Author: Jai Anand Shukul


The two most revolutionary phenomena of the 21st Century are (i) Globalization and (ii) Information Explosion, enabled by advances in computing and information technology. Globalization has essentially ushered in an era of social, economic and technological cooperation across the countries of the world. The 21st Century has been the century of rapid technological advances and the emerging world order is that of sharing and multilateralism. The growth of information highways world over have lead to the sharing of knowledge and technology on the world platform, resulting in accelerated techno-economic advancement of countries. Knowledge has therefore come to acquire the central position as a resource for creation of wealth, and the chief driving force of economies world over. As such, it can both be an opportunity or a challenge for countries, depending on how well they are equipped to work with it. Countries in the globalizing world must possess the capacity to create, to process and to utilize knowledge in numerous beneficial ways for the betterment of their economies and societies. Such capacity is built on the foundations of human capital of the country.  Modern societies are turning into Knowledge Societies where creation and use of knowledge underline the achievements in almost every field.  Knowledge societies use knowledge as the key input in the creation of economic wealth. Developing countries, having less developed education systems, have great challenges ahead of them in this regard.
The forces of globalization and information explosion have, on the other hand, added complexities and dynamism to the economic environment due to greater competition, technological progress and socio-political exchanges.[1]  Local standards are now being replaced by world standards to benchmark quality of goods and services. Customization to market requirements has become a must for all producers. New technologies which are taking birth in different parts of the world have to be adopted for use in local conditions. Countries need to swiftly adapt to the rapidly changing technological and economic environment of the world. This is however dependent on the quality of human resources of the country in terms of knowledge and skills. Knowledge and skills have become the most important instruments, in the modern times, for countries to take advantage of the various opportunities arising in the dynamic world environment. The utility of knowledge in the modern world lies in how best it can be used to solve real-world problems.  Human resources endowed with relevant knowledge and skills are the main enabling factor for such application of knowledge. In short, we may say that in the modern world fortunes of countries are essentially hooked to their ability to produce or acquire knowledge, and to use it. In this regard Dr. Manmohan Singh, the erstwhile Prime Minister of India, mentioned :-
 “For everyone of our people to benefit from new employment opportunities being created across the economy, we must ensure that every Indian is educated and skilled”[2].  – Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Countries all over the world are assiduously working on strategies for developing their human resource, the main instrument of working with knowledge. Higher education systems, being the apparatus for creating skilled manpower, have also gained prominence in the 21st Century. Higher education relates not only to supporting knowledge-based production through research and innovation, but also to fulfilling the need for skilled workers across a wide variety of occupations in an economy[3]. Knowledge driven production of goods and services increases the demand for a more educated and skilled manpower. Further, it plays an important role in influencing the competitiveness of a country by way of promoting research and Innovation. In the developed countries the emphasis is on maintaining an edge in innovation and knowledge creation so as to maintain competitive superiority. They invest heavily in research and development in the private as well as the public sector. It is noteworthy that even a country such as the USA, to maintain its leading position in science and technology, is investing substantially in science education at all levels, and encouraging its younger generation to opt for careers in science. Its education system is considered to be one of the finest in the world, yet it set up a commission in 2005 with the mandate to examine the future of higher education and to ensure the country’s leading position in this field. Britain has, in the recent past, employed innovative ways of funding to bail out its higher education system from a financial crisis. These countries, with their wealth of resources, would continue to attract the best talent from all over the world to their universities and industry to maintain their competitive edge. Countries such as China have made substantial increase in their allocation of resources for higher education.  It has been aggressively working on a series of measures for rapidly expanding its capacity and enrollments, and to nurture excellence in higher education. It is upgrading its higher education to international levels. Australia’s reform measures, initiated in 2003, included areas as diverse as teaching, work place productivity, governance, student financing, research, cross sectional collaboration and quality[4].
