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  • Shail Kumar

What can Andhra Pradesh learn from California, a trailblazer in knowledge economy

One idea can change the trajectory of Andhra Pradesh’s (AP) economy and its people—create a world-class higher education system. Done right and quickly, it will be Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s lasting legacy for AP and India.

Naidu’s visionary ideas and actions such as making Hyderabad the high-tech city and establishing the Indian School of Business (ISB) makes him ideally suited to pursue such a lofty goal.

If AP was a country, with close to 50 million people, it would rank 29th among 238 countries. It would be just behind South Korea, a nation that transformed itself from one of the poorest in 1950s to among the richest based on its export-led economy and a vibrant education system. The tsunami-wave of tens of millions of youth is upon AP and India, so is the onslaught of automation that will disrupt one industry after another very soon. For example, self-driving cars will dramatically cut the number of jobs for cab drivers and related industries (no chai or coffee stops!). Thus, more than ever before, the need of the hour is for people to be well educated and have a solid foundation to learn, skill and reskill, and compete in the global markets.

Two Near Term Actions for CM Naidu and AP

Action #1: Establish the newly approved IIT, IIM, IIIT, and IISER in one campus—create India’s first world-class multidisciplinary research university.

The Government of India’s (GOI) Budget 2017 has allocated funds to establish one new IIT, IIM, IIIT, and IISER each in AP. Instead of establishing, like everywhere else in the country, as stand-alone institutions, Naidu should co-locate all of them in one campus, along with a liberal arts and medical colleges. This is a transformative idea that could be the much needed and timely catalyst for transforming AP’s higher education system.

Co-locating these premier institutions will do two significant things instantly—1) make this campus the hub for interdisciplinary learning, research and innovation, and 2) make it a magnet for knowledge and innovation led industries to establish their respective research and regional headquarters in this “knowledge and innovation” city.

Critically, it will attract the best and the brightest minds from around the country and the world to join as faculty members. Finally, this novel campus will be more economically effective and efficient compared to stand-alone institutions. For a new state like AP with limited resources, this model has the best return on investment.

With the establishment of the “catalyst”, “magnet”, or “anchor” for the knowledge and innovation city, Naidu can then execute the action #2.

Action #2: Establish a California-like master plan for AP’s higher education system.

A masterstroke, the California Master Plan has made the state a trailblazer in higher education and enabled its knowledge and innovation economy, to the envy of the rest of the world.

California’s Master Plan: A blueprint for youth, society, and economy

Passed in 1960, California’s Master Plan guarantees universal access to higher education for every Californian. It was the first state in the United States to do so, and this model has been replicated around the nation. Clark Kerr, the architect of the Master Plan, wrote that it “guarantees that there would be a place in college for every high school graduate or person otherwise qualified who chose to attend.” The Master Plan was initiated for a number of reasons. The biggest was the anticipated explosion in student enrollments, or tidal wave, as Kerr calls it. There was a baby boom in the United States after World War II as the veterans returned home. There was also a movement toward providing universal access to higher education. And over 300,000 people per year were migrating to California from around the country. There was also a desire to provide skills and knowledge for the economy and society, and ensure that the higher education system retained its autonomy from bureaucrats and politicians. It was under these circumstances that California’s Master Plan was conceived and delivered.

The Master Plan created a three-model college and university system: junior colleges, now known as the California Community Colleges (CCC), the State College System (California State Universities, or CSU), and the University of California (UC). CCC is an open-access model, where any high school graduate or qualified person can enroll. They offer a two-year associate’s degree or professional certification. CSU system has master’s colleges and universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees. UCs grant bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. This segmentation of roles and responsibilities ensured that finite state, federal, and private resources were allocated appropriately across the three models and each model performed a valuable and complementary role in the higher education system. Each segment was expected to strive for excellence.

The Senate bill that legislated the Master Plan declared that UC is the primary state-supported academic agency for research. It also gave UC exclusive responsibility, in public higher education, in the professions of law and graduate instruction in the professions of medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, and architecture. UC was also made the sole agency for awarding doctoral degrees in all the fields. Provisions were made for CSU to offer joint doctoral degrees with UCs.

