Published On: Mon, Feb 6th, 2012

Socially Relevant Quality of Higher Education – Do Indian Institutions Care?

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Dr. Arup Barman

Dr. Arup Barman

Dr. Arup Barman is a Associate Professor in the Department of Business Administration, Assam University, Silchar (Assam), India.

He is a recipient of Post Doctoral Research Award-2009 from SAB, UGC and scholarship to pursue the public policy research course (2010) initiated by Global Development Network (GDN) and CIPEC. The International Biographical Centre (IBC), Cambridge, England published his profile in the Dictionary of International Biography (edition-35, 36). In the March’2011, International Who’s Who Historical Society, USA enlisted his credential in International Who’s Who directory.

He is Assam University representative in the working group of Academic Guidelines Project for implementing the principles of United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) of UNO.

India’s higher education is in the rapid stride of innovation.  The increase in financial budget for higher education and emphasis on quality education through accreditation to NAAC has been indicating, introduction of performance based assessment, projection of faculty shortage, recruitment drive, thinking about accountability, and attempts to disclose the accounts are highly applauded steps for innovation of higher education. The spectrum of efforts and activities for innovation of higher education are really commendable.

If we look to the efforts for rejuvenating higher education in India and the resultants effects, then a few facts may be detectable, which may generate doubts.  With an umbrella like question, we can delve the issues of quality of higher education, and i.e. management of socially relevant quality of higher education-do Indian institutions cares it? Perhaps, if we express it no, that will contradict the present role provided by the higher education for social development process. We as a progressive thinker for higher education system management fraternity, let us look to the need for socially responsive higher education as observed by the various corners of globe and also the country India.  Higher education must have to discharge its responsibilities by creating socially responsive knowledge; imbibing the socially responsive practices; values etc.. These are not a new realization.  Since, these are not new comprehensions; hence, socially responsive higher education is still a universal question. Addressing to it through higher education need to take its own proposal.

We can presume that mandatory way of quality assurance and management of higher education can never ensure quality, unless the higher education goes for mandatory quality assurance with volunteer spirit. For accreditations for ensuring higher education quality, the Indian higher education institutions are exclusively longing for NAAC accreditation through point based assessment.  Before accreditation of institutes and universities goes for rapid boundary based within four wall innovations at cost of high budget which are no way links society.  The reason behind is that administrators of universities and institutions in India are not aware how they will adopt continuous rehearsal for social contribution as action leader except routine thinking.

 To act as an action leader universities must have go beyond the boundary of mandatory accreditation, must have to go for adoption of various voluntary accreditation. At the same time, if universities think for imbibing, innovative principles, values, practices through its actions and education then universities must have to be more concern about voluntary accreditation mandatorily for its progress. The university has to forget local and limited principles but to cry for worldwide principles to contribute locally.  Here, in this article let us get introduce with three sets of global principles which can be adopted for actions for innovation and for discharging intellectual social responsibility through the universities. These are – the guidelines of United Nations Global Compacts (UNGC), guidelines of Global Universities Network for Innovations (GUNI), and United Nations Academic Impacts (UNAI) for discharging academic responsibility.

The synchronized principles of UNGC and UNAI are:

  1. UNGC and UNAI both started human rights as the base principle. The UNGC guidelines stated that institution should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses. Under the UNAI intellectual reiterated commitment to human rights, among them freedom of inquiry, opinion, and speech;
  2. The guideline number -6 of UNGC emphasis on elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. This principle of UNGC is based falls under labour and employment. In the UNAI guideline-3, reiterates on discharging intellectual responsibility with a commitment to educational opportunity for all people regardless of gender, race, religion or ethnicity.
  3. The UNGC guidelines for environmental protection captures businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges; undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies. Under the UNAI, emphasize a commitment to promoting sustainability through education.
  4. The other guidelines of UNGC under the head of anti-corruption are very much essential. Contextualizing social responsibility of higher education UNGC reiterates institutions should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

The other principles of UNAI are extremely relevant to higher education, are follow-

  • A commitment to the principles inherent in the United Nations Charter as values that education seeks to promote and help fulfil;
  • A commitment to the opportunity for every interested individual to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for the pursuit of higher education;
  • A commitment to building capacity in higher education systems across the world;
  • A commitment to encouraging global citizenship through education;
  • A commitment to advancing peace and conflict resolution through education;
  • A commitment to addressing issues of poverty through education;
  • A commitment to promoting sustainability through education;
  • A commitment to promoting inter-cultural dialogue and understanding, and the “unlearning” of intolerance, through education.

