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Role of State Universities in Science Education UPSC NOTE


Science Education in India

  • In India, students choosing to study science at higher levels complete their Higher Secondary School Certificate (or equivalent) examinations in select science subjects, after which they are eligible for medicine, engineering, and bachelors of science (BSc) courses. 

  • Some institutes offer specialised degrees in medicine and engineering.

  • A large segment of science education in India includes BSc-level and subsequent courses.

  • Following a BSc, students can continue their education via master’s and PhD programmes that align with their primary degrees. 

  • Setting aside medical graduates, India produces over 25 lakh graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) every year, across bachelors and masters courses.

  • It accounts for the largest number of students obtaining bachelor-equivalent science degrees worldwide.

  • Among STEM graduates, the aggregate enrolment of students in BSc courses is close to 50 lakh, with more than 11 lakh students completing their baccalaureate degrees every year, per the All-India Survey of Higher Education Report 2021-2022. 

  • However, the number of science graduates drops to 2.9 lakh at the masters level (25% of BSc graduates), and even further at the doctoral level, with only 6,000 science PhDs awarded each year.

  • Given this, a large number of bachelors-equivalent science graduates in India – some 8 lakh a year – represents the human resources entering the workforce immediately or in the near future.

Role of State Universities in Science Education

  • The vast majority of bachelors-level science graduates in India earn their primary degrees at State-affiliated colleges and universities, either via three-year BSc courses or integrated BSc-MSc programmes (4-5 years).

  • Of the 1,113 universities in India, 422 are public universities managed by State governments, each with several State-affiliated colleges.

  • State-managed universities and their constituent units account for the single-largest share of enrolments (over 30%) across universities in India.

  • Most of which are at undergraduate level and with science courses hosting the second highest number of students enrolments after arts. 

  • Taken together, State-level science education is a fertile training ground to prepare graduates for the national scientific workforce.

Challenges faced by State Universities:

  • Curricula and course content in BSc and other integrated programs are largely outdated, with syllabi out of sync with contemporary technologies. 

  • Insufficient practical training, with inadequate and poorly-maintained laboratory facilities.

  • Some programmes encourage students to undertake external internships, but brief laboratory sojourns can’t substitute rigorous curricular and practical training, and the internships are extremely competitive as well.

  • Systemic administrative problems.

  • State-managed universities also face an existential crisis related to their role in higher science education. 

  • Unlike other publicly funded institutes, including ‘Institutes of Eminence’ (IoEs) such as the IITs and IISERs, State-affiliated colleges and universities cater to more students while grappling with serious resource constraints. 

  • So while a revamp of State universities is imperative, it is impractical to expect that they will meet the research metrics of the IoEs or private universities. 

  • On the other hand, ‘letting teachers teach’ in the absence of research programmes or continued upskilling will further risk pedagogical content and practices in these courses.

Way forward:

  • Against this background, we need to re-envision State-affiliated universities and colleges while providing them with a unique mandate that fulfils the needs of higher science education in India.

  • In the past, including at the recent Science20 group meetings – the science engagement platform of the G20 – India has shared its vision to build an economy focused on science and technology.

    • A chunk of which includes industries related to information technology, life sciences, chemical engineering, and automation engineering, to name a few.

  • India is also emerging as a growing bio-economy, which includes pharmaceuticals and biomanufacturing, and is expected to have an economic value of $150 billion by 2025. 

  • Other industries such as agriculture, mining, and livestock also continue to require scientific and technological advancements.

  • Yet in spite of the large pool of science graduates available in India, scientific industries have reported a challenge with finding people trained well in the relevant skills.

Importance of skill-based education

  • State-affiliated universities and colleges could be reimagined as hubs for skill-based science education, with teaching, training, and research that aligns with employability in the scientific sector.

  • Alongside academic knowledge, BSc or integrated course curricula could focus on industry-relevant skills and certifications, such as

    • programming, data analysis techniques, instrumentation and facility expertise, quality assurance, and benchmarking.

  • Longstanding collaborations with industry could be built via seminars, apprenticeships, interactions with expert faculty members, job fairs, and funding support. 

  • Course-training could also include applying and interviewing for jobs, on-campus interviews, and negotiating salary scales.

  • The community college and technical university models in the U.S. and Europe standout as examples of publicly-funded universities with strong focus on advancing education in regional communities, while building workforce-ready graduates.

  • For India, State-affiliated universities and colleges with a focus on skill-based education can serve as a dual solution for the country’s need for skilled personnel in the scientific sector and challenges of graduate-level unemployability.

  • This would bridge the goals of the National Education Policy with the proposed National Research Foundation for State-level education, which includes practical training, better utilisation of resources, and access to industrial funding.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Role of State Universities in Science Education UPSC NOTE
Role of State Universities in Science Education UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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