Need to Increase Focus on Research and Development

As we pave the way for observing National Education Day later this year, time is fitting to take a hard look at our country’s education report card, build on our strengths and commit to plug the many shortcomings. Gauging conditions, there is one point that strikes immediately and that is the severe lack of research and innovation in India’s higher education institutes.

And as an academic leader, promoting Research and Development in higher learning organizations is high on my agenda. Let the facts speak, India has the lowest position among its global peers in the share of higher education institutes to the country’s total Research and Development expenditure. Less than 1% of the total students enrolled in higher education in our country are pursuing Ph.D.Only 4% of the total Research and Development expenditure in India is from higher educational institutions against 10% in China, 14% in Japan, 17% in the U.S. and a high 35 % in Canada. India spends only 0.9 per cent of GDP on research and development, which is much below that of China, UK and Israel.

India has 7.8 scientists per 1,000 population compared to 180.66 in Canada, 139.16 in the Russian Federation, 53.13 in Korea and 21.15 in the U.S. As also pointed out by President, Pranab Mukherjee at the second convocation of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bhubaneswar recently, as per an international ranking there is not a single Indian university including the IITs among the top 200 universities in the world. Research leads to innovation, and innovation germinates excellence.

Recent years have seen a rapid growth in accessibility to higher education in India. And these numerous new colleges and universities are all potential hotbeds of research and development. Currently, the quality of education being imparted in a vast majority of higher educational institutes and their Research and Development output paints a grim picture. Belonging to the academia, I understand the failings, the challenges but also the opportunities. The Government, the industry and the academia must together join forces and serve as mutually catalyzing agents for each other. Only then can our democracy reap its demographic dividend. Research must become a priority, reflected in both increased spends in India’s government and corporate as well as its higher education segment. Our higher academic institutions have to become agents of inclusive innovation suiting our socio-economic matrix. Universities and institutes, specially engineering, medical and management colleges must mold their students into innovators in addition to equipping them with academic knowledge. There is a pressing need for India to implement critical reforms to revive research in higher education. We need desperately a well-defined University Research Policy. Our country should examine closely success stories of other countries and formulate an ideal model aggregating global best practices and ingenuity. Look into the Bayh-Dole Act enacted in America in 1980, China’s scheme of giving incentives to scientists for citations in international journals or the lesser known but impressive Turkish higher education story as a starting point.