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

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Critical Look at the Narayana Murthy Recommendations on Higher Education

This response to "Engaging the Corporate Sector: Narayana Murthy Committee Recommendations on Higher Education" (EPW, 20 July 2013) says that while the committee seems to be concerned about the poor quality of higher education, its recommendations or formulae appear to treat higher educational institutions like factories. There seems to be a mismatch between its recommendations and the objectives of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.

In “Engaging the Corporate Sector: Narayana Murthy Committee Recommendations on Higher Education” (EPW, 20 July 2013), the authors view the recommendations of the Narayana Murthy Committee (NMC) through the lens of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Engaging the corporate sector, both public and private, in higher education being the focal theme, the article seems to be using public-private partnerships (PPPs) a group of business models, philanthropy an act of benevolence and CSR a compulsory social service as synonyms, at least in operational terms. Further, some recommendations of the NMC, crucial for the future of higher education in India, have not received adequate attention in the article. The recommendations submitted to the Planning Commission can aptly be examined within the contexts of the objectives of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (TFYP) for higher education – expansion, equity and excellence.1

The participation of private parties in higher education in India dates back to the days of the British raj.2 However, after Independence, the ability of the private sector to provide the infrastructure necessary for development was doubtful and so the government took higher education into its own hands (Kumar 2013: 613) although a good number of educational institutions, known for philanthropy and quality education were established by private parties.3 Till the 1980s, the government not only supported higher education and its expansion but also extended helping hands to run the institutions set up by the private sector (Agarwal 2006; Tilak 2008). After the 1980s, the country witnessed a profusion of private professional education in the name of meeting the prevalent unmet demand of business and industry (ibid: 2006). The economic crisis towards the end of the 1980s and subsequent adoption of the New Economic Policy (NEP), characterised by liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation in 1991 added to the impetus for the private sector to view higher education as a potential venture. The NEP paradigm still continues to guide policymaking in India and the NMC can be seen as a mere reflection of that paradigm.

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