If America takes steps, why India Inc laments?


University of California, Berkeley, chancellor Robert Birgeneau was in India to cement partnership with the Indian Institute Science, Bangalore. He also met with Dr Manmohan Singh, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and National Knowledge Commission chairman Sam Pitroda. In an interview Prof Birgeneau spoke on the California public education system. There is a focus on skill development in countries like India, primarily to meet the increased demand for manpower across the world. How do you visualise the role of universities in the “skill development” mission?

Prof. Robert Birgeneau ; words falling on deaf ears of Indian corporate

There is a need to understand the difference between education and skill development. Skill development is about training, it serves short-term requirements, it does not serve long-term needs. The responsibility of universities is to educate people not just to train them. An education, which universities should provide, teaches people to learn to solve problems. Skill development doesn’t do that; it provides training. Consider this: 50% of those involved in management perform different skills from what they learnt. It is education that helps people make this transition to new roles and not skill development. How central is the state in providing higher education, especially in a country like the United States which has well-known universities which are not public education institutions? Ivy League institutions account for less than 1% of those in the university system these are privileged sections. Fact is, 75% of students in the United States are educated in public institutions. When we talk of the impact on the American economy, we need to understand that it is totally dominated by public institutions. The state has a responsibility to provide adequate access, the private system is biased to the wealthy.

Does the California public education system hold any blueprint or possibilities that India can adopt or adapt? California has the best public education system. I would say the basic scheme of the California model can be emulated. The master plan for higher education was laid out in the 1950s. It is a three-tier system. At the base of this system are the hundred-odd community colleges. Typically, high school graduates who seek to enter the workforce or can’t go to college for reasons other than abilities attend these colleges. These institutions, which provide two-year associate degrees, cater to nearly 1.5 million students. Students from community colleges can seek entry to the university system and get credit for community college courses.

At the second level are the non-research state universities; there are 16 of them in California. They have an approximate annual intake of 300,000. Students accepted at these schools are generally among the top 30% of high school graduates. Finally, at the apex is the University of California, spread across 10 campuses. The University of California system provides for both undergraduate and research. Typically, the top 12.5% of high school graduates are the base from which admissions are made to these research universities. Student mobility across the three tiers is an important feature of the system. Our discussions with Prime Minister Singh focused on the community college system. You spoke about the state having a responsibility to provide access. How does UC Berkeley ensure that it does not fail in ensuring this? We have a sophisticated admission system, which looks beyond normalised test scores while admitting students. The university admits one-third of its students from poor families; we have a robust financial system to support this. Of the nearly 6,000 fresh admissions every year, nearly 2,000 are students who have transferred in from community colleges.

We help students from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing preparatory classes and extra tutoring. In an effort to allow more students to avail of education at UC Berkeley, we have a higher number of students for every faculty — it is one faculty member for 22 students as against one for ten at MIT.
Higher education institutions across the world face the challenge posed by industry and the corporate sector when it comes to retaining faculty. How does an eminent public institution like UC Berkeley deal with this challenge? Interestingly, it is other research universities rather than industry to which we lose faculty. At UC Berkeley, we face competition from other rich research universities for faculty. Industry doesn’t pose such a threat. We offer the opportunity to teach at a flagship research university. We also have a number, not a huge number, of faculty members who straddle both teaching and private sector jobs.

Funding of higher education institutes is another area, which needs to be reworked in India. UC Berkeley is a publicly funded institution and could provide a model for us as well. Could you tell us about UC Berkeley’s funding system? Well, UC Berkeley is a state-funded institution, though it also receives federal funds. Of the $1.7 billion annual budget, some $500 million in funding comes from the state. Another $500 million is accounted for by research grants, mostly from the federal government though some of it also emanates from the state.

Income from student fees accounts for a couple of hundred million dollars, while $300 million comes from private sources. The university has annual payout of $120 million from its $3 billion endowment.

Source: EconomicTimes

2 Responses to “If America takes steps, why India Inc laments?”

  1. 1 DeafPulse.com - the one-stop pulse for all Deaf-related news and blogs.
  2. 2 DeafPulse.com - the one-stop pulse for all Deaf-related news and blogs.

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