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IMPRESS And SPARC Booster Schemes For Indian Higher Education



Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar recently unveiled web portals of two schemes- IMPRESS and SPARC with an aim to create a research ecosystem in higher education institutes.  Speaking on the occasion, the minister said that two web portals will facilitate research projects in the areas of social sciences in India, and research collaborations among Indian and Foreign Universities. The scheme for research in Social Sciences is IMPRESS and the scheme for collaboration with foreign universities is SPARC.



Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences (IMPRESS) was launched with the objective of identifying and funding research proposals in social sciences with the maximum impact on the Governance and Society. This will facilitate social science researchers in any institution in the country which includes all universities (central and state) and also private institutions meeting the criteria requirements.

The Scheme will be put into action at a total cost of Rs 414 Cr till March 2021. Under this project, 1500 research projects will be sanctioned for two years to facilitate social science research in higher education institutions. The minister said in his conference that the projects would be selected for funding on strictly merit-based. The main objective of this scheme is to identify and fund research proposals pertaining to governance and society.

Thrust Areas of which government will be focusing under this project :-

Urban transformation

State and Democracy

Culture and society


Skills and Rural transformation

Innovation and Public Policy


Agriculture and Rural Development

Health and Environment

Social Media and Technology

Science and Education


Law and Economics

The expert groups’ will decide about the Sub-themes later. The process for project selection will be done in a transparent way and on online mode. Only the Indian universities (Central and State), private institutions with 12 (B) status conferred by UGC will be provided the funding for social science researches.

Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) funded research Institutes can also submit research proposals on the said themes. Generally, the proposals will be called for four times – October 2018, February 2019, September 2019 and February 2020. The entire process of selection and evaluation will be completed within 90 days from the date of call for proposals. All the projects accepted will be regular monitored and the progress report will be directly updated by the Project Coordinator.

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Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) has been launched by the HRD ministry to facilitate research collaboration among Indian and Foreign universities. The Scheme will be implemented at a total cost of Rs 418 Cr till March 2021.

Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT)has been entrusted with the task of coordinating the SPARC programme.  Only the top 100 Indian Institutions in NIRF (including private Institutions) and the best institutions in the world(top -500 overall and top -200 subject wise institutions ranked according to QS World University rankings) from 28 selected nations [Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom(UK), United States of America(USA, selected to jointly solve the problem of national and international relevance.


Key Features of SPARC

  1. Fundamental Research, Emergent Areas of Impact, Convergence Action -Oriented Research and Innovation-Driven are the key thrust areas on which the joint recommendation is recommended.
  2. A set of nodal agencies has been identified in the country as well as foreign participating country. 25 such reputed Institutions have been identified as nodal Institutions.
  3. This scheme will promote visits of International faculty in Indian Institutes to pursue research, visits by Indian students to the world class universities, and joint development of niche courses, monographs, patents.

Other important Schemes of the Government in higher education

  3. Global Initiatives For Academic Networks(GIAN) Scheme
  4. ‘Study in India’


This new schemes will aim at improving the research ecosystem of the country.

  • It will facilitate research collaborations between top institutes of the country and globally ranked Foreign Institutions.
  • It will have a major impact on providing the best international expertise to address major national problems.
  • Will improve the international rankings of Indian Universities.
  • Enable international faculty to contribute to India for a longer duration
  • Will provide Indian students an opportunity to learn in world-class laboratories.
  • This will provide opportunity and funds to upcoming students to make a stand globally.

Criteria for Funds

Only the Indian universities (Central and State), private institutions with 12 (B) status conferred by UGC will be provided the funding for social science researches.

How these schemes can elevate Rankings of Higher Education Institutes in Global rankings?

 Indian higher education system is currently the third largest in the world, next to the United States and China. According to the ‘Times Higher Education ‘a ranking, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore is the country’s highest –ranked institution. The current global higher education milieu is totally preoccupied with rankings. The collaboration of countless institutions has necessitated the logic of bench marking.

