At a recent seminar in Goa, a point was made on how the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Goa is yet to be allotted land and that though the new campus of the National Institute of Technology is ready, the faculty and students have not moved in as it awaits inauguration.
It brought to mind how the new Zuari bridge though ready was not thrown open to traffic until it was inaugurated, but this piece is on a different issue.
It is now two years since the Shel-Melaulim land that was meant for the IIT was scrapped and the government had assured that a new site would be identified and handed over to the institute at an early date.
The last parcel of land that had been identified in Sanguem has been objected to by the farmers and that too has not gone ahead. In the meanwhile, the IIT continues at its temporary campus at Farmagudi, sharing space with the Goa Engineering College and the NIT.
The NIT-Goa was founded in 2010, admitting its first batch of students for the 2010-11 academic year. A large number of students have passed out of the institute since then. The IIT was allotted to Goa in 2014 and started functioning in 2016.
Against this background of delays in allotting land to the IIT and the NIT, there are repeated statements of promoting Goa as an educational hub for institutions for higher learning. The last such statement was in December 2022.
Goa has also brought in the Private Universities Act to allow such institutes of higher learning to be set up in the State. There can be no disagreement on the fact that Goa is suited for a knowledge hub.
It has a high literacy rate and the Goa 2035 Vision Statement of the Goa Golden Jubilee Development Council had proposed converting the State into a ‘prime centre for higher education and research in India’.
Its vision was that the State should be built on its aspiration to become a leader in ‘innovation in education’ and ‘education in innovation.’ Arguably, nothing much has been done since that report to make it a reality, except statements from successive chief ministers aiming at making Goa an educational hub.
Goa would have to work towards such an aim very systematically. Currently, there are very few big names in the education sector with a campus in the State. Besides the various colleges – mainstream and professional – that are affiliated to Goa University, there are the Indian Institute of Technology, the National Institute of Technology, the BITS Pilani Goa campus, the Goa Institute of Management that bring students from across the country.
Of these, as already mentioned, the IIT and the NIT are operating from the campus of the Goa Engineering College. Goa would require longer list of institutes to attract other such campuses and it is here that it needs to work on with some focus.
The Goa Private Universities Act was the first step in fulfilling the vision of an educational hub. This is a long-term project which will take time to realise fully and though some applications for setting up private universities have been cleared, they are yet to open.
It is interesting to know that the Act allows institutes to offer courses of their choice, rather than the government having a say