State Public Universities Decline And Way Forward

Self sustained public universities will help Punjab govt to give due focus to the most important public primary educatio...

This paper is based discussion on problems faced by public universities (turned into financially sick units) and way forward suggested by right based ideas to over come financial challenges faced and valuable objections by left leaning experienced academicians.


India has seen in recent few decades flooding of private engineering colleges and private universities by the business houses. The central govt has also expanded its premium Institutes NIT, IITs, IISER and IIMs. There are other initiatives by the central govt to come up with 41 central universities in the different states.

There has been an existing network of historical state public universities of eminence and its associated colleges region wise. In addition, there were few historical engineering colleges of eminence. There was in addition a network of vocational education comprising of Polytechnics to ITIs.

Inspite of such an expansion of network of education especially of professional degrees the Indian middle class is ever increasingly moving to colleges and universities abroad.

This has been made possible with easier study and migration opportunities with higher income of middle class and fewer children. The improved private school education with focus on imparting english language skills has also facilitated this.

The rampant uncontrolled privatisation has created issues of quality of education and in turn employability of students passing from these institutes. This has created problems with admissions in these institutes and most are on verge of closure.

The historic public universities of eminence with appointments of VCs by political interference, recruitment of large no of less competent faculty under political pressure, vision less expansions, gross mismanagement for decades and rigidity of its systems have also become sick and financially unsustainable. The condition of universities/historical colleges like GNDEC run by trusts like SGPC is not much different.

The few premium institutes like IITs, IISERs, IIMs with heavy central funding, quality of education and less fees are having stiff competition for the limited seats on their campuses. The central universities are not much different from the state public universities except for easier funding from central sources. With all states starved of funds compared to centre in India this is as per the expected lines. Even the central universities has been asked to tighten their belts by the Govt as told in Parliament.

The Parliament reply said expenditure by the universities includes internal revenue generation and unspent balances from the previous years. But given that the expenditure is higher than funds, it seems the universities are resorting to measures like cutting on fresh recruitment and opening high-paying courses to meet the gap.

Officials in the ministry and the University Grants Commission —through which funds are routed to 41 central universities — conceded that most universities are struggling to generate at least 20% of the required budget. “We are asking the universities to generate revenues either by introducing vocational courses or managing their finances better,” admitted a senior official.

Teachers of these universities say the figures substantiate what they have been suspecting for long. “There has been a calculated, conscious attempt to gradually starve government funded institutions so that they eventually collapse and can be opened for privatisation,” said Rudrashish Chakraborty of English department of K M College, DU.

Materialism vs Idealism New Generation Students

The private universities in India has come up with facilities appealing to middle class like McDonalds and Dominos to fresher parties by Akshay, Katrina and easier way to pass degrees by mediocre students. They have devised specialised degrees in emerging technologies with minimising Math components so as to attract maximum mediocre students. They have presently been successful in attracting large crowds to their big campuses and always expanding acquiring adjacent lands. Though the conditions may be too bad in Indian context but things are even impacted in most advanced countries with best of universities like US as clear from the recent documentary on subject.

This film’s story has many villains and few heroes. It describes how conservative politicians, think tank wonks, education reformers and wealthy political donors work together to transform public universities. According to Mims, they have two goals. The first is to run public universities like businesses. The second is to stop universities from teaching and research that contradict conservative values.

The film shows how many recent reforms are ideologically motivated. For example, one idea that motivates reform today is economist Arthur Laffer’s “trickle-down economics.” Laffer theorizes that all government spending slows economic growth and innovation.

Laffer’s ideas lead reformers to believe reducing state support for higher education will boost the economy and prompt universities to become more efficient.

The other concept that has gained much traction is Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s idea of “disruptive innovation,” which holds that established organizations innovate only when upstart competitors upend their business model. For the reformers this means promoting for-profit colleges to compete with public universities.

Anti-tax lobby groups like Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) are also implicated in the film. Since 1986 many elected Republicans have pledged to ATR never to raise taxes, making it hard to adequately fund higher education.

The results of all of this, according to Mims, are devastating budget cuts, program closures, and the erosion of academic freedom.

But here’s the problem: In focusing on contemporary developments, the film implies that public universities were, until recently, well-supported, idyllic bastions of intellectual freedom.