The Indian higher education system has a formidable presence, courtesy the growing number of institutions (both Public and Private), as well as the mass of populace that it reaches. The Indian Governments recent schemes seem a step towards minimizing this gap and reclaim the lost glory.

Their main agenda is to create World-class universities in India. Schemes like SPARC can really elevate India’s position in the global rankings.  The basic parameters used by the International ranking companies include International collaboration.

The Other Side

As it’s not the first scheme Indian Higher Education have before two schemes there were many in the operation. In spite of all efforts and various funding, Indian Higher education is far behind if we compare it on a global Platform. And hence a question arises why so ??

Many Factors which are hindering the growth of Indian Higher Education lets discuss how to minimize such factors and utilize it on its fullest and best. The HRD ministry should take these seriously and act accordingly in the coming months to utilize the funds appropriately. This scheme deserves to become a major higher education initiative also because it has implications for foreign collaboration and diplomatic relations. But, we do have to keep in mind our limitations.

  1. A few of our universities can compete with the best in the world or even in Asia. The Government’s schemes in recent years to improve the quality of higher education have not been very effective so we cannot expect a miracle anytime soon. until and unless we are improving our quality of education we cannot think of attracting foreign students.
  2. We can’t expect students from richer countries with a robust higher education system to come to India to pursue study in science and technology, even for Student exchange programme. But we can expect student participation from low- middle-income countries because of their deficiencies in their higher education system.
  1. We should develop the environment more friendly or tolerant of foreigners from rich or poor countries.

We should create shorter programs for International students. Countries like China have taken great initiatives to attract a larger number of international students. International students bring with them ‘ Economic benefits’, which will improve India’s status in the World scenario.

Some of the benefits may not happen immediately. However, India is slowly catching up. International students not only help in improving the revenue structure of the economy but also help to cultivate a nation’s reputation. Currently, India’s international student rate is much lower compared to many countries, but that is something the nation is striving hard to change. The primary objective for the country is, to improve the enrollment rate and improve the rankings of the Indian institutes.

However, if the higher education system in India wants to address this serious issue then it has to establish collaborations with a number of internationally renowned institutions. There’s a great possibility that India could be a driving force for international study. With the rapid economic and social development the country has witnessed in recent years, and with rapid progress across the globe, it suggests that it could become a major education destination as well.


The “ Institute of Eminence ” Status – All you need to know



It can be rightfully said that with the current circumstances, the Indian Higher Education is upgrading itself so as to keep up with Global education standards. As a progressive step towards this, the Government has first decided to scrap the existing higher education body of UGC and replacing it with a new one. Another major step taken by the government is the creation of a global tag for the institutes. The HRD (Human Resource Development ) Ministry on July 9th 2018 gave six universities the ” Institute of Eminence ” Status. These six Institutions were Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, the Indian Institutes of Technology at Mumbai and Delhi among the public institutes and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS, Pilani, and the proposed Jio Institute from the private institutes.

Institute of Eminence

IoE – The Institute of Eminence

The main idea behind creating a movement to give universities the tag of “ Institute of Eminence (IoE) ” was to address the need for improvement in the Indian Education System as our system still follows the old methods that have been passed down through generations.The main reason why our education system seems to be lagging behind globally is due to the lack of funding and introduction of new methods of teaching. For any student to grow in the society with respect to a successful career, they should be taught with a curriculum that is in accordance with their changing surroundings. The government feels that there is a need for the creation of another distinct category of universities which is to ensure that in the near future, their performance is such that they are known as world-class globally. The IoE status was a strategic move by the government towards achieving this.

Institute of Eminence

The IoE Tag – Why does it Matter?

There are only six universities as of now who have been given the IoE Status, the management and regulation of these universities whose of which will be different from that of the normal ones.

So how come suddenly this change is happening?

