Higher Education:  The New Education Policy and the new challenges

college education

The summary 

  • The new educational policy and proposed reforms like CBCS, RUSA, Central Universities’ Act are steps towards conformity of the WTO demands commoditization, liberalization and privatization of education on the so-called developing countries and the least developed countries. It is to be noted that the WTO representing the interests of the imperialist global capital, has included education in GATTS as tradable service that needs to open for FDI.
  • It is being implemented without due deliberation, discussion, feedback and consensus building amongst the stakeholders which are the students and the teachers of the university.
  • It is a direct attack on the character of university education, changing it from imparting knowledge to imparting know-how. This is an attempt to reduce knowledge to te3chnical skill.
  • In its current form it is simply rehashing of the FYUP system which has already been rejected and was rolled back because of various defects that however continue to persist in CBCS.
  • It proposes blanket homogenization of higher education across the country thereby robbing each university of its unique character. Any choice is therefore, only an illusion.
  • In its current form it is clear that it will lead to a dramatic fluctuation in the workload and therefore, instability of employment. This will lead to increasing contract system of employment, greater job insecurity and therefore poor quality of pedagogy.
  • The course curriculum, syllabi and methodology of teaching shall be prepared and implemented on the directions of the bureaucrats undermining the well established convention of debate discussions in course committees, departmental general bodies and statutory bodies like Executive Academic Councils that shall become redundant.
  • With homogenization and standardization based on the level of most or average that would lead to deterioration of institutions of excellence and average shall not benefit due to the lack of capacity and resources.
  • It shall ruin the autonomy of the university as the intellectual center to generate innovative and revolutionary ideas.
  • It will transform the education into training that can take care of present problems but shall impede the development of imagery and insight, the intellectual material for future problems.
  • In its current form it is likely to lead to ‘mobility’ of teachers by way of punishment transfers rather than mobility of students by ‘choice’.
  • It will prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the University system envisioned to created fearless citizens equipped with the ideas and commitment to the creation of a just society.


“The University Grants Commission (UGC) has initiated several measures to bring equity, efficiency and excellence in the Higher Education System of country. The important measures taken to enhance academic standards and quality in higher education include innovation and improvements in curriculum, teaching-learning process, examination and evaluation systems, besides governance and other matters.”[i]

The above declaration of UGC like many pronouncements of the state establishments need not be taken at face value, as it is smoke screen, the reflection of the idea of the epoch, the dichotomous dualism of theory and practice.  In fact this has been the eternal contradiction of the history of the civilization itself that began with the beginning of the class division of the society into haves and have-nots. Capitalism being the most advanced class society and hence the contradiction of the praxis too is highly refined.  As Rousseau has aptly said that civility introduces duality one wants to look what one is not, as it has more to conceal than reveal. This duality is reflected in all the institutions of the system, including those of higher education. It never says what it does and never does what it says. The bourgeoisie came to power with the slogans of equality, fraternity but being based on the principles of individual profit maximization, as propounded by its most trusted organic intellectual, Adam Smith[ii], its very existence depends upon the opposite principles. It promises the sky and plunders the earth. The capitalism being the most advanced class system with the values of formal equality meant to perpetuate the existing real inequalities. The ideas of the ruling classes are the ruling ideas also, as Karl Marx has rightly said. The capitalism not only produces commodity but manufactures ideas also. He calls it the idea of the age[iii] — the epochal ideology. It has been lucidly explained by Antonio Gramsci in his theory of hegemony[iv]. The unpleasant realities of this immanently innate contradiction of the system are euphemized and “managed” by the ideological apparatuses of the state – education in general and higher education in particular being the most important ones. The New Education Policy involving the Central University Act and CBCS kind of teaching program, if one analytically looks into the circulars and the notifications of UGC, MHRD and Delhi University, it becomes very clear that in the name of improving the standards of higher education, the government seeks to carry forward the WTO agenda of eventually total commercialization, commoditization and privatization of higher education, turning universities into shops, teachers into sales persons and students into clients[v]. This paper seeks to look into various aspects of proposed and/or imposed new education policy and its wider repercussions for the society in general and academics, entrusted (theoretically) to prepare fearless thinking citizens, capable of and courageous enough to stand against injustices, in particular. On the contrary notwithstanding the change in the government, as the protagonists of NDA and UPA compete in their loyalty to globalization agencies, there have been desperate attempts to introduce reforms as envisioned by the WTO to reduce the education to a tradable commodity and teachers the sales men and women to equip youth with skill and information to serve the system on the terms of the global capital. The last two-and-half a decades have witnessed mushrooming of private universities and colleges, owned mostly by builders and Real estate magnates, as like real estate, education is another most favorite sector of investment. In the opinion of the eminent Sociologist, Prof SatishDeshpande, if successfully imposed, the new education policy shall prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the higher education[vi]. Delhi University teachers and students have been continuously protesting demanding the withdrawal of the CBCS and the proposed draconian Central University Act. In Delhi University, Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) and various students’ organizations have been protesting against and demanding the withdrawal of the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) as the program has led to academic degradation and “stultification of creativity” wherever it has been implemented[vii].  Few students’ groups conducted referendum among the University and the college students and 92% of them rejected it[viii].  I shall briefly deal with the changing perceptions of knowledge in a historical perspective; the motives of WTO in coercing the so-called developing countries to implement its designs; various aspects of the new policy and their repercussions for teachers, students and the pedagogy as a whole and conclude with the need of nationwide united struggle to save the higher education from the draconian policies.

