Private higher education initiatives lag behind institutions created by the state or central governments. With the exception of a handful, private universities are perceived as mediocre commercial ventures hereas they should be seen as initiatives to promote knowledge. This ordinariness in turn has led to gross deterioration in standards.
The credibility and legitimacy challenge facing private universities in India can only be addressed if they demonstrate a commitment to further education, not as a commercial activity but as an activity that has profound implications for the future of the country.
This entails establishing multidisciplinary universities, but not the kind that demonstrate either no or limited interaction between faculty members, research scholars and students studying in different faculties and schools. Some of the best private institutions foster research that is germane to only a single discipline.
This poses a threshold challenge to the Indian higher education system. Universities must reflect the truth that some of the critical challenges relating to science, engineering, management, international relations, law and public policy have a strong multidisciplinary orientation.