The Hon’ble Finance Minister Of India did suggest to implement such transformation in his budget speech in 2016. He said:

It is our commitment to empowering Higher Educational institutions to help them become world-class teaching and research institutions. An enabling regulatory architecture will be provided to ten public and ten private institutions to emerge as world-class Teaching and Research Institutions. This will enhance affordable access to high-quality education for ordinary Indians. A detailed scheme will be formulated.”

So acting on the same, IoE tag was introduced to adopt institutes and shape them to be at par with global universities.

The selected public universities under “IoE” tag will get Rs 1,000 crore of funding and autonomy whereas the private universities will only receive the autonomous status but no monetary support. The autonomous status gives the University the chance to take such decisions that will help in the growth of the Education sector. Despite that, the government will have regulatory oversight of the universities to ensure they pursue excellence.

Key Features :

Earlier the universities couldn’t take any major steps without taking permission from the UGC or HRD Ministry. But after this status is granted, the universities are free to do the things listed below.

Increasing foreign student intake

The main aim of this is to make world-class universities, hence it will have to increase the foreign student intake. The Universities will create a few supernumerary seats for foreign students. The students are expected to be from SAARC nations, Africa and Gulf nations.

Foreign faculty

Now the Universities are free to hire Foreign faculty. This will help in balancing the student-teacher ratio. Also, this can be ensured by doing Collaborations, Partnership, exchange with Foreign University

More Research

This will also help in growing the level of research reports made by a ujniversity. Starting this year, the universities will give their students the practical knowledge by collaborating with the industry. The institutes can also fund more on research. The institutes will focus on including advanced state-of-art labs, high-performance computer service, sustainable technology etc.

Institute of Eminence

The IoE Tag – Criteria & Selection

The selection of these universities for the IoE Status is done by a panel called the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC). The selection for the Chairperson and member of the committee of the Union Cabinet was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The committee chairperson is N. Gopalaswami who is the Former chief election commissioner. The other known members are Tarun Khanna of Harvard Business School, Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston and Pritam Singh, former director of IIM Lucknow.

Initially, the committee decided to give the title of IOE to 20 institutes, 10 public and 10 private institutes but later on, the government decided to only grant the status to six universities as The Ministry of Finance (MoF) couldn’t fund Rs 10,000 crores. All they gave was Rs 3,000 crores after a four-year delay.

Despite all the High-level discussions that led the committee to select these six universities, These choices of the EEC had run them into a controversy over the selection of the proposed Jio Institute. The institute is available only on the white and black and has no records to prove it’s performance. This made a lot of people question the basis on which the EEC grants the status and whether the past performance and proof of the existing Institutes superseded proposal of Universities who are not even yet there. The Jio proposal was selected over various well-known private colleges that had applied for the IoE Tag. Some of these colleges were  Ashoka University, OP Jindal University, Azim Premji University and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies among others.

After the declaration of the six institutes and a lot of chaos due to the proposed Jio institute, the government decided to select a few more institutes for this status. The Institutions had three options under which they could apply, the following are those categories:

  1. Public Institutions
  2. Private Institutions
  3. Greenfield Institutions

For the first round of selection 73 public institutions and 40 private institutions send applications. In which 11 Private institutes fell under the “Greenfield Category”.

The Greenfield category was meant for the private institutions that were found promising at the proposal stage. This was in accordance to the University Grants Commission’s clarification back on November 17 were it directed that all institutions that were currently not a university or deemed to be a university can apply in the greenfield category.

The HRD Minister thereby will also send a letter of intent to the Universities under the greenfield category stating that they would have to be academically operational within the coming three years. The progress made by these Universities should be as such that they ensure the improved standard of education and maintains the world-class status. And if the progress is not satisfactory than the status will be retracted.

Despite all the chaos and biased choices, if the IoE is able to be successful in achieving its aim then this will be the revolution much needed by the Indian Higher Education system.

