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Reimagining Indian Higher Education: A Social Ecology of Higher-Education Institutions

by William G. Tierney & Nidhi S. Sabharwal - 2018

Background/Context: Developing countries desire institutions ranked as "world-class," and want to increase postsecondary participation. Limited public monies require decisions that usually augment the welfare of one objective at the expense of another. An additional conundrum concerns the need for quality assurances. Research needs to be rigorous; students need to be well trained. The authors suggest that the social ecology of higher education has a crucial role to play in India. The challenges are whether to accommodate rapid expansion, how to improve the overall quality of the system, and invest in a research infrastructure.

Purpose/Objective/Research Questions/Focus of Study: The article’s purpose is to ask if the social ecology of postsecondary education that has been created in India is in its best interests. Social ecology refers to the universe of postsecondary organizations that account for the 35,357 institutions in India. Insofar as the ecology is "social," the citizens and government determine the shape of the ecology. The authors first offer a traditional definition of what has been meant by the public good and then turn to a consideration of India’s social ecology of higher education. The article’s purpose then, is specific to India and more generalized to postsecondary education in a globalized world. The text situates the institutions and systems of higher education into a social ecology that until recently has been framed by the idea of a public good.

Setting: The study took place in India during 2015–2016.

Research Design: The text is an analytic essay that utilized secondary texts pertaining to the structure and quality of the postsecondary system in India.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors suggest that the ‘“alphabet soup” of institutional forms that currently exists in India does not serve the country well; the taxonomy tends to obscure, rather than clarify, roles and responsibilities. They argue that a new social ecology of higher education needs to be put forward that streamlines relationships, clarifies roles and regulations, improves data analysis, and focuses on quality rather than quantity.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 5, 2018, p. 1-32
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22114, Date Accessed: 9/19/2021 12:44:57 PM

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About the Author
  • William Tierney
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, Ph.D., is University Professor, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, and Co-Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. He held a Fulbright Fellowship to India during the 2015–2016 academic year. His research focuses on college readiness, issues of access and equity in higher education, and the performance of postsecondary systems of higher education.
  • Nidhi S. Sabharwal
    National University of Educational Planning and Administration, India
    E-mail Author
    NIDHI S. SABHARWAL, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Center for Policy Research in Higher Education at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration in New Delhi, India. She has studied inter-group inequalities across human development indicators, focusing on the role of caste- and gender-based discrimination in market and non-market institutions. Her current research focuses on issues of student diversity, student experience, and equity in higher education.
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