Nurturing Universities as National Security Arms


Nurturing Universities as National Security Arms

India’s first National Security document is being written and will propose accelerating domestic defence production, according to Manish Sabharwal (co-founder of Teamlease Services and Dhawan is co-founder of Ashoka University).


Goal of 10 universities Indian universities in the top 100

Sabharwal makes the case that the National Security strategy must include India having a goal of 10 universities in the top 100 global university rankings.

American universities already have had deep military partnerships. But there is criticism that global university rankings “are popularity contests (peer surveys), unreliable (variables are poor proxies for quality), incomplete (teaching quality missing), ideological (one-size fits all), and unequal (top 10 countries account for 60 per cent of top 500). Rankings make value judgements…….”

Global rankings nevertheless,  matter, emphasis  Sabharwal. “Among universities, 71 per cent have a ranking goal, 68 per cent use them as a tool for management, and 50 per cent use them for publicity. Indian institutions currently engage with five rankings [NIRF, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Shanghai, US News, and Times]. Reverse engineering the QS Top 300 universities suggests what matters is size (average 25,000 plus students with 2,600 plus faculty), budgets (the top 100 have $2 billion, double the next 100, triple the next 100), age (youngest is 40 years old), and internationalisation (19 per cent of students). China has 71 universities in the top 500 QS rankings……”

Comparatively, “India’s performance — only 11 in the top 500 — could rapidly improve with five interventions. First, select 20 government universities and over invest in them (large research offices, industry liaison offices, incentives for extramural funding/marching grants). Second, merge many independent research labs into these top 20 government institutions…….Third, scale and concentrate government research funding to universities…..Fourth, incentivise corporate research at local universities…….Finally, performance-based funding…….India is fertile soil — many IITs, central universities and private universities like Ashoka and Premji are reaching tipping points in research, budgets, quality, and students.”


Proposed Defence Technology Council

The proposed Defence Technology Council, writes Sabharwal “is a great idea, states  chaired by the Prime Minister, it will have an executive committee chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff and will include the Principal Scientific Advisor, three service chiefs, academics, and industry representatives. Partnering with universities will also improve project management; the CAG recently flagged that 67 per cent of the 178 defence projects evaluated didn’t adhere to timelines.”

India is improving at building companies, but, concludes Sabharwal “better choreography between universities and government will help us build industries….”

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