A 2015 report of the American Academies of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) shows that in 1990 14.6 percent of state budgets went to higher education, but by 2014, this share had dropped to 9.4 percent.

But as public policy expert from University of California, Berkeley David Kirp demonstrates in his book, “Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line,” financial interests often trump academics at America’s universities. Although painful for those involved, many program closures are motivated by cost and efficiency concerns rather than political ideology.

Results of a study by University of Michigan economists Brian Jacob, Brian McCall and Kevin Stange indicate that most students make enrollment decisions based on campus amenities such as state-of-the-art gyms rather than academics. Campus officials seem to be responding to what students want: Campus amenities are among the fastest-growing categories of expenditures at public universities.

It’s also the case that many students go to college for job training rather than the intrinsic value of learning. A study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA shows that 70 percent of college freshman believe earning a college degree is “very important” in order “to be able to make more money.”

Innovation Universities Developed Countries to Survive and Pathetic Conditions India

The innovation by public universities in developed countries is to recruit excess international students (approaching 20% of campus strength) with easier work permits post study. The route to PR and citizenship vary among countries with Canada being most liberal to US most stringent. This has accordingly made different class of students from developing countries especially India with opting for these countries based on their potential, funds available and ability to take the challenge to the process of migration involved.

According to IRCC from 2018, nearly half of all international students come from only two countries: India (172,625), which accounts for about 30% of enrollments, and China (142,895), which accounts for about 25%.

In most broad university program areas, China was the leading source of international enrolment.

The conditions of private engineering colleges and other educational institutes is not much different in rest of India. Most of these Institutes are unable to pay even meagre salaries of their employees and faculty has become daily wage labourers.

There are at least five other colleges in Kanniyakumari district that have not cleared dues for over three months.“Without the fund, many faculty members resort to daily wage work that their families were doing before they entered teaching. For example I know a faculty member who works at a brick kiln during summers because he wasn’t paid his salary on time.”

UGC India Initiative to Bail Out Public Universities

In its 557th meeting recently, the UGC decided that an Indian higher education institution that has a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grading of 3.01 or above, or is among the top 1,000 QS World University or Times Higher Education rankings, or is among the top 100 universities under National Institution Ranking Framework, will be able to tie-up with a foreign education institution which too features among the top 1,000 QS or Times Higher Education rankings.

Punjab Public Universities and Historical Eminent Institutes in Crisis

Punjabi University Patiala is in deep crisis with a debt of 150 crores and ever increasing with monthly deficiency of 20 crore between revenue and expenses on salaries etc. GND University Amritsar regional campuses closed and Dept of Electronics main campus no admission.

GNDEC Ludhiana missed historic opportunity to upgrade as deemed university like Thapar and joined PTU. Presently with new stringent norms and its ranking is not eligible for deemed university. Facing financial crunch post stopped financing by state since 2003, it is now looking for state campus status like two govt engineering colleges given recently to survive.

DAVIET college shifted to DAV University Jalandhar facing admissions problems. Still the position of admission is bad. People at helm of affairs of DAV institutes also lack integrity of past.

Khalsa colleges Amritsar facing admission problems and donations coming for fees poor students to take admission. The huge donations for building new skill centres received are running primitive irrelevant courses.

SGGSW University Fatehgarh Sahib expanding directionless without a proper vision on donations of public through SGPC.

Other Institutes of Punjab in Deep Crisis

Public school education especially primary education wing of 12857 primary schools in each village of Punjab totally collapsed with very poor quality of delivery. Schools chain run by SGPC also in bad shape.

Among the 350 ITIs of Punjab, the private ITIs with higher fees of Rs 13000/19000 compare to Rs 3400 in Govt ITIs has no admissions.

Polytechnics of PSBTE has no admissions in both Govt and private.

Private engineering colleges of PTU 300 plus has no admission and on verge of closure.

Degree colleges affiliated to public universities facing acute admission problems.

