"Universities crying for better leadership"

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 13:17 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 14 (IBNS) A global survey of the academic community on the leadership challenges faced by the Indian higher education system has revealed that the sector is facing shortage of capable leaders with 92 per cent of the respondents saying that this trend is expected to continue until 2020.

Just 5 per cent of the respondents said that there was no paucity of leaders.

The results of the survey were unveiled at the Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI), the national body of over 500 higher education institutions, summit on developing transformational leaders for Indian higher education here on Thursday.

Nearly 81 per cent of the respondents pointed to a serious gap between the existing pool and the requirement of academic leaders to meet 12th Five Year Plan and India Vision 2020 for Higher Education sector.

Only 18 per cent respondents opined that there is moderate gap between the expected demand and the available pool.

When asked about 'the critically important traits of a transformational leader in Indian Higher Education, 80 per cent of the respondents cited 'Futuristic Approach to Development' as the most important trait of the transformational leader, followed by 'Understanding of Higher Education Ecosystem' by 57 per cent of the respondents.

'Exceptional academic record and research orientation', as well as 'strong administrative ability and relationship orientation' were seen as equally essential traits with half the respondents voting for these.

Academics also felt that high professional integrity, ethical standards, global exposure and ability to change were some of the other requisite qualities of a transformational leader.

More than one-third of the respondents felt that being an academician was not a popular career choice as it lacked adequate mentoring.

Lack of academic leadership, guidance and training (60 per cent) and low salary (50 per cent) were the other reasons why the education sector failed to attract promising academics.

The survey conducted in early February 2013, jointly with MBAUniverse.com, received 111 responses from thought leaders, chancellors, vice chancellors, directors, deans, principals and professors located in 37 locations globally.

The survey examined why Indian higher education institutes are unable to attract overseas Indians with exceptional academic background and proven leadership skills.

Three-fourths of the respondents cited highly bureaucratic Indian systems and siloed approach of stakeholders as the key reason.

Poor appreciation of academics and perception that academicians in the higher education system have low integrity were other reasons why the reverse brain drain wasn't taking place.

"The results of the survey on Leadership challenges in the higher education system are alarming and demand a serious attention by political leadership, policy makers, chancellors and vice chancellors," said Dr G Vishwanathan, President, Education Promotion Society of India and Chancellor of VIT University.

The respondents added that low brand-value of India, low or superficial orientation to research and development, poor compensation and incentives, high levels of corruption in institutions and society, and management myopia were reasons why well-known academicians did not consider India as a potential destination.

To bridge the gaps for leadership challenge in higher education systems the questionnaire proposed to the respondents if experienced corporate sector, civil and defence services professionals could fill the leadership gap in the higher education institutions.

Eight out of 10 per cent felt that managing knowledge-based institutions is different from other organizations, even though 20 per cent of the respondents commended them for their superior ability to manage the institutions.

On the formal mechanisms needed to bridge the gap and initiatives, about 79 per cent of the respondents voted for initiating transformational leadership programmes for founders of academic institutes and academic leaders, which will mentor potential candidates for bigger roles.

Creating a group of academic leaders, both Indian and foreign, for grooming potential leaders annually was favoured by 51 per cent of the respondents, with less than 10 per cent voting for setting up a separate institution for this purpose.

Minister of State for HRD Dr Shashi Tharoor opens

In his inaugural speech, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said that the Indian higher education system needs to step up credible standards of higher education.

Towards this end, the government has initiated 11 bills on Higher Education in the Parliament.

Tharoor admitted that India has not addressed the issue of equity as well it has attempted to address the issues of enrolment, excellence and employability.

The Minister welcomed the growth of the private sector education institutions that make up for 64 per cent of the total institutions in India and contribute to 57 per cent of total enrolment.

In the EPSI survey, policy and regulatory issues covered included the latest Bill being discussed in the Parliament allows police, under certain conditions, to arrest the top leaders.

The respondents feared that this Bill once enacted could be misused by the system for personal and other obvious benefits.

When asked whether 'the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Higher Education Institutions Bill 2011 that provides provision for arresting and imprisonment of chancellors, vice-chancellors, Deans or head of institutions', help to curb malpractices in higher education?', only 20 per cent of the respondents felt that it will put an end to the malpractices in higher education while an overwhelming majority of 80 per cent said that this will lead to wrong precedents in higher education systems which is already over stressed with several constraints and challenges.

Responding to this fear, the Minister said, "The purpose of this Bill (Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Higher Education Institutions Bill 2011) is not to 'harass' the educationists but to make all of them 'honest'," while alluding to Unfair Practices like capitation fee, multiple fee structures and differential salaries to teachers prevalent in the education system.

Prof Arun Nigavekar, former Chairman of University Grants Commission, defined the traits of transformational leaders needed for India.

He said their task is to impart 21st century Learning skills to tech savvy youth like--how to learn; make critical judgments; differentiate between good, bad and indifferent; communicate Intelligently and be flexible, adaptable and tolerant to other creeds and cultures.

Prof K B Powar, Chancellor, D Y Patil University, Pune debunked the claims of education administrators claiming increased gross enrolment ratio (GER) in the higher education sector by pointing out that GER also includes enrolments in distance learning mode which has a poor pass percentage of 15 per cent.

The survey conducted in the second week February 2013 received 111 responses from thought leaders, chancellors, vice chancellors, directors, deans, principals and professors located in 37 locations globally including USA, UK, Dubai, Germany, Australia, France and Hungary.

In India, the respondents came from 22 Indian cities including Delhi-NCR, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Manipal.

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