According to the Master Plan, the CSU’s primary responsibility is the education of undergraduate students and graduate students through the master’s degree level in liberal arts and applied fields. This also includes the teaching profession. Offering two-year degree programs is restricted and requires formal approval. Research by faculty members is permitted as long it stays within its mission.

The community colleges’ focus is to provide education until the fourteenth-grade level. According to the Master Plan, they can offer programs in three primary categories: 1) standard collegiate courses for transfer to higher institutions, such as UC and CSU, 2) vocational and technical fields leading to employment, and 3) general or liberal arts courses. The Master Plan also recommended that a CCC be established within a commuting distance of all residents of the state, making higher education accessible on all accounts. Over 95 percent of Californians live within thirty minutes of a CCC campus.

In addition, the Master Plan set the admission policies for the three models. CCC would have 100 percent acceptance, CSU would guarantee admission to the top 33.3 percent of all graduates from the state’s public high schools, and UC would guarantee admission to the top 12.5 percent. Applicants from out of state had to meet a higher threshold than in-state students. Furthermore, students would have opportunities to transfer within the system—the most popular options being transferring from a CCC to a CSU or a UC.

Finally, the Master Plan outlined the governance for the three models and coordination among them. In short, the Master Plan laid out a blueprint for the state’s public higher education and California’s youth, society, and economy.

Impact of a world-class higher education system for AP: thriving society and economy

The proof of a world-class education system is in the well-prepared youth and professionals and a thriving economy. California and its higher education institutions—which include the UC, CSU, CCC, and private universities such as Stanford, University of Southern California (USC), and the Claremont University Consortium—offer compelling evidence.

Thanks in large measure due to its higher education system, California is home to a vibrant economy and diverse industries such as agriculture, entertainment, financial and business services, manufacturing, tourism, life sciences and healthcare, trade, and high-technology. If it were a nation, California would be the eighth largest in the world with a gross state product of US$2.2 trillion.

Approximately 70 kilometers from Stanford, UC Berkeley’s vibrant research, education, and service engine also powers the local, regional, and national economy. UC Berkeley was ranked #3 in ARWU 2016 rankings of Top 500 universities. The results of a study conducted on behalf of UC Berkeley by CB Richard Ellis Consulting were released in 2007. It was based on 2005 to 2006 fiscal year data. Some of the highlights included: that Berkeley had revenues of US$1.4 billion, of which 71 percent came from outside the Bay Area. It spent approximately US$144 million on capital projects and US$401 million on goods and services and US$808 million in payroll. A large percentage was spent in the local community. With 24,700 employees, it is one of the largest employers in the region. In addition, students spent US$395 million in the Bay Area and visitors to Berkeley spent another US$30 million in the city of Berkeley. According to the study, this spending has a multiplier effect of approximately 1.5. Thus, the total impact of UC Berkeley was more than US$1.5 billion, generating an additional 9,200 indirect jobs in the Bay Area.

In addition, faculty members and students in universities such as Stanford and UC Berkeley are conducting research in various disciplines and at the intersection of fields. Their research is advancing our understanding of our past, our world, and the universe.

For AP and India, education is the key and higher education is the master key. Higher education, which is all post-secondary education, including vocational training, sits at a critical junction of our society. As is evident from California, first, colleges and universities prepare professionals for their lives and careers. This includes preparing teachers for primary and secondary schools and faculty members for colleges and universities. Second, they also foster research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Third, well-prepared professionals and a thriving research, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem makes the economy more vibrant and sustainable.

Making AP’s higher education system world-class is a once-in-a-life opportunity that a visionary CM like Naidu can seize and leave an everlasting legacy in AP and India. As the first chief minister of a new state, it is Naidu’s chance to be placed in history as the architect of a modern and Golden AP!

(Note: This article includes an excerpt from Building Golden India)

About the Author: Shail Kumar is the Founder and President of Nalanda 2.0 and author of Building Golden India: How to unleash India's vast potential and transform its higher education system. Now. He is former administrator at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. He has an MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington and B.Tech (Hons.) from IIT Kharagpur.

Additional Resources:

  • Clark Kerr, The Gold and the Blue: A Personal Memoir of the University of California 1949–1967 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001)

Nalanda 2.0 is a nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank that aims to make India’s higher education system world-class.

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