.

Action Items: Develop and implement a curriculum in colleges and universities that promote civic engagement of students Create co-curricular student and community programs for leadership and civic engagement development Develop learning opportunities, inside and outside of the classroom, that promote liberty, democratic responsibility, social justice and knowledge of the economic system Develop student leadership and service opportunities that focus on ethical behavior Teach graduate students organizing and networking skills, and encourage student leadership and Diversity education

Goal: Foster a deeper commitment to the public good.

Action Items: Work with faculty on communication skills and languages to describe their engagement with the public, and educate faculty for the common good Identify models for promotion and tenure standards Identify models for faculty development

Goal: Identify, recognize, and support engaged scholarship.

Action Items: Identify and disseminate models and exemplars of scholarship on the public good Encourage the participation in community research Help institutions call attention to exemplary outreach. Establish a capacity building effort for institutions

Goal: Bring graduate education into alignment with the civic mission.

Action Items: Work with disciplinary associations to hold dialogues on ways graduate student training can incorporate public engagement, involvement and service Promote “civic engagement” within academic and professional disciplines according to the disciplines’ definition of “civic engagement” Incorporate the concept of higher education for the public good into current graduate education reform efforts

ISSUE 4: EMBEDDING CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN THE STRUCTURE OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM

Promoting the public benefits of higher education requires system efforts beyond institutions to intentionally embed values of civic engagement and social responsibility in governance practices, policy decisions, and educational processes.

Goal: Align governing structures and administrative strategies.

Action Items: Develop ways to improve student and the community involvement in the governance and decision making process of educational institutions. Identify and promote ways for institutions to improve involvement with the public and the practice of democracy within their own institution. Establish public good/civic engagement units that orchestrate this work throughout institutions.

Goal: Publicly recognize and support valuable engagement work.

Action Items: Offer public awards that reward institutions with demonstrable track record in serving the public good in order to encourage institutionalization of performance around the public good and civic engagement.

Develop a comprehensive inventory of funding sources, association activities, initiatives, and exemplary practices that advance the public good. Identify, recognize, and support early career scholars who choose to do research on higher education and its public role in society.

Goal: Ensure that assessment and accreditation processes include civic engagement and social responsibility.

Action Items: Identify service for the public good as a key component in provincial and federal educational plans (e.g. Master Plans, provincial budgets, and professional associations).

Bring higher education associations and legislators together to broaden current definition of student outcomes and achievement, and develop a plan for assessment.

Develop strategies and processes to refocus system-wide planning, accreditation and evaluation agendas to consider criteria assessing the social, public benefits of education.

Goal: Cultivate stronger ties between the university, federal and provincial government.

Action Items: Develop a 2-year implementation plan that joins the university rector / Pro-rector and Director with provincial legislators to engage in an assessment of the needs of the public by province Host a series of dialogues between trustees and provincial legislators to discuss the role of universities and public policy in advancing public good at a local, provincial, and national level.

Higher Education as Service Trade Exporter In South Africa

Introduction

Whilst it is recognized that South Africa is still in a process of transition regarding higher education to address the imbalances of the past, it should also be emphasized that Institutions of Higher Education in large are still underplaying the importance of higher education as commercialized commodity in the global world. This resulted in a low commercial higher education presence in the global world, a limited capability to attract quality students from foreign countries and a national oriented education approach. Even the school law that will soon be introduced in South Africa to address the imbalances of the past may have a negative effect of institutions of higher education to play a significant role in the commercialized educational world. The proposed new law emphasized adherence to the principles of equitability, rectification and representativeness above competence in the appointment of teachers. This may undermine the quality of education firstly, in schools and later in institutions of higher education in South Africa.

This is in sharp contrast with international trends signaling that the international higher education market is becoming more competitive as education competes as export and import commodity. Figures available indicate that higher education export represents on average around 6.6% of total student enrollments in 2000. This figure can still not be matched b South African Institutions 5 years later. In countries like Switzerland, Australia and Austria these figures were above 11% in 2000 making these countries the highest internationalized higher education countries in the world. Similarly, educational services in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America respectively represent the third, fourth and fifth largest service export sectors. This clearly provides evidence that these countries realize the significance of higher education to transfer intellectual capital and enhance the economic competitiveness of nations.

Interventions required

It is important that Institutions of Higher Education in South Africa position themselves as nodes in an increasingly seamless knowledge base in the global world, which could have a greater interface with the knowledge-driven global economy. Therefore, Institutions of higher education in South Africa should given even more attention to integrate with influential international institutions that will enable them to internationalize higher education.

Currently, internationalization of higher education in South Africa happens more by incident rather than through thoroughly planned and organized approaches. If institutions of higher education in South Africa intend to consider higher education as a commercial trade commodity, serious emphasis should be place upon:

· Introducing purposeful policies and strategies that clearly indicate the road forward with regard to internationalization intentions and the specific areas that would need priority attention. However, this should not be developed as separate internationalization strategies, but should e seen as a natural element of the overall strategy of the institute.

· Implementing induction and course programmes that will attract quality foreign students to the institutions.

· Supporting academics to participate in conferences as well as in reputable academic journals to publish research results.

· Ensuring that all course offerings meet international accepted criteria as defined by the leading institutions of higher education in the developed world.

· Creating conducive learning environments equipped with the latest learning technologies.

Internationalization requires that institutions of higher education in South Africa should emphasize a somewhat loosening of the relationship with Government to create new transformational bodies to address the imbalances of the past, but also to broaden this mission to play a more active role in regional economic development. This can be achieved by establishing strong horizontal links with other universities research institutions and industry in the Southern African Development Community. If this can be achieved, the activities of institutions of higher education will no longer be isolated from the marketplace and its outputs could become merchandise products as well. Loosening the relationship with government will not only provide for more freedom to autonomously decide what educational and research outputs to create, but will also increase the pressure on institutions of higher education to perform better as they take up the responsibility to raise funds for projects and salaries.

It is imperative that higher education in South Africa can no longer take the disposition that placed research and development in contrast to one another. Rather, it should take the stand that the outputs of institutions should have a strong:

· Social development and application in which the simultaneous promotion and integration of education, scientific research and production occurs;

· Science and Technology Financial Management Support System in place in order to create a safe and secure research environment for academics; and

· Set of ” Key State Laboratories” where research and education of strategic importance to the development and well-being of the country can be carried out.

Conclusion

South Africa institutions of higher education currently rated only among the top 40 of the world’s host countries. An urgent need exist to rethink and reformulate the educational thinking models of institutions of higher education in South Africa. Because of the changing political situation accompanied by a changing global economy, many traditional ways in which institutions of higher education were previously governed will change. Unless institutions of higher education in South Africa succeed to internationalize successfully, huge opportunities to earn foreign currencies using higher education as a trade commodity will be lost.