By Douglas J. Fehlen
A Major Announcement
In January, Kapil Sibal went before the 98th Indian Science Congress at SRM University in Kattankulathur to make an announcement that would create shockwaves in India's higher ed community. The Science and Technology Minister's keynote address outlined a plan for setting up Navratna Universities, the Indian equivalent of America's Ivy League.
Minster Sibal stated that select postsecondary institutions would be chosen for increased public funding. These Navratna Universities will not, however, be bound by any form of government control. Rather, they will have total autonomy, including the freedom to seek external revenue streams. The intention is to nurture institutions that will offer the finest college education programs in India.
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Borne of Education Goals
Navratna Universities will support some major Indian postsecondary initiatives. Minister Kapil Sibal suggests this system of premier institutions will lead to ramped up education programs and research initiatives. Colleges, he believes, will be aided in developing necessary human and social capital that can allow India's people and businesses to complete on an international stage.
Another important goal underlies this effort to establish an 'Indian Ivy League': Only about 15 percent of college-age students currently go on to attend higher education programs. The government wants to double this number by 2020, a feat that will require substantial resources - including public funds to build institutional capacity at the best schools.
A High-Stakes Selection Process
As might be expected, Minister Sibal's announcement has created excitement among universities with a chance to be named Navratna Universities. Five private institutions will initially be chosen based on selection criteria that include academics, faculty, published research and business partnerships. Early favorites are Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University, the University of Hyderabad and the University of Pondicherrry.
The program will eventually be expanded to also include four public universities; these selections are set to round out what will be a total of nine Navratna Universities. Some state schools currently thought to have the best chance of being selected are Jadhavpur University, Mysore University and the University of Pune.
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