The Knowledge: The Claim and the reality

Historically, the “knowledge” and its acquisition through education have been the prerogative of the elite of the society. Plato’s Republic is considered to be the foundational text of western political philosophy is also a foundational text of the education and his Academy[ix] as the precursor of the modern university system, which faces the serious danger of disintegration from its corpora takeover.  It has been rightly termed by Rousseau, as the “finest treatises on education ever written”[x]. Education occupies almost half of the text. Plato asserted that the knowledge is the virtue. Knowledge is comprehension of the Idea, the idea of Good and very few people are blessed with the ability to do so. What is good cannot be defined, can be dialectically known by the knowledgeable[xi].  Going into analysis of his definition of knowledge to be acquired through education is not subject of concern of this paper; it seeks to point out the continuity of contradiction of stated and indented goals of education. Plato begins with the assertion that the mind is not passive but ever active and gets attracted to its subjects on its own and that the teacher must not intervene in or impede the spiritual activity. The children have internal qualities, the education need not instill anything externally but just create conducive conditions for their exploration. The mind has eyes the task of education is just to make the things sightable. This means the education must provide the exposure to discover and refine one’s innate qualities. But immediately takes a diametrically opposite turn at the very outset of charting out the education scheme. With strict censorship and state regulated course structure and strict discipline puts   blinker on the eyes of the mind as the children are like wax, one can give it the shape one wants to[xii].

Stated goal of the modern education system is all round development of the students by providing the favorable conditions, exposures and the guidance to realize and channelize their creative energies but before even they are 5, the parents and teachers start transforming them into obedient parrots. Instead of reminding them that humans began to distinguish themselves by application of mind and provoke them into unceasing application of mind but the education instead blunts it. It does not seek to impart knowledge but to equip students with information and skill necessary to maintain the statuesque. But the flight of the mind can be impeded but not stopped. The autonomy and freedom of higher education provided some scope of scientific knowledge and hence the ruling classes want to put a brake to it. Hence is the new education policy. The continuity of sets of innovative, thinking and rebelling individuals is not due to but despite education. The annual system provided better scope for politicization discourses and debates. Now the new policy aimed at absolute commercialization is an attempt to further scuttle the knowledge process. It must be opposed tooth and nail before it inserts the last nail in the higher education.

WTO and Education reforms

The countries of the world are classified by WTO as Developed, Developing and Least Developed. Economic inequalities among countries referred to as ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ are a product of the imperialist exploitation of the latter by the former. WTO was constituted to protect the interests of the developed countries at the cost of the developing world. Developing countries like India joined WTO for the benefit of its corporate houses and promising subsequent ‘trickle down’ benefits for the people. In the last two decades, WTO agreements have aggravated the class and social inequalities (caste, ethnic, gender, disability-related, linguistic) in all countries. Now with inclusion of education in GATS since 1995, if India signs and it will as it is willing to; the field of education will met the same fate.  Three Integrated Multilateral Agreements: General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT-1994) which includes Agreement on Agriculture, Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), together constitute the main body of WTO. Education, reduced to one of the tradable services, is brought under GATS. Ironically, the trade in education is governed by GATS Council (Council for Trade in Services) in the same way as recreation clubs and night pubs, under the same set of rules but with some variations due to domestic regulations of member-nations! The ‘offers’ and ultimately the ‘commitments’ in ‘Market Access’ are to be given by a member country in Mode-wise and Sector-wise format for the operation of GATS in the country[xiii].