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Let’s Say NO To POLITICS For Education System



Education is an obvious factor in the matter of good governance. Although education is expected to be free from politics, yet many times the educational policies followed by a government may be influenced by politics. Since historic times there has been a tendency to politicize the education system. In fact, we have witnessed on various occasions that largely the education system was used to train young minds to behave according to the aspirations of the ruling class. Political Interference in higher education has been a case of worry because of continuously low ranking of Indian academic institutions. In India, politics have a deep impact on the working of the people, society, and development. There have been various causes behind such political aspirations. The purpose of this write-up is to criticize the forays that politics makes into the field of education.

If I had to list a few of those aspects of education that politics can directly affect, then these would be it:

Curriculum and Textbook content 

There have been many instances where the government in power interfered with school textbooks in order to propagate the political vision of the party in reign. The real political interference in education has been in textbooks, school culture, and policies related to language.

For example, vilification of Tipu Sultan and spreading a dose of ancient texts in science are all political choices. Textbooks have become weapons of surreptitious politics, given their importance over actual education. Political battles in school culture have been fought through rituals—choices on the celebration of events, of festivals, Choice of languages taught in school, of festivals and assembly prayers, the variants of the language they spoke, for instance, Sanskritized Hindi over Hindustani. Many times a particular political ideology is popularized through the apolitical nature of the syllabus.


Equity in education 

India, being a democratic country aims to establish equity in education but even after 60 years of Independence there are various disparities like rural-urban disparity, occupational disparity, gender disparity etc.


 There is a lot of difference of opinions regarding the formulation of reservation policies in India. The policy of reservation has brought immense changes in the lives of the weaker sections.


In the recruitment of teachers in educational institutions, the political influences cannot be ignored. Sometimes the right candidate may be ignored due to political pressure and favoritism while appointment for a teacher in an educational institution. This kind of political interruption in the selection of teachers has a negative impact on the academic administration of an educational institution. This kind of political nepotism should be discarded for ensuring quality education in the country.


Lack of financial allocation for Education sector 

The political will of a particular party plays a significant role while preparing a budget. Budget is an important aspect in the functioning of the educational institutions. Pressure groups, bureaucrats and other advocacy groups play the role in allocating funds in each developmental sector of the country. But there is a lack of equality in the allocation of funds in the education sector in which political party may have a role to play. It is a big concern in the education system in India as a whole.

Instances where politics is affecting Education

  • In India, teachers are often used for services that have nothing to do with Academia. Sometimes we find them manning election booths or collating data for the census.
  • Today’s teaching is more about influencing rather than concentrating on teaching. Teachers have become the means to impart government propaganda to students.
  • Political discussions, political seminars, associations inside the campus induce lawlessness.
  • Education institutes have become advertisers for a certain brand of politics within the premises and influence students.
  • Erstwhile HRD minister Smriti Irani told Parliament that IITs have been asked to teach Sanskrit to facilitate the study of science and technology as reflected in its literature.
  • NCERT books ostracized a chapter on Gautam Buddha replacing it with a chapter on Nehru’s Discovery of India.

These are just few examples of politics influencing education many more of them are there well to us.

What can be done?

The answer is quite obvious but implementation needs to be perfect- remove any type of political interventions over higher education decisions.

A rational planning process must be planned that would review major project proposals before their implementation.

To improve the global rankings of our educational institutions we need to end the interference of politics at all level.

Greater autonomy should be provided to higher education in India. The key public agencies for higher education like NAAC (the National Assessment and Accreditation Council), or the UGC do not have scope for research capacity.

Most important, Indian higher education cannot continue to be a political puppet. India needs to come up with rational higher educational planning and decision making.

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Must Enroll Programmes To Empower Acadmicians LEAP & ARPIT – New Launch By HRD Minister



The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched two new initiatives; Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) and Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) recently to boost and empower teaching faculty. Dr. Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State, Ministry of Human Resource Development launched these schemes.

