Institutions of Eminence (IOE) scheme and issues with higher education – Explained, pointwise

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The Parliamentary standing committee submitted a report outlining the shortcomings of the current IOE (Institutions of Eminence) scheme and higher education institutions. They recommended several measures to improve the status of these institutions and enhance the IOE scheme.  

About Institutions of Eminence (IOE) Scheme  

IOE Scheme
Source: TOI

The Institution of Eminence scheme is a scheme of Ministry of Human Resource Development pertaining to higher education institutions (HES) in India.

Under this scheme, selected universities are granted greater autonomy and funding to pursue academic and research goals. The scheme aims to put these institutions on par with the best in the world and encourage them to become centers of excellence in research and teaching.

IOEs are expected to attract the best talent from around the world, foster collaborations with other leading institutions, and contribute to the country’s economic and social development.  

Read more: Institution of Eminence 

What is the need for IOE Scheme?  

To enhance global ranking: The IOE plan will support and build top universities that can compete on a global scale and rank among the top 500 schools in the world.  

To encourage research: It will help universities do research by giving them the money, infrastructure, and freedom they need.  

Attracting foreign students: IOE universities will bring in students from other countries, which will boost India’s soft power and give students from other countries a chance to study in India.  

Fostering innovation: IOE universities will work to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in many different fields. This will help India’s economy grow and develop.  

Improving the quality of education: The scheme will improve the quality of education in Indian universities by providing them with the necessary resources and infrastructure to ensure that they offer world-class education.  

About the analysis of the IOE scheme  

Thus far, 12 institutions have been granted IoE status (8 public and 4 private). So far, Rs 3,428 crore has been allocated to eight public institutes, with IISc Bangalore receiving the largest part (Rs 620.59 crore). It has helped eight public universities speed up their ambitious reforms and growth by giving each one a financial boost.  

Unfortunately, many of the selected private campuses have yet to reap the scheme’s promised benefits. The government is delaying the recognition of two public and five private HEIs as IoEs. The lack of an EEC is impeding the process.  

What are the challenges faced by the IOE scheme? 

Criticism of elitism: The IOE scheme has faced criticism for being elitist and favoring already established institutions while ignoring the needs of smaller universities.  

Funding constraints: While the selected institutions receive special funding from the government, it may not be enough to fully achieve the program’s goals, and budget constraints may limit the impact of the scheme.

For example, under the scheme, the government institutions, in addition to more autonomy from regulatory control, are entitled to financial assistance up to Rs 1,000 crore, over and above the regular annual budgetary grants. The private IoEs are promised autonomy, not funds.  

Implementation challenges: The implementation of the IOE scheme may be challenging due to bureaucratic hurdles and resistance from stakeholders who are resistant to change. For example, only four of the 10 private higher education institutions selected for the IOE status have received official recognition to date (March 2023).  

Capacity building: Some of the selected institutions may lack the necessary capacity and resources to fully realize the potential of the IOE scheme, requiring additional investments and support.  

Measuring impact: It may be difficult to measure the impact of the IOE scheme on the Indian higher education system, and whether it has truly improved the quality of education and made Indian universities more competitive globally.  

Inadequate representation: There has been criticism that certain regions or types of institutions have been underrepresented in the selection of IOEs, leading to concerns of bias and uneven development.  

Maintaining autonomy: While IOEs enjoy greater autonomy under the scheme, it remains to be seen how much of this freedom will be protected and whether institutions will be able to truly chart their own path without undue influence from external factors. For instance, While the IOEs university can start new programmes and schools with just an intimation to UGC, it has to comply with the Bar Council of India’s regulations for law programmes.  

Must read: Institutions of Eminence, mired in red tape 

What are the issues with higher education?  

Lack of access: Access to higher education is limited, particularly for students from marginalized communities and those living in rural areas.  

Low quality of education: The quality of higher education in India is often criticized, with concerns about outdated curricula, inadequate teaching standards, and a lack of focus on research.  

Brain drain: India faces a challenge with ‘brain drain’, where many talented students and scholars migrate to other countries for higher education and career opportunities.  

Affordability: Higher education can be expensive, especially for students from lower-income families, who may struggle to afford tuition fees and living expenses.  

Gender disparity: There is a significant gender disparity in higher education, with a lower percentage of female students and a lack of adequate support and facilities for women on campuses.  

Infrastructure: Many higher education institutions lack adequate infrastructure and resources, such as modern labs, libraries, and IT facilities.  

Governance and regulation: There are concerns about the governance and regulation of higher education in India, with criticisms of a lack of accountability, politicization, and corruption in the sector.  

Industry linkages: The linkages between higher education institutions and industry are often weak, leading to a mismatch between the skills and knowledge of graduates and the needs of the job market.  

What should be done to reform IOE scheme and improve higher education in India?  

Accelerate the process of granting status: The parliamentary standing committee report recommended the ministry to accelerate the process of granting status in the case of the identified eligible institutions.  

Introduce courses on Indian heritage and culture: To attract more foreign students to Indian universities, there is a need for the introduction of courses on Indian heritage and culture, such as Vedic mathematics, Yoga, and Ayurveda.  

Revision of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA): Accelerate the reform of the HEFA scheme and notify it as soon as possible to broaden the scope of financing available under it. Make serious efforts to approve more loans under the HEFA plan, ensure prompt disbursement of sanctioned loans, and meet targets on time during 2023-24.  

Fill up the vacancies: Take a proactive approach towards filling up over 34,000 teaching and non-teaching posts that are vacant in central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs, and other institutions. Conduct special recruitment campaigns to fill up the vacancies as far as possible with permanent faculties by the end of 2023.  

The formation of a higher education umbrella body, as well as simplified visa requirements for foreign faculty in these institutes, will aid in the faster realisation of the IOE scheme’s objectives.  

India can bring the IOE programme in line with the National Education Policy, 2020 

Sources: Indian Express (Article 1 and Article 2), Hindustan Times, The Week, Financial Express and EPW.

Syllabus: GS 2: Social Justice – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education.

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