In discharging social and intellectual responsibility by higher education institution in India innovation is a must.  The global network Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi) is a common platform for showcasing globally the innovation efforts for universities of the world. The GUNi was created in 1999 by UNESCO, the United Nations University (UNU) and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) after UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE) in 1998, to give continuity to and facilitate the implementation of its main decisions. Ten years later in 2009, GUNi played a significant role in the second WCHE, following its mandate to further reflection and action frameworks to facilitate the exchange of value between higher education and society globally. GUNI aims sustainable global society, taking into account environmental limits, re-examining the dynamics of global economic, political, human, social and cultural models, as well as their local manifestations. In fact we are currently experiencing a crisis of civilization, in which we must facilitate the transition towards a paradigm shift aimed at rebuilding society, with the collective desire and responsibility of attaining a better world for future generations.  It encourages higher education institutions to redefine their role, embrace this process of transformation and strengthen their critical stance within society.

A few Indian have adopted these principles voluntarily response to the race for innovation and social accountability. In the updated directory of UNGC, participants, 26 numbers of Indian academic institutions have found adopted UNGC principles. Out of those, the Assam University, Silchar only the central university and the rest are private educational institutions have voluntarily adopted UNGC principles. A total of 52 numbers of educational institutions have adopted the principles of United Nations Academic Impact guidelines and commitment. It is found that only 7 numbers of educational institutes have accredited for innovation under GUNI. Where are the Top Indian universities who draws huge exchequer? Why are they reluctant to take voluntary commitment to the guidelines? Is there any loss for them if they (to Indian Universities) adopt these principles for discharging intellectual and social responsibility? Could they create any image by voluntary spirit for imbibing socially responsive values those listed by global organization such UNO and UNESCO? Considering the voluntary adoption and accreditation, the Jesus Granados and Jonathan Fredi of the Global University Network for Innovation described “the majority of the universities engaged in sustainability are preoccupied with the greening of the campus through efforts such as minimizing waste and energy consumption, developing low carbon buildings, and modeling sustainability to influence the behavior of students and staff. Examples of initiatives influencing core university personnel are rare, and seldom impact students’ formal learning opportunities”. In the case of Indian institutions, the same can be observed also shows a sign of weak credibility of Indian higher education institutions in understanding the importance of management of socially and globally responsive higher education.

Why do Indian higher education institutions do not attempt to adopt such voluntary commitment for intellectual responsibility for society? The answer can pose to us a noteworthy observation from point of accreditation and the system of management of quality assurance in institutional framework. The accepted criterion of National Assessment and Accreditation Council is limited on to a few items. They are – Curricular Aspects; Teaching-Learning and Evaluation; Research, Consultancy and Extension; Infrastructure and Learning Resources; Student Support and Progression; Governance and Leadership; Innovative Practices. But in these guidelines the voluntary adoption of international and global guidelines were not given due weight.  Till today Indian government is satisfying itself for accountability of teaching and some form intellectual capital production. In the annual report of higher education institution there are no uniform accounting standard. In the similar way socially responsive aspects are not given due importance by university grant commission and All India Council of Technical Education and other policy making bodies. If these policy making bodies does not understand accept of voluntary spirit for accreditation then it is sure that these organization would be able to generate spirit of innovation. Here, the all the top professionals and administrators must understand the importance of institution adoption of global principle voluntary or otherwise they have to avoid taking the name voluntary legends say Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda in any form. These indicate creation of ill aligned spirit through the Indian Higher Education at the innovative journey. Therefore through this article requested to govt. of India and policy making, accreditation bodies to take necessary steps for recognition of voluntary adoption of global principles those are linked to society and globe as a whole.  The government can take steps for mandatory voluntarism and mandatory accreditation for ensuring socially responsive quality of higher education. If the government of India goes for mandatory practice of sustainability reporting with standard accounting norms for fund, accreditation governance and disclosure then automatically this voluntary spirit for innovation will be taken care of automatically. We should keep in mind that the mandatory accreditation along with voluntary accreditation to global principles may create greater impact on the quality drive and responsibility drive for higher education.