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Higher Education in India and National Education Policy 2020: A discourse on Bhartiya Tradition 

- Dr Raktim Patar (The author of this article is an Assistant Professor under the Department of History of Gargaon College, Simaluguri, Assam)

The cabinet approval of National Education policy 2020 on 29 th July after incorporation
of the suggestions from all the stake holders is a significant event in the history of modern
education in India. With this, the road map for a comprehensive reform and revamping of the
education system is laid out. It will solve much needed and long encountered problems in all
stages of Indian education be it the school level or higher education level.  It is to be noted that
even after more than 70 years of independence and appointment of several commissions’ Indian
education system still lacked the basic requirements and capabilities to compete with the ever
changing world. This article looks into the issues and challenges on higher education that were
long pending and eagerly waited for a comprehensive reforms and how the National Education
Policy will resolve it. It also provides a historical perspective on the glorious Indian education
system and how it was made to suffer during Muslim and colonial rules.  
India is the land where first formal education system was developed in the form of
Grukul system. In the Gurukul, the knowledge seeker pupils learnt all the basic subjects such as
warfare, diplomacy, arithmetic, philosophy, astronomy etc. while living a humble life at its
mentor’s monastic homes called Ashrama. In the subsequent period Indians developed a well
structured and robust higher education system which resulted in the world’s oldest universities
namely Takhsila, Nalanda, Vikramshila and many more. In these universities thousands of
students used to learn from astronomy, mathematics to basic science and technology. During the
Muslim rule in India from the early 13th century to mid 19th century, the Bharatiya tradition of
teaching, learning and innovation was forcefully dismantled. During this period ancient
universities and pathsalas were ravaged, scholars and gurus were beheaded and whoever dared to
promote Indian culture were either killed or severely punished. Indian education system suffered
a tremendous setback. It is worthwhile to mention that since time immemorial India has been
the pioneers in the fields of technology, astronomy, mathematics, civil engineering, chemical
science, botany or biotechnology and medical science. There are several treatises and theorems
on different subjects composed by great Indian sages that testify that their inventions and
discoveries were incomparable and far ahead of their times. Out of innumerable scientist and
innovators some of the well known names like Arybhata, Barahmihir, Brahmagupta, Charak,
Susruta, Pattanjali etc. are immortal in the realm of modern science.
During the colonial rule Indian education system gradually uprooted in a systematic way
to facilitate the establishment of western education system based on imperialistic designs. The
English education act 1835 authored by T.B. Macaulay which envisaged creating ‘a class of
persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in Taste, in opinions, in morals, and in
intellect.’ It is no doubt that the British were very much successful in implementing their scheme
of education in India and even after several decades of independence the curriculum of our
education system still meeting the objectives of the long gone colonials. Our education system is
full of curriculum, syllabus, study materials, text books which encourages adopting western
values, showcase western religion, philosophy, science, and technology greater than their own. It
still full of flaws academic mismanagements. Our college and universities are still producing job
seeks but not job givers. According to global studies on employability of educated individuals,

Indians are still in lowest at bottom of list. In the last several decades after independence no
Indian university could make a place in the top 100 universities of the world. Further our
universities could not produce much honored Nobel laureates except one or two which is
insignificant compared to capabilities of Indians in the field of research and innovation. 
In appreciation of the attempt for a realistic rejuvenation of the Indian education system
embodied in the National Education Policy 2020, the Government of India approved the same
for implementation throughout the country. In this comprehensive policy all the challenges so
far encountered by Indian Education system has been resolved. The challenges such as: 

o a severely fragmented higher educational ecosystem
o less emphasis on the development of cognitive skills and learning outcomes;
o a rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialisation and streaming of
students into narrow areas of study; 
o limited access particularly in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, with few
higher educational institutions (HEIs) that teach in local languages 
o limited teacher and institutional autonomy; 
o inadequate mechanisms for merit-based career management and progression of
faculty and institutional leaders; 
o lesser emphasis on research at most universities and colleges, and lack of
competitive peer-reviewed research funding across disciplines; 
o suboptimal governance and leadership of HEIs; 
o an ineffective regulatory system; and
o large affiliating universities resulting in low standards of undergraduate

