RUSA’s boom in higher education

Dr. Raj Shree Dhar
Transformational reforms in higher education sector have acquired great momentum since Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was flagged off by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India in 2013 with a vision to transform the state higher education institutions in India into repositories of excellence and to strengthen higher education policies and its implementation in India through research, for better attainment of the goals of access, equity and excellence. Since its inception, RUSA has been committed in building the capacities of the state higher education systems and nurturing the institutions to ensure equity, access and quality in higher education.
Greater access requires an enhancement of the education institutional capacity of the higher education sector to provide opportunities to all those who deserve and desire higher education. Equity involves fair access by the poor and socially disadvantaged groups to higher education. Quality and excellence involve provision of education in accordance with accepted standards so that students receive available knowledge of the highest standard that helps them to enhance their human resource capabilities. Relevance involves promotion of education so as to develop human resources keeping pace with the changing economic, social and cultural development of the country; and Value Based Education involves inculcating basic moral values among the youth.
It is time that the impact created by RUSA is assessed to keep it hitting greater milestones in the years to come so that higher education mechanism makes the country economically self-sufficient and self-reliant by imparting education and training to citizens of the country who can take part in nation building by providing solutions to different socio-economic problems keeping in view the cost – benefit balance and are competitive globally. The reforms initiated under RUSA aim to build a self-sustaining momentum for greater accountability and autonomy of state institutions and impress upon these the need to improve the quality of education.
NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog’s vision is to transform India into prosperous, highly educated, healthy, secure, corruption free, energy abundant, environmentally clean, and globally influential nation. Both NITI Aayog and RUSA together have made a visible impact among stakeholders and have reflected that the committed professionals can play a critical role in helping speed-up the work of missions like implementation and monitoring of reforms through measuring and tracking progress.
The online centralized database has been started as MIS (Management Information System) which captures all information and development plans for RUSA and Non – RUSA funded Institutes as well as states. On the basis of data captured by NHERC- MIS, evidence based analytic reports can be created to monitor the performance of the higher education system and all institutions are linked through MIS. Best practices of RUSA have been started like audio-visual documentation; data through MIS will serve as the basis for rigorous analysis on higher education policies and its implementations. Institute Development plans (IDPs) are being uploaded by every higher education institute as per RUSA guidelines.
RUSA’s mission is to create new universities and clusters through up-gradation of existing colleges, new model degree colleges, new professional colleges, and provide infrastructural support to universities and colleges, faculty recruitment support, faculty improvement programmes, leadership development of educational administrators, skill trainings and vocational education to students approved by the State Higher Education Council (SHEC) as per RUSA guidelines for the overall development of the higher education system of the country.
It is obvious that the next few years are mission critical for RUSA as it has to allow only quality higher education institutions to be established in the country, having NAAC accreditation with a minimum score of 2.5, minimum 90 percent faculty has to be on permanent basis, promotion of research in collaboration with international universities through National research foundation(NRF), improving India’s global ranking in higher education to first top 100 world rankings, industry interactions with faculty and students internships, upgrading library and laboratory facilities like incubation centers, innovation hubs, summer camps for promoting critical thinking, produce papers on best practices in higher education, procure high quality e-resources, and providing facilities that support research hubs/parks . The administrative reforms for accountable governance, affiliation reforms to create autonomous individual institutes with board of governors, examination reforms includes curriculum reform, semester systems, CBCS, accreditation reforms for the quality of the institutes are to be implemented rigorously.
Steps are being taken for the policy changes required that will facilitate the skill training to meet the industry requirements, to achieve technology based learning, training of teachers, soft skill training to students, exam reforms in terms of concept and application based, merit based transparent appointments to key university leadership positions i.e. the appointment of vice-chancellors, the heads of universities and the most visible symbols of the university system, who are supposed to provide academic leadership as well as administrative skills.
There is a need to improve resource allocation for universities to enable good quality research and innovation. Criteria such as the number of research publications, impact factors of journals in which papers are published, citations, the amount of research funding attracted, research projects etc. We have to ensure that the spending on Higher Education as a percentage of GSDP is at least 2% of GSDP and increased to 4% in later stage.
Filling up faculty vacancies and ensuring that faculty positions in institutions are not less than 85% of sanctioned faculty strength is the key. The State is required to fill all the vacant sanctioned posts and claim funds under RUSA for additional posts to enable them to achieve the student-teacher ratio of 20:1 so that teachers can improve their pedagogy. It is essential to hire highly motivated and academically skilled faculty in higher educational institutions and student feedback to promote quality teaching. Student feedback in higher educational institutions is to be taken as faculty performance appraisals. Present challenges are for the efficient management of resources, including cash assets, any wastage should be eliminated and assets with financial returns should be invested in.
With these features RUSA scheme looks promising in the draft form. However, its effectiveness will depend on its successful implementation. RUSA scheme gives a concrete shape to our vision of development of higher education in India. This realization will definitely follow after its successful implementation. For now, it is indeed commendable that Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) has already started taking initiatives for the improvement of higher education in the country by designing its objectives on quality education and creating an enabling atmosphere so that the institutions can devote themselves to further innovations and research, and thus accelerate the growth story of India.