Research as envisioned in Draft NEP-2019

My previous article on draft national education policy of India published in GK edition of 7th July, 2019 highlighted the autonomy to colleges and abolition of concept of affiliation from Indian higher education system. In today’s column I shall be discussing the establishment of national research foundation and building a research capacity at all Indian universities and colleges as envisioned in the new draft national education policy.

Research is pivotal for the creation of knowledge and betterment of society. The active research fosters economy and service to humanity. Research, academia and industry are inseparable as far as social and economic relevance of education is concerned. A good academia lays the foundation of a quality research which is sustained by a healthy industrial growth and vice versa, hence becomes this triangle critical for the national development. Therefore, academia and industry must work in concordance. Secondly, research is only purposeful when it creates new knowledge and latter is only meaningful when it is in the direction of human wellbeing and economic upliftment. Therefore, for a nation to become a true knowledge society and torch bearer of development, education supplemented with research is a key contributor.

The Draft National Education Policy of 2019 (DNEP-19) is aimed at boosting quality research with restructuring of higher education institutions in India in light of research and innovation. It will result in consolidation of existing and new institutions into three types of higher education institutions as type 1 (exclusive research universities with teaching also), type 2 (exclusive teaching universities with research also), and type 3 (autonomous colleges with both teaching and research). Therefore, these institutions will function with equitable roles in multidisciplinary teaching, research and service. Demarcating universities as type 1 research and type 2 teaching centres and then making it imperative for them to run teaching and research respectively seems a good move in the DNEP-19 to benefit the teaching from research and vice versa.

Teaching and research are inseparable and must go side by side in any institution if we want to achieve quality education and research with meaningful creation of new knowledge. Hopefully the DNEP-19 emphasises on creating the new research facilities and strengthening the existing research cells in colleges along with quality teaching. This will sensitise the college students about research and develop interest in it from a very beginning and create opportunities for them for a career in research and industry. These endeavours will prove quite useful in creating research aptitude from a very beginning among the undergraduate science students and pay a way forward to nurture a quality research culture when they transit to a higher level in higher education sector. However, leadership and governance will ultimately influence to see the research and academia flourishing in the revived higher education institutions. The DNEP-19 also plans to have facility of block research grants and confer academic, administrative and financial autonomy over a period of time to all higher education institutions which will actually increase the accountability of the stakeholders and administrators in real sense of the term.

It is being considered that education and research have not been among the top priorities of Indian government so far, to receive top funding. Although research and innovation must receive keen attention of policy makers if nation has to prosper on modern lines. Pertinently the Indian government has decided in the DNEP-19 to increase the budgetary support to research by making 0.1% of GDP available to NRF (national research foundation), which is to be established as an autonomous body by merging all existing public funding bodies and agencies). It comes to be roughly Rs. 20,000 crores (Rs. 2 Kharab), however, this seems to be negligible when we compare it with proportion of GDP for research in some other countries. For example, 2.8% of the USA, 2.1% of China, 4.3% of Israel and 4.2% of South Korea. Therefore, it seems quite remote to see fostering research and innovation in the country in view of the small proportion of GDP investment in research.

Overall, the establishment of NRF looks promising for granting adequate and timely funding to societally relevant research proposals and building research capacity at all universities and colleges in the country. It is expected that NRF will expand research and innovation in new India to boost research culture across all subjects and fields. Under the new education policy, every HEI will be recognised and accredited by three major parameters including high quality research, teaching and service by the new and to be revived NAAC. The NRF will financially support the type 3 institutions to develop s type 2 and type 1 HEI’s respectively under the Mission Nalanda and Takshashila. Under these missions, at least 100 type 1 and 500 type 2 HEI’s are to be made functional from the existing reputed institutions by 2030 which again seems quite promising to happen.

This new policy draft envisages on making quality and multidisciplinary universities and colleges with international standards the dream long cherished in old education policies too, but could not be achieved till date due to faulty public policies and political interference in the functioning of higher education institutions. The old educational policies have not been in a position to eliminate or lower the challenges faced by Indian higher education sector including the diminished enrolments, lack of access, lack of skill based education, negligible knowledge creation, lack of teacher and institutional autonomy, faulty recruitment procedures, inadequate measures for career advancement of faculty, lack of quality teaching and research, leadership problems and governance issues, and compromised regulatory systems, etc.

The positive aspect of DNEP-19 is that it has highlighted the reasons behind the absence of quality research at most universities and colleges which has drastically affected the outcome and expectations of Indian higher education system. This has mostly happened because of lack of research interest in the faculty, poor funding or sponsorship and separation of academic and research institutions. Secondly, because of separate academic and research institutions our student community does not get sensitised towards research although they get benefited from quality teaching in academic institutions. The DNEP-19 has, therefore, envisioned quality and innovative research in new India through NRF and network of revamped higher education institutions by creating linkages among researchers, industries and governments for the ultimate benefit of society.

The writer is Assistant Professor, Zoology, at Islamia College of Science & Commerce