India has witnessed a consistently high rate of economic growth supported by its knowledge based activities since the beginning of its liberalization program. Such activities depend on a pool of qualified and skilled manpower that requires continuous replenishment to maintain the tempo of growth. As per the population census of 2011, the median age of Indian population was about 25 years which puts approximately 550 million people below the age of 25 years. This means that the number of people in India needing primary, secondary and tertiary education far exceed the entire population of the USA (approximately 315 million) in 2013.[5] This represents the enormity of the education needs of India, which is an emerging knowledge society. India also suffers a poor ranking in higher education in the global arena. It has failed to produce world class institutions of higher education other than the IITs, whose contribution to the world has been quite limited. India, which accounts for nearly 20% of world’s population, has been ranked 134th out of 187 countries in the human development index.[6]  Shri Pranab Mukharjee, Hon. President of India has aired his concerns on this matter:-
 “ At the same time I feel it necessary to share my sense of dismay on seeing, in recent reports, that not a single Indian University or institute of higher learning, including the premier IITs figure in the list of 200 top rated universities of the world”.   –Pranab Mukharji
He further expressed hope by commenting:-
“We must remember that once we had world class universities in Nalanda and Takshshila. Therefore, the dream of creating world class universities in India is an achievable aspiration. India, with strong scientific and technical manpower has the opportunity to become a major knowledge power in years to come.” [7]
            Globalization has also given a boost to international mobility in the field of higher education. Students spend a considerable sum of money in overseas education. By the year 2006 they were contributing $ 13 billion to the US economy and $ 5 billion to that of the UK every year. India’s spending on overseas education was approximately $ 3 billion during 2006. India accounts for 4% of the world’s overseas students and is the second largest exporter of students after China, which accounts for 10%.[8]
            India has one of the largest systems of higher education in the world, offering the facility of education and training in almost all aspects of human creativity and intellect. It has grown from a small size of 30 Universities and 695 colleges in 1950-51 to a humungous 700 Universities and 35000 colleges in 2012 -13.[9]   Yet, the country’s efforts to realign its higher education system to fulfill the knowledge and skill needs of the country have not produced desirable outcomes. In the face of the growing demand for higher education within the country and abroad and the need to have manpower for sustainable economic development, urgent steps need to be taken hasten the higher education reforms process so that actual outcomes are aligned with the expectations.
            The Indian higher education system is still burdened with problems of growth, quality and governance. Industries routinely lament the acute shortage of skills in the masses of qualified students. Concerns are also being aired, at the same time, regarding adequacy of skilled manpower for sustainable economic development. Dr. Manmohan Singh aptly describes the crisis of higher education of India in his address at the time of launch of the National Knowledge Commission in 2005. He succinctly spelt out the challenges for India’s future as a knowledge economy as under:-
“At the bottom of the knowledge pyramid the challenge is one of improving access to primary education. At the top of the pyramid there is need to make our institutions of higher education and research world class….. The time has come for India to embark on a second wave of nation building….. Denied this investment, the youth will become a social and economic liability.”  -Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Thus, India has an onerous task at hand to re-align its higher education to ensure sustainable growth of its economy, to bring about social equity and to attain a position of leadership in the emerging global scenario.
[1] Joshi, Chandravati & Pant, Nimmi. (Nov.  2011).  “ Effect of Globalization on Education and Culture”, Quest, Vol.5, Issue2, Nov.2011, PP280-83.
[2] Priminister’s address to the nation on Independence Day 2007.
[3] "Higher Education in Science and Research & Development, The challenges and The Road Ahead". (Aug 8, 2006). Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi and Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore
[4] Agarwal, Pawan. Indian Higher Education, Envisioning The Future (Introduction To The Book);  http//www.highereducation.org/introductionhtml#_recent. accessed 15/2/2014.
[5] Twelfth Five Year Plan ( 2012-2017), Social Sectors. (2013). Vol. III; Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.
[6] ‘Enhance gross enrollment ratio in higher education”, The Hindu, 5/11/2013.
www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/increase-enrollment-ratio-of-students-in-higher education/article 5717. accessed 4/4/2014.
[7] Dharasker Rajiv. (2014). 113 "Difficulties in Developing World Class Universities". Shroff Publications & Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 14:978-93-5110-470-4,Navi Mumbai.
[8] ICRIER & CII .(2006). “Towards Excellence: Higher Education in India”.
[9] MHRD (GoI) & CII. (2013). "Annual Status of Higher Education of States and UTs".