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Challenges in Higher Education

Dr. Madhu Chitkara
Vice Chancellor, Chitkara University, Punjab

We live in exciting times – in a knowledge society and in an era in which only thing constant is change. This constant also calls for “Learning for, by and driven by Change”. As a result the society of the new millennium is featured by a series of interesting challenges – including societal, environmental, economical, global and technologicalchallenges. In addition there are new centers of decision-making emerging and & challenging the prevailing decision-making power of individual and states. The societies across the globe are reproducing itself with the help of knowledge-dependent operations. So real challenge is the new emerging and confusing collective intelligence, its new paradigms – finding its roots in several individual intelligences. The role of higher education is thus becoming critical and paramount in this makeover.

Historically, education was required to create a perfect citizenry. Traditionally, then the purpose of education got shifted to makethose citizens well trained;and contemporarily, it got shifted to the awakening of the critical spirit – to face newer things and modifying existing experiences. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Therefore, we must learn to view the world and therefore education in a newer way.

Higher education thus has played and continues to play a crucial role in introducing change and progress in society and is today considered a key agent in educating new generations to build the future. The Higher Education itself thus becomes an object of internal reformulation.

Following are the challenges faced by institutions of higher education in India:

  • Reforms at the level of internal organization: These changes must aim to improve the management of resources (human, economic, physical etc.) and be modernized to improve internal democracy. Universities must continue their mission to educate, train and carry out innovation &research through an approach characterized by ethics, autonomy, responsibility and anticipation. Today, Chitkara University takes pride in building 70 plus start-ups and filing 150 plus patentsbecause of autonomy given and bringing sense of accountability amongst the Faculty & Student Teams. More than 160 international collaborations across the globe advocate our belief& commitment in producing globally responsible professionals.
  • Newer practices and policies for knowledge creation. Interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches should be taken and non-scientific forms of knowledge should be explored. An engineer learning marketing management, an architect studying Mass Communication, A Media student learning Art & Design, Nursing student learning culinary arts, are some of the examples of our inter disciplinary approach and capacity building programs. The basic premise of this approach is to bring sense of responsibility & accountability towards all disciplines and trades amongst student and faculty. Diversity is the key driver in the effort.
  • Framing new and easy educational models (no regulatory strings attached – at least for the dissemination and absorption of knowledge): New teaching/learning approaches that enable the development of critical (identification of problems) and creative thinking (designing solutions) should be integrated. The competencies common to all higher-education graduates should be determined and the corresponding expectations should be defined. In a knowledge society, higher education should transform us from confusedrockets into guided missiles: rockets capable of changing direction in flight, adjusting to flexible circumstances, and continuallycorrecting it course. The idea is to teach people to learn quickly as they go along, with the capacity to change their mind and even abandon previous decisions/learnings, if necessary, without over-thinking or having regrets. Teaching and learning must be more active, connected to real life, and designed with students and their unique qualities in mind. We, at Chitkara University, have syllabii in place for different courses but curriculum comes from Industry. Our curriculums are latest (in terms of present requirements of Industry and society) and challenging (in terms of future requirements of industry and society). “What Industry requires” is our “Curriculum”. This has changed the entire Teaching-Learning process. Our Faculty remains our core strength in managing this challenge. To continuously unlearn and learn remains the challenge, for most of us, however.
  • Use of Information and communication technologies(ICT) in the creation and dissemination of knowledge: The goal of such changes is to create what Prensky (2009)1 calls digital wisdom.Many of our start-ups are based on information and communication technologies. Faculty and students have ICT enabled Centres for attending Webinars/ Virtual conferences/Virtual Seminars/MOOCsa/ Workshops from best of institutions across the globe. We have not embedded Digitization in our operations; Digitization has taken over many of our operations thus adding to our efforts of capacity building.
  • Greater sense of social responsibility and knowledge transfer: The work of higher-education institutions must be relevant. What they do, and what is expected of them, must be seen as a service to society; their research must anticipate social needs; and the products of their research must be shared effectively with society through appropriate knowledge-transfer mechanisms. Chitkara University has adopted five villages around University campus catering to the University’s social responsibility and accountability towards growth of Indian economy as a whole. Recycling plant at campus, Organic-farming techniques, education to village children around, Govt projects like Cleanliness Campaigns, Heatlhcare of villagers, BetiBachao-BetiPadao, etc are some of our initiatives in order to meet our social responsibility challenges and knowledge transfer activities.We have social entrepreneurship as an inbuilt vertical. All our freshmen, junior, sophomore and capstone projects are identified and built on societal needs.


A developed nation is inevitably an educated nation. We are a big nation for big advantage. So, an idea of equalizing educational opportunities also lies in the fact that “the ability to profit by higher education is spread among all classes of people. There are great reserves of untapped ability in the society; if offered the chance they can rise to the top. A great deal of talent of the highest level is, in fact, lost by an in egalitarian system of education” (Balachander, 1986).

Six areas stand out for special attention. In this fast-changing world, every institute of higher education must:

  • Strategize and leverage on sources of its distinctiveness
  • Find out options to expand its reach deep within the society (increasing access and affordability using technology)
  • Robustize its economic model to ensure long term viability
  • Increase graduation and retention rates across all student populations
  • Boost research excellence and commercial productivity through entrepreneurship
  • Work more closely with society, employers and government to prepare students for work in ways that bolster the country’s competitiveness
  • On their own, none of these areas strike educators as wholly new. But taken together, they represent set of concurrent challenges that are awfullytesting for even high-performing organizations to manage well. We just need to act and believe in our action. The future is now. Thus, education consists in developing not only personal but also social qualities; it is the development of social conscience: awareness of how society works, knowledge of how it is structured, and a sense of the personal agency, which allow action. This agency, however, at the same time restricts our interventions and makes it is necessary to decide our personal degree of action.