According to him these two schemes will facilitate and empower teaching faculty in the long run. These two schemes offer myriad of opportunities to the committed teachers. Mr. Prakash Javedkar, Union Minister of Human Resource Development also lauded these initiatives in his video message. He also put an emphasis on the fact that ‘ARPIT’ and ‘LEAP’ are set to transform the quality of teaching in India and will also focus on improving the leadership qualities. Leadership qualities are a must for those who are running academic and administrative wings of the academic Institutions. Before we blow the victory bugle for the higher education India let us examine the features of these Initiatives.


Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) is a three weeks leadership development training programme (2 weeks domestic and one-week foreign training) for second level academic functionaries in publicly funded higher education institutions.

The main objective of this Initiative is as follows:

  • To prepare the second tier teaching heads to assume leadership skills in the future.
  • To facilitate senior faculties with the skills like ‘problem-solving, stress handling, team building work, understanding and challenges of governance in HEIs, financial and general administration.

15 NIRF top-ranked Indian Institutions namely, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee; IIT Kanpur, IIT (BHU); NIT Trichy; Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata; Indian Institute of Bombay; TISS Mumbai; University of Hyderabad; NIEPA, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Jamia Milia Islamia; BHU and AMU have been selected for the implementation of LEAP Programme.

The foreign Universities identified for collaboration are also within the top 100 in the world global rankings. University of Michigan; NTU Singapore; Purdue University, USA; University of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania/ Stanford; Monash University; London School of Economics/ Oxford University; the University of Cambridge and the University of Virginia, USA are the top Institutes identified for the training.



It is an initiative to boost online professional development of 15 lakh higher education faculty using the MOOCs (Massive Open and Online courses) platform SWAYAM.

The main features of this Initiative are as follows:

  • In the first phase, 75 discipline-specific institutions have been identified as National resource centers.
  • They have been entrusted to prepare online training material with a focus on the latest developments in the discipline, pedagogical improvements, new and emerging trends and methodologies for devising an effective curriculum
  • In the current year, the NRC’s are expected to serve around 13 lakh faculty of the total 15 lakh faculty in higher education.

The courses selected covers the diverse range of topics such as Indian culture & Heritage studies, Pedagogical innovations, Personal-Emotional Development and Counselling, ICT in Science and Maths teaching, Urdu Hindi Literature and Linguistics, Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, Biotechnology, Aerospace, and so on.

Anyone who wants to register for the online refresher courses on SWAYAM platform can click at

The course includes a 40-hour module with 20 hours of non-video content and 20 hours of video content.

  • They are highly flexible and can be done at one’s one pace built-in Assessment exercises and activities are part of the academic progression.
  • There will be a terminal assessment which can be either written or an online examination.
  • The faculties who have successfully completed the course will be certified at the end of the course.
  • The courses will commence from 1st November 2018 and will end on 28th February 2019.
  • The training materials will be made available online through SWAYAM.
  • All in-service teachers and those who are seeking career advancement, irrespective of their subject and seniority can register and complete the refresher course.
  • It will revolutionize the professional development of faculty by leveraging ICT and online technology platform of SWAYAM.

IGNOU, IITs, Central Universities, IISc, IUCAA, IITs, IISERs, NITs, National Institute of Technical Teachers and Training (NITTTRs) State Universities under the Ministry’s Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) are selected to serve as UGC’s Human Resource Development Centres (HRDCs).

How Schemes like IMPRESS, SPARC, ARPIT, and LEAP can facilitate teaching faculty?

It will have a major impact on providing the best international expertise to address major national problems. Schemes like SPARC can really elevate India’s position in the global rankings.

The schemes like LEAP can really instill a sense of professional touch among teachers those who aspire to become a global leader.

They will be able to counter financial and general administrative problems.

The announcement of new initiatives of the HRD ministry is an extremely welcome move. If India wants to achieve its growth potential and deliver employment outcomes, its new education policy must be designed on the four pillars of excellence, expansion, equity, and employability. This will develop a system that will bring equilibrium to balances cost, quality, and scale.

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