In order to address these challenges the NEP incorporated the following objectives:
a) to develop good, thoughtful, well-rounded, and creative individuals b) an education system
based on Indian ethos
b) providing high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge
c) the curriculum and pedagogy to develop a deep sense of respect towards the fundamental
duties and Constitutional values, bonding with one’s country, and a conscious awareness of
one’s roles and responsibilities in a changing world,
d) to instill a deep-rooted pride in being Indian, not only in thought, but also in spirit, intellect,
and deeds, as well as to develop knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions that support
responsible commitment to human rights, sustainable development and living, and global
well-being, thereby reflecting a truly global citizen.
To meet the objective, the policy emphasized some fundamental changes in the current
education system in higher education:
a. Creation of multidisciplinary universities and colleges, with more HEIs across India that
offer medium of instruction in local/Indian languages. By 2040, all higher education
institutions (HEIs) shall aim to become multidisciplinary institutions, each of which will
aim to have 3,000 or more students.
b. To establish at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district by 2030.
c. Provide faculty and institutional autonomy
d. Establishment of a National Research Foundation which will be to enable a culture of
research to permeate through our universities. 
e. Governance of HEIs by independent boards having academic and administrative
f. A stage-wise mechanism for granting graded autonomy to colleges, through a transparent
system of graded accreditation, will be established. HEIs will have the autonomy and
freedom to move gradually from one category to another, based on their plans, actions,
and effectiveness

g. HEIs will support other HEIs in their development, community engagement and service,
contribution to various fields of practice, faculty development for the higher education
system, and support to school education.
h. Single-stream HEIs will be phased out over time, and all will move towards becoming
vibrant multidisciplinary institutions or parts of vibrant multidisciplinary HEI clusters. 
i. The present complex nomenclature of HEIs in the country such as ‘deemed to be
university’, ‘affiliating university’,‘affiliating technical university', ‘unitary university’ shall
be replaced simply by 'university' on fulfilling the criteria as per norms.
j. A holistic and multidisciplinary education would aim to develop all capacities of human
k. beings -intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, and moral in an integrated
l. Even engineering institutions, such as IITs, will move towards more holistic and
multidisciplinary education with more arts and humanities. Students of arts and
humanities will aim to learn more science and all will make an effort to incorporate more
vocational subjects and soft skills. 
m. The undergraduate degree will be of either 3or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options
within this period, with appropriate certifications, e.g., a certificate after completing 1
year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, or a diploma after
2 years of study, or a Bachelor’s degree after a 3-year programme. The 4-year
multidisciplinary Bachelor's programme, however, shall be the preferred option. 
n. HEIs shall move to a criterion-based grading system that assesses student achievement
based on the learning goals for each programme
o. HEIs shall also move away from high-stakes examinations towards more continuous and
comprehensive evaluation.
p. To meet the challenges of 21 st century the present government approved
internationalization of higher education. As per the policy India will be promoted as a
global study destination providing premium education at affordable costs. An
International Students Office at each HEI hosting foreign students will be set up to
coordinate all matters relating to welcoming and supporting students arriving from
abroad. High performing Indian universities will be encouraged to set up campuses in
other countries. Similarly, selected universities e.g., those from among the top 100
universities in the world will be facilitated to operate in India. This step will certainly go a
long way in fulfilling the demand for international university campuses in India. at the
same time establishment of campuses of Indian universities across the globe will facilitate
promotion of Indian language, culture, history, art and philosophy. Besides it will help
establishing academic and cultural contacts with the students and youths of various
The NEP also stresses the need for vibrant faculty for the success of higher education. It
has  instructed all the HEI to equipped with the basic infrastructure and facilities, including clean
drinking water, clean working toilets, blackboards, offices, teaching supplies, libraries, labs, and
pleasant classroom spaces and campuses. Faculty will be given the freedom to design their own
curricular and pedagogical approaches within the approved framework. According to the NEP
the HEIs will have clearly defined, independent, and transparent processes and criteria for
faculty recruitment. 
Another significant feature of the NEP 2020 is the emphasis on vocational education.
Vocational education will be integrated into all school and higher education institutions in a
phased manner over the next decade. Higher education institutions will offer vocational
education either on their own or in partnership with industry and NGOs. ‘Lok Vidya’, i.e.,
important vocational knowledge developed in India, will be made accessible to students through
integration into vocational education courses. MHRD will constitute a National Committee for
the Integration of Vocational Education (NCIVE), consisting of experts in vocational education

