Many students in India are unable to access higher education for different reasons. It can be due to social disparities where students belonging to backward classes are missing out on higher education. Economically backward students cannot afford higher education because of financial constraints. Then there are geographically backward areas where students cannot pursue higher studies as there are no available institutions in the region. The key objective of the Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Program (EQUIP) is to make higher education accessible to all such students. It also intends to upgrade the quality of higher education.
Let’s learn more about this innovative action plan that can transform the higher education system in India.
Interesting Facts About EQUIP
EQUIP is a 5-year holistic action plan for the higher education system in India.
- The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, has curated this program.
- The time period to implement this action plan is 2019-24.
- This plan was conceptualized and designed in consultation with a team of ten eminent expert groups.
- Transformation strategies are framed for the purpose of accessibility, inclusivity, quality, and employability.
- The project cost is estimated to be around INR 1.5 lakh crore.
Key Focus Areas of EQUIP
There are ten identified problem areas in the higher education system in India, and this program aims to address them. The main aims and objectives of EQUIP are explained here:
- Strategies for expanding access
EQUIP aims to expand the reach of the higher education institutions to include a maximum number of students. The gross enrolment ratio in higher education in India was 25.18 in 2017-18. Through EQUIP, the target is to raise this ratio up to 52 by 2024. Higher education enrolment of students belonging to marginalised communities like SCs and STs are likely to be doubled and tripled, respectively. Moreover, higher education can be made available to a wider range of student communities with the help of Distance Learning Education.
- Using technology for better reach
Since the main theme of EQUIP is to make higher education within the reach of all aspiring students, the use of digital technology has a major role in it. Audiovisual content are delivered to students through dedicated DTH channels under the project SWAYAM, which covers all the courses offered by colleges and universities in India. Operation Digital Board facilities are available in all institutions to create digital classrooms.
- Towards global best teaching/learning process
Some changes are to be made in the teaching learning process to bring about improvement in learning outcomes of higher education as per the global standards. The proposed plan of action is curriculum revision, reforms in the examination system, better infrastructure facilities for the institutions, adequate training facilities for the professional development of the teachers to upgrade the overall teaching delivery method, etc.
- Promoting excellence
To boost up academic excellence in the higher education institutions in India, the focus is to get better global rankings for more Indian institutions.
The proposed plan of action is to support 20 prominent higher education institutions in India to get global top 200 rankings. Automatic and flexible funding will be provided to these institutions to upgrade to global standards of excellence.
- Assessment, accreditation & ranking systems
Several higher education institutions find the assessment process, accreditation protocol and the ranking systems quite complicated. EQUIP proposes to simplify them. There will be a mentoring system in place to help out the institutions to complete the accreditation formalities successfully. Different levels of accreditation will be available based on the standard of the institution. Most importantly, every publicly funded institution must be a participant in the National Institutional Ranking Framework.
- Promotion of research & innovation
India has great potential for knowledge creation through research and innovation. However, the number of researchers in India is quite less in comparison to other countries in the world.
EQUIP’s Proposed Plan of action are: National Research Foundation (NRF) will be formed that will take the responsibility of training students from reputed universities and colleges all across the country to sharpen their cognitive and design thinking skills. This Foundation will also take care of the funding, mentoring and capacity building needs that are essential for research and innovations of global standards.
- Employability & entrepreneurship
EQUIP suggests some modifications in the curriculum like an industry-oriented course curriculum, soft skills training for all students, and professional courses for non-technical skills to make the youth employable after completion of higher education. Available schemes for an internship like National Apprenticeship Promotion Schemes (NAPS) / National Apprenticeship Training Scheme can be utilized to gain hands-on experience in their respective field of work. Entrepreneur mindset should be nurtured for those who want to launch their own business. Potential entrepreneurs must be supported with the right guidance to take maximum advantage of the start-up culture.
Increasing enrolment of foreign students in prominent higher education institutions in India. These institutions must have a standard admission policy for foreign students. Other strategies recommended in the plan are – an academic collaboration with foreign universities, setting up of campuses of foreign universities in India, and setting up of offshore campuses of Indian universities abroad.
- Governance reforms
The internal policy matters governing some well-known colleges and universities often lack transparency. Some of the institutions do not have a strong quality assurance mechanism in place due to which implementation of new reforms and regulations becomes tough. Even the recruitment policies for the positions of Vice Chancellors/Deans are not very clear.
The proposed plan of action includes – a generic ERP framework to manage the university administration. Thus, students, staff members, and others involved with the university can gain access to information related to internal functions. A well-defined selection process to be formulated for the positions of VCs, Deans, Registrars, etc.
- Financing higher education
To implement the action plan of EQUIP effectively, adequate funding arrangements are needed. No vision plan can be implemented without a better flow of funds into the higher education systems. Funding plans of EQUIP include - financial autonomy of institutions, increasing state funding of public institutions, mobilization of CSR funds, an alumni donation system, and affordable educational loans for students.
There is no doubt EQUIP is an excellent initiative taken by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in the field of education. It can bring about major reforms in the higher education system in India that is necessary to meet the needs and demands of today’s youth.