Problems of Punjab State

In addition to problems of education system there are huge other problems faced by Punjab as under:

  • Govt of state under huge debt post insurgency and corruption by successive Govts.
  • The diversion of state rivers water to other states and pumping of ground water by farmers and excessive financial burden.
  • Continuous declining of ground water level and no diversification support by Govts with problem of future sustainability. FCI has already been made bankrupt by central govt.
  • Insurgency in past and state excesses turning majority population self centred.
  • Lesser land holding and poor incomes to rural population.
  • Lack of industry in the state, employment opportunities and revenue to Govt.
  • Drug menace and involvement of state and politicians in its spread.
  • Corrupt politicians and looking for opportunity to make money every place.
  • The bureaucracy from other states and less concerned about interest of the state.
  • The control of local politics by parties and power centres outside Punjab with mostly controlled by RSS.
  • The Hindu Sikh divide promoted and used by all outside to exploit sense of insecurity of Punjabis.
  • Lack of institutes of social sciences in Punjab leading to lack of quality discourse among society.
  • Extreme disparity and self centred upper middle class.
  • Extremely emotional people and exploitation by out side forces. Excessive misdirected donations and Langars.
  • Lack of work culture and ethics like South India and entrepreneur skills of Gujaratis.
  • Sikh leadership playing in hands of RSS for power.
  • Confused Left of Punjab with no clear roadmap to take issues of people.
  • India elites and Left elites telling different things for own children sent abroad and that for others. They expect the others to work as labourer here doing sewing courses “Usha Kasulatha ke Kadam” and suffer like labour in Bangladesh.
  • Indian deep states penetration into all institutes Govt or religious after insurgency and use opportunistic people to head and damage them.

Case study of a Public University in Deep Crisis

The state Punjabi University Patiala with historic eminence and 65 departments is in deep financial crisis. The university has many regional and neighbourhood campuses. Few reasons for deep financial crisis.

  • Recruitment of large no of faculty and other staff by past VCs for obliging political masters and to accommodate them open large no of regional and neighbourhood campuses and programs.
  • The decline of admission in regional neighbourhood and main campuses.
  • Less fees of students from poor background studying various programs in campus.
  • Highly paid faculty with time and large salary bill.
  • High salaries of supporting staff in public universities.
  • Responsibilities of public universities to work on area like languages, regional history, culture and other less lucrative areas as social responsibility.
  • Lack of adequate funding by state govt themselves in poor financial health and misdirected priorities.

All this has led to huge revenue deficiency each month to the tune of Rs 20 crores.

Solutions Proposed

Generating and additional revenue of 20 crore per month means you need 10k students paying 20 k fees per month (1.2 lac per semester). This is assuming no additional expenses at least of staff salaries part using existing recruitment of faculty. Other is paying in range of 30K( 1.8 lac per semester) per month in high paying courses by additional 6700 students.

The high paying courses are of short duration or of few years in university campus. It means starting more no of programs and getting more regular admissions of such a volume of students paying high fees in Punjabi University. Then there is limitations of existing Infra and endeavour to avoid adding as less infra as possible.

There is lack of jobs post courses in India. This favours only running Dual/Joint degree programs in collaboration with QS high ranking universities abroad as per recent UGC guidelines. Other is running higher end vocational or graduate degree programs of govt vocational polytechnic abroad in collaboration as per Chinese universities models. The TAFE in Australia and tied to local universities of Australia for degree programs with lesser overall fees is one such option. There are similar institutes in Canada leading to state licensing and Red Seal certification.

There do not seem much choices of starting programs highly paid other than foreign collaboration Dual/Joint degree programs by Punjabi University. Then issues with the suitability of existing faculty recruited by past VCs and students level available from middle class with this paying capacity.

Tie up with govt institutes like TAFE will be most useful to Punjabi community as it open doors with providing quality degree programs in IT, Accounts and other bachelor degrees to students of middle class at much less cost with regular migration opportunities. This will also provide routes for those who want to learn trades like motor vehicle mechanic in path to moving to bachelor of business degree in Australia and opening own enterprises etc. There will be a quantum shift for those 90% of Punjabi unable to join IT bandwagon abroad and landing as unskilled labourers or delivery boys.

Quantification of Individual Faculty Efficiency and Accountability

The per-credit-hour charge for part-time undergraduate students at Harvard University in 2019 - 2020 was $1,492. Typically, college classes consist of 3 or 4 credits, bringing the cost per class to $4,476 or $5,968. At many colleges, full-time tuition kicks in at around 12 credit hours.

