ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Indian Higher Education in the Digital Age

We need to pay attention to global trends in higher education so that we can develop the right kind of higher education system for India in the digital age. We need to make a significant investment in education technology, and make it with imagination and after careful planning.

Discussions on the challenges that face the Indian higher education scenario inevitably focus on the issues of access, equity, and excellence within the constraints posed by our demography (see, for example, the compilation in UGC 2011). The large and very heterogeneous numbers of potential students that need to be addressed, and the range of skills that need to be imparted are practically and logistically overwhelming, given the state of the infrastructure available, the funding that is given to the higher education sector at this time, and the linguistic and social diversity of our population. However, the reality is that a way forward needs to be found, and a recent book by William Bowen (2013) highlights some of the more important points that need to be considered in charting a future course of action.

Bowen’s stewardship of Princeton University (1972-88) and his involvement in the Mellon Foundation initiatives of JSTOR and ITHAKA make his perspectives on the two strands of thought that go into the book not just insightful and deep, but also important since he has intimate knowledge of both higher education and the role of the digital revolution in the democratisation of access to learning and scholarship. The book, which is a transcript of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values that were delivered by him at Stanford University in 2012, is essential reading for all those with a concern for access and equity in higher education. Some of the main features of the book were summarised in a recent review (Ramaswamy 2014).

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