That 11 proposed private universities applied for the status of institutes of eminence seems to signal the ambitions of private universities in India. This, however, lends itself to the question: will they become as widely sought after by students as top government institutions are now? And, if so, how?
Recent years have seen the opening of institutions such as O.P. Jindal Global University, Ashoka University and Shiv Nadar University with faculty from renowned institutions the world over.
Much before them, institutions such as the Manipal Academy of Higher Education and BITS, Pilani had come up.
The older ones, however, were not able to match top public sector institutions, such as the IITs, the IIMs, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University.
A long way to go
In the National Institutional Ranking Framework, there is still no private institution in the top 10.
A Professor teaching at a top private university in the National Capital Region told The Hindu: “You cannot compare institutions which have come up recently with, say, the IITs, which date back to the 1950s.” He said good private universities would certainly break into the top league, but such a reputation would take a few years to come.
While the most promising private universities are already matching the faculty pool of the top public institutions, the moot question is whether the difference in fees between them will make it possible for the brightest students from modest backgrounds to study there.
C. Raj Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University, told The Hindu: “The good private universities, particularly the ones that are established through philanthropy, need to provide generous scholarships and fellowships that will empower the students who cannot afford to be educated in top institutions. Government scholarships should also be made tenable at the institutional choices of the student concerned. I don’t see any reason why meritorious students who qualify for government scholarships be limited to only a few public universities.”
He said differential fee structures were not uncommon, and these needed to be based on the cost of the programme and the earning ability of the graduates.
He, however, said that faculty ability through proven track record was a must in higher education, adding that Indian universities often ignored this.
An academic from a top private university said that some private universities were already giving full scholarships to a certain percentage of students.