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50 Leaders who can revive Indian education – Ranjan Pai

EducationWorld June 2020 | Magazine

Dr Ranjan Pai

Ranjan Pai
Chairman, Manipal Education & Medical Group

An alumnus of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal with a fellowship in hospital administration from the Children’s Hospital, Wisconsin, USA, Dr. Ranjan Pai is chairman and CEO of the transnational Manipal Education and Medical Group (MEMG) which comprises three universities in India and three abroad in Malaysia, Dubai and Antigua (West Indies) with an aggregate number of 44,532 students mentored by 4,043 faculty.

The Covid-19 crisis has majorly disrupted the education system. How has the Manipal Group responded to this challenge?

All our universities in India and overseas have transitioned to online, digital and virtual modes of learning. Although it has been a challenging period for us to quickly adopt this teaching-learning methodology, our faculty and students have adapted to it enthusiastically and there is, generally, high appreciation with the speed and quality of switch to digital education.

What are the major challenges confronting higher education in the new Covid-19 era?

The essence of university education is the experience of life and learning on campus. This will change in the near term with the ‘new normal’ mandating physical distancing and wearing of masks. These new rules will bring new challenges. However, life on university campuses will not be the same anymore and we are not entirely sure how students will accept this change.

Several state governments have issued fees waiver/ deferment circulars to private school and college managements. What’s your comment?

Most Indian private academic institutions depend almost entirely on student fees to operate, attract and retain good faculty, and to expand infrastructure. Institutional revenues from grants, endowments and financial aid and support is either negligible or non-existent. Fee waivers and deferment will severely disrupt their operations, at a time when they have to invest substantially in technology.

What are your Top 3 proposals for reviving and reforming higher education in India?

The first is to provide greater autonomy to universities to allow them to focus on building quality and excellence in learning, research and knowledge creation.

The second is to encourage universities to focus on research. Grants and monetary support should be provided for this. Great academic institutions are centres of excellent research and intellectual capital leading to discovery and innovation that drives the progress of nations around the world.

And finally, if private universities and higher education institutions have to attract the best students, they should be highly affordable, offering liberal scholarships, fee subsidies and financial support. We should look at western models where university endowments go a long way to address this need. The government should encourage the creation of endowment corpuses of universities by providing tax incentives to alumni, donors and philanthropists.

What are your future plans?

The Manipal Education Group has three universities in India — MAHE recognised as an Institute of Eminence by the Union government and ranked India’s #1 private university by EducationWorld for the past four years, Manipal University Jaipur (MUJ) and Sikkim Manipal University (SMU). All of them are highly regarded and respected.

My mission is to develop them into national institutions and over time, international institutions of excellence. MAHE is the legacy my grandfather TMA Pai left for my father Ramdas to build into India’s #1 private university and Institute of Eminence. Moreover he promoted MUJ (2011) and SMU (1995). I have set myself the target of developing MAHE into a Top 200 university in the World University Rankings of QS and/or Times Higher Education.

Also read: Leaders who can revive Indian Education – Nandan Kuthiala

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