The credit based fee structure in universities abroad is a good way to fix accountability of faculty and see balance sheet of Institutes. Takin a student on average opting say five course of 4 credit each in India in a semester. Fees of Rs 6000 per 4 credit course per semester (Rs 1500 per credit per semester) means semester fee of Rs 30000. For engineering and science steam it will increase with practical work credits.

A faculty teaching 50 students one course 4 credit earns Rs 50000 per month. Assuming 50% of this and rest goes to his salary and rest 50% revenue earned for supporting staff to electricity and other expenses. It means he had earned Rs 25000 towards its salary. This exact ratio for university can be calculated based on data of faculty salaries vs other expenses of university.

Public university has luxury of free spaces and no liability of owners profits. Faculty on average salary of say 1.5 lac has to teach 6 courses of 4 credits. It means even with 4 period per week for a 4 credit course, it comes to 24 periods per week. For fees of Rs 15000 per semester in universities it comes to Rs 3000 per semester for 4 credit course(Rs 750 per credit per semester). This will double the faculty teaching load to 48 periods per week to earn its salary and not feasible.

In average faculty pay the balancing factor in this is ratio of permanent vs temporary faculty and how less the temporary employed faculty is paid. The public universities resort to paying too less to temporary faculty in their endeavor to balance highly paid permanent faculty as per govt pay commissions. Added to this influence in selection etc. and this lead to highly substandard candidates opting for temporary jobs. This temporary staff turns to be counter productive to reputation and future admissions.

On other hand the private university with flexibility to pay as per capability with whole of staff temporary and take competent people paying 35K and above. This lead to have them more balanced team with less average pay of faculty. Public universities have to use leverage to employ effectively large no Research scholars of senior professors for labs and tutorials etc. to compensate for their more salaries.

The way to increase efficiency of teachers teaching more no of students is to use simple automation like delivery using projectors, LMS etc. Other is teaching same course to multiple section if university can afford large strength etc. with students from various programs opting for same course.

In case universities unable to collaborate for high paying courses with universities abroad as not ready they have to work out on these figures. Other places to increase revenue and also for getting more students is focusing on quality hostels and food. This will also attract international high paying students.

The public universities with no liability to earn huge profit for owners of business houses and free lands donated should be able to survive if apply their minds to financial sustainability of each action they undertake. Further those universities which have recruited large faculty in past have no other option but to increase their operations towards a sustainable model with adding right proportion of temporary less paid staff.

Analysis of Decisions Based on Credit Based Delivery Cost

Closing of operations in remote campuses without admission will be useful only.

  • If it involve reduction in large scale rentals and other expenses etc.
  • The bringing in permanent faculty to main campuses from closed campuses result in expansion of programs and student intake or improved admission in existing programs.
  • The closed campuses are converted into some revenue generation model getting to new ventures and models.
  • Any other venture with not much revenue if adding brand value to university and other courses or value to system/society be quantified.

The mere reduction in temporary lowly paid contractual staff in main campus and replace with the permanent highly paid staff from closed campuses will increase ratio toward highly paid staff and only increase the average salary per faculty paid. This bring back to basics that operations has to be increased with two intentions.

  • Bring in more temporary competent staff and lowly paid to the extent without compromising with quality to bring down average salary of faculty.
  • Bring more fees per credit (limitation of load of faculty) or bring in highly paid Dual/Joint degree programs in collaboration international universities.

After all the exhaustive planning for all present and in future expansion of programs in main and other campuses, the following should be calculated for each stage:

  • At what price per credit Public Universities can deliver education with present or new added programs.
  • Are they able to deliver the requisite quality and relevant programs that for that cost there are students to opt and pay.
  • The comparative market costs per credit from competing private universities with similar quality.
  • How much can they bring down per credit cost with existing permanent faculty and their salaries and the amount of temporary contractual staff they have to employ and at what salaries.
  • For the increased programs how best existing infra can be used and any need for additional infra. Possibilities to maximum use existing infra of remote campuses and figure in their handicap factor for location disadvantage etc.