and representatives from across Ministries, in collaboration with industry, to oversee this effort.
Indian standards will be aligned with the International Standard Classification of Occupations
maintained by the International Labour Organization. It is to be noted that Prime Minister
Narendra Modi has been consistently working on the National Policy on Skill Development and
Enterprenurship. Greater stress on vocational education will meet the demand of skill workforce
not only in India but across the globe. 
In the NEP, the functioning of regulatory authority has been revamped with several
changes. Regulatory system of higher education will ensure that the distinct functions of
regulation, accreditation, funding, and academic standard setting will be performed by distinct,
independent, and empowered bodies. These four structures will be set up as four independent
verticals within one umbrella institution, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
The first vertical of HECI will be the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC).
It will function as the common, single point regulator for the higher education sector including
teacher education and excluding medical andlegal education. The second vertical of HECI will,
be a ‘meta-accrediting body’, called the National Accreditation Council (NAC).Accreditation of
institutions will be based primarily on basic norms, public self-disclosure, good governance, and
outcomes, and it will be carried out by an independent ecosystem of accrediting institutions
supervised and overseen by NAC. The third vertical of HECI will be the Higher Education
Grants Council (HEGC), which will carry out funding and financing of higher education based
on transparent criteria. The fourth vertical of HECI will be the General Education Council
(GEC), which will frame expected learning outcomes for higher education programmes, also
referred to as ‘graduate attributes’. A National Higher Education Qualification Framework
(NHEQF) will be formulated by the GEC. The professional councils, such as the Indian Council
for Agricultural Research(ICAR), VeterinaryCouncil of India(VCI), National Council for Teacher
Education(NCTE), Council of Architecture (CoA), National Council for Vocational Education
and Training (NCVET)etc., will act as Professional Standard Setting Bodies (PSSBs). 
Indian culture is deeply rooted in its rich tradition of art culture, dance form and music.
In order to promote the vibrant Indian language and culture, the NEP has given great
importance on promotion of Indian language, art, dance and culture. Sanskrit and all Indian
language institutes and departments across the country will be significantly strengthened.
National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit will also be set up within a
university campus. 
It has long been felt that the healthcare education needs to be re-envisioned so that the
duration, structure, and design of the educational programmes need to match the sole
requirements that graduates will play. Given that people exercise pluralistic choices in healthcare,
our healthcare education system must be integrative meaning thereby that all students of
allopathic medical education must have a basic understanding of Ayurveda, Yoga and
Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH), and vice versa. There shall also be a
much greater emphasis on preventive healthcare and community medicine in all forms of
healthcare education.
In the recent years it has been observed that the government funded universities have
gradually transforming into a hub of political activism. It is very unfortunate that these
universities have utterly failed to compete with the other universities in the world. Rather billions
of tax payer’s money has been wasted on the students and faculties without much desired results.
In the backdrop of these concerns on the HEIs in Indian, the much anticipated NEP has been
placed. It is expected that this policy will transform into a guiding principle to bring back the
long lost glory of ‘Bharatiya’ tradition and heritage of education and innovation which envisage
on multidisciplinary, humanistic and holistic development. With the implementation of National
Education Policy 2020, it is certain that the deep rooted colonial influence on Indian education
will come to end. It will usher in an era of great scientific discoveries and innovations with
humanistic approach in India and led the world in different fields of academics.