GATS categorize   ‘Education Service’ into 5 sub sectors – Primary, Secondary, Higher, Adult and Other Education. The Indian government submitted ‘offers’ in Higher Education Sub-Sector. GATS also recognizes four modes of trade in all services. In higher education, they would work as Cross Border Supply, where the students receive correspondence education from a foreign supplier and pay the service charges, Consumption Abroad where the students go to a foreign land to receive education and pay service charges, Commercial Presence, where the foreign providers can establish universities and colleges here, provide service and collect service charges, and Presence of Natural Person, where the foreign teachers come to India to render service in institutions and collect service charges[xiv].Foreign universities are coming to India under global trade agreement to make profits. it is not mandatory that only well-established, good-quality foreign universities come here and provide comparable education and research facilities. Any provider can establish a new sub-standard university in the country of origin and then establish a branch here. Actually, a survey report published by World Bank in 2000 on foreign educational providers states that “well-known universities of developed countries established low-standard branches in backward countries”[xv]. The Indian students would be customers, foreign individuals get remuneration and foreign corporate houses earn profits. the greatest misfortune would be the reduction of education to a tradable service, a trade controlled by the global corporate forces[xvi]. The worst thing is that the agreement would be, in essence, irrevocable!

The Specific features of the new education policy

Few of the specific features of the CBCS and proposed Central Universities Act are: homogenization at the cost of the particularities of the variation; Incorporation; Statist; centralization. The proposed changes shall not only affect all the aspects of the higher education only but would have serious implications on the society as a whole and its intellectual culture. It is to be noted that there was no debate on the shortcomings of the system being replaced by new one, nor is demanded by teachers, students or parents, rather they have been opposing it. It is been imposed from above by the government to fulfill its obligation to the corporate oligarchy of global capital represented by WTO that seeks to stop the formation and flow of the ideas on the one hand and make the education a profitable business for the corporate on the other hand. It would make education a costly affair and the poor shall swell the reserve army of uneducated work force. It shall effectively make reservation redundant as far as the poor of the country is concerned.

It is to be noted that course contents and methodologies of teaching shall not be decided after prolonged discussion and debates among the educationists, as has been the practice but by the clerks and bureaucrats of the UGC and the MHRD. Hurriedly prepared programs and immediate implementation show desperation of the government as in case of desperation of dispossession of peasantry by land ordinances and raises serious doubts on the intentions of the government. It seeks standardization of not only curriculum but also the syllabi. The idea of the mobility of the students and choices are just a deception as the students do not get admission in desired courses not because of lack of uniformity but lack of seats and facilities. With the courses and policies being the prerogative of the bureaucracy, the role of teachers shall be reduced to messengers of the government instead of that of knowledge providers. The students’ mobility is a deception but CUTA will introduce transfer of the “erring” teachers as a threat to “correct” them[xvii].

One of the matters of the concern is dilution of the courses and omission of some papers critical of corporate interests. For example Honors course in Political Science has 14 in place of 20 papers.   The omitted papers include   colonialism and nationalism in India. The students should not know the fact that one trading company sought Mogul emperors’ permission to trade in India and continued plundering and oppressing the country for 200 years otherwise they might suspect the intention of the government that is inviting so many giant companies for “making in India” and might take inspiration from the nationalist movement.

What is more disturbing is the near indifference of the people, particularly the stake holder – the students and teachers, though the real stake holder is the society itself. A section of middle class is under the illusion of its being job oriented and would be means to social mobility. Most of the teachers and students are convinced that the new policies are disastrous for the university system, yet there seems to be fear to fight whereas fearlessness is task of education, theoretically. We the teachers and the students are not realizing that security lies in unity and struggle not in fear and submission. Before that semester system was imposed, though with the formality of due process but the FYUP (Four year undergraduate program) in Delhi University under UPA regime was forced on the students in violation of the established norms and convention of debate and discussions by various teachers’ bodies, General Body meetings of department teachers, feedback from the colleges etc. in the same manner with the similar hurry and desperation.   Courses were prepared by at random cut-paste method from the semester system that too was imposed despite protests by teachers and the students of Delhi University. That has been rolled back by NDA government under the pressure of resistance by students and teachers, was not outcome of any protracted discourse and debate among the stakeholders, i.e. teachers and the students but of whims of an authoritarian vice chancellor[xviii]. The CUTA and CBCS in place of FYUP is like replacing TADA with POTA or POTA with UAPA[xix].

We are passing through the darkest days of the academic history of independent India. Macaulay had said in the British parliament in 1833 while advocating the introduction of English education in India that successful implementation of our education will enable the British to rule over India without physical presence[xx].   How right he was! If you want to subordinate a people, pervert their education. Let us rise and stop this menace.

Ish Mishra, Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science, Hindu College, University of Delhi [email protected].


[i]  Preamble of UGC circular

[ii] Wealth of nations, Historical progress is inadvertent consequence of the profit making activities by individuals.

[iii] German Ideology

[iv] The Prison Notebook

[v] GATS 1996, 2005

[vi] JANSATTAA, 07 May 2015

[vii]  A note on protests

[viii] NEWS PAPERS and a note

[ix] Note

[x] Rousseau

[xi] Republic

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] hastakshep

[xiv] ibid


[xvi] Note

[xvii] Note

[xviii] Dinesh

[xix] Note

[xx] Note



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