After all these measures, if the cost cannot become below X per credit at a stage and the market or economic conditions or social responsibility dictate value Y per credit, then do X-Y per credit will be funded by the Govt. For departments of importance to state and only run by state universities like Punjabi languages or others less lucrative but important subjects leading to lesser Y, this X-Y factor will increase and projected to Govt accordingly.

This will bring in a system where the Govt will know what the amount will be they have obligations to give to public universities and will not appear to them and bureaucrats as just some favour to faculty for supporting their salaries. This per credit cost will also usher in an era for students where they will be able to compare cost of various Institutes public and private and decide for themselves if the high costs by certain private Institute are justified.

Ideals of Left Academicians in Govt Institutes

The above proposal were though discussed in context of Punjabi University Patiala but more or less applicable to all public universities. The ideas have relevance for trust run private universities and institutes paying good scales for permanent faculty. These ideas were put up to very senior people from academics and served in various position till VCs in past. These left leaning academicians with their vast experience has certain valid reservations:

  • Govt should fund universities and research work which has brought credibility to India as a country. These funds are peanuts for the Govt.
  • Don’t increase fees on the campus to ensure education for the poor and lower middle, who will not go to private universities or abroad etc
  • Universities not meant for running vocational courses and at least the main campuses. The Punjabi University regional campuses running polytechnic and even certificate courses in trades like welder.
  • No need to protect incompetent staff.
  • Do not favour employing people on contracts temporarily and paid less.
  • Migration is not solution to problems of people. Certain left academicians though don’t oppose migration citing Chinese universities has been collaborating and sending students.
  • At times in mood of extreme idealism that all inefficient recruited be dismissed under inefficiency with past VC be arrested and prosecuted.
  • Apprehensions that inefficient faculty will compromise and lure students by promising good grades etc. and ways to check them.
  • Think about extreme destitute and not about migrating middle class.

Questions Raised to Left Leaning Highly Experienced Academicians

Based on idealistic perception about public universities, society and systems, certain questions were raised as under :

  • If one is truly concerned about the destitute and poor than Punjab has appx 12000 Govt primary schools in each village of Punjab to teach the poor and mostly dysfunctional and fail to deliver.
  • If working on NGOs model of India by govt or otherwise and providing additional teachers in these schools from educated unemployed, two teachers in each schools paying Rs 5000 per month will cost Rs 12 crore per month to the Govt.
  • This will improve entire primary education of Punjab the weakest link for 50% poor and lower middle population. This will ensure quality education for 25 lacs govt school students. This way by any logic it wont justify to pay Rs 20 crore monthly for inefficient surplus staff recruited by past VCs and visionless expansions.
  • Neighbourhood women, MSc Chemistry MPhil teaching +2 in Sodal Mandir School Jalandhar for Rs 5000 goes on cycle at 7 o clock and many such unemployed people happily available for teaching to primary school students.
  • This 50 % poor population properly educated will be available for admissions to Polytechnic to degree colleges and universities facing acute admission problems.
  • Do research by state public universities has much to offer anything about immediate concerns of state suppose to fund these state public universities. Punjab facing problems from drug abuse, falling ground water level, lack of any sustainable diversification model etc with not any research by these universities.
  • Constant dried up representation of Punjab in bureaucracy to even military officers.
  • Do public universities has no responsibility towards migrating middle class of Punjab to do well in those migrated countries. This is possible with them being better skilled and bear lesser cost for migration through regular means. They will be also paying extra for this education and skills imparted for sustainability of universities.

The key to improve whole failed education system across the board is primary education and quality primary education of 3+5 years as per new education policy to the 50% poor and lower middle in govt schools. Govt have duty to provide quality primary education to all poor fully funding it. The funding of higher education by state stands far after this.

Further if we buy few less HPLC type costly equipment in public universities as mostly lying redundant in most faculty rooms, Punjab whole govt pre primary schools can be provided with Montessori blocks made in China.

On approaching a computer faculty known in an eminent college facing admission problems and was suggested to learn Industry skills so that he be able to teach better and make student employable. This will automatically improve admissions and ability to even take loans for study by students. The faculty was offered free assistance by IT Industry expert staff which would have costed them time and money. But the faculty was reluctant to learn anything and instead asked for sending someone to donate fees of poor students.

It appeared as if these donations are not for poor students but for faculty to survive and draw own salaries.

Answers by Left Experienced Academicians

Only you don' know why these plans could not be implemented :

  • Private schools are a big business. Politicians own them, so Govt Schools must not become threat to business which Govt is bound to protect.
  • Who all study in Govt Schools, children of labour class, predominantly SCs and Muslims in some area. Educating them is not priority and can be socially destabilising.
  • Socio-economic conditions don't allow these children to devote time to study. Have to take care of siblings, help parents like mother in daily chores and father in farming or other profession. Girls in the evening and on holidays have to go with mother to work in other houses
  • Learning is a social phenomena and needs social interaction as well as hope building which is not there.

You are wrong.

  • Amount of money spent on research by USA and advanced countries is more than budget of India. There money is also invested by corporate. Higher education is not for everyone. Only those interested in higher learning go for it. Others have enough opportunity.
  • In our case due to lack of opportunities people keep on moving to higher level without  any real interest. Investment in science is not waste. Problem is we never had renaissance, break from feudal past, industrialization or modern capitalism development. Whatever we have is colonialist type set up. Our industry doesn't need innovation.
  • Things are further destroyed by free trade. What ever we discuss your approach boils down to preparing work force, but where are jobs. Then you jump to immigration. It is typical semi colonial mind set. Turns anti to development of indigenous scientific capabilities.
  • Then you make every Indian scientist inefficient and condemn whole Indian higher education, not realizing that if today India has any standing it is because of these capabilities

Majority of people of Punjab especially next generations are struggling to survive both within India and abroad. All of them are extremely busy and under stress. Our universities to engineering colleges, Polytechnic, ITIs and public schools failed them. The private school system has been able to deliver for middle classes but at a sizeable cost. Few elite institutes like IITs, IISER, IIMs, high ranking NITs and Govt Medical Institutes provided great service for limited no of fortunate ones.

All these academician to bureaucrats have no vision how to restructure or rebuild the present public education system making it society relevant and self sustaining. The majority community of Punjab is relegated to unskilled labour class on migrating or locally.

Few could join the IT bandwagon abroad or at good positions here. The South Indians have been doing better in IT Industry and Gujrati as entrepreneur world over. There is aimless discourse by Punjabis privileged class on diverse topics on the social media or otherwise other than this most important topic.

With dried up funding by Punjab state with ever deteriorating financial health of Punjab Govt, other than few new eminent Institutes like IITs, IISERS, central universities with central funding will survive. The rest of them will either fully close or become defunct with closing of maximum departments etc.

World Turning into Global Village
The company's (Mphasis from Banglore) Calgary location is intended to become a space to :incubate and grow quantum technology" and to promote its commercial application as an addition to Alberta's tech sector, according to a release.

World turning into a global village and ideas of imperialism etc not hold much ground. The migration by people and especially Punjabis has been there from centuries. This migration can not be put on hold with mere fear that RSS will be pursuing its agendas more vigorously for Hindu Rashtar etc.

The fear of losing agricultural lands to capitalists and staying wont help as it is the financial survivability of people which will decide fate of land. This economic empowerment will also help farmers towards diversification of crops to venturing into new areas of plantation etc. help stop further decline of ground water level.

Things to Come in Future from Private Universities

The opportunistic corrupt private sector universities with huge funds have already started manipulating even the best of ranking agencies like QS ranking and sub standard private universities showing themselves even above eminent state public university like Punjab University.

The universities which ranked higher than PU in the region are: OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana (651-700), Chandigarh University, Mohali (801-1,000); Shoolini University of Biotechnology and Management Sciences, Solan, Himachal Pradesh (801-1,000); and Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala (1,000-2,000).

The only question is do public universities of Punjab will have a role in this inevitable phenomenon of migration and further finding a way for earning additional revenue from this high paying students segment for own financial sustainability. This international collaborations for Dual/Joint degrees with high ranking universities will also help improve their existing programs and improve their admissions and fee structure per credit.

Self sustained public universities will help Punjab govt to give due focus to the most important public primary education for destitute and fund it for improvement. Further the financially self sustained state public universities will be able to be more autonomous in their working and will be able to better resist bureaucratic and political pressures. Without making state public university sustainable, all these big business houses private universities as manipulators with costly substandard education and patent type research will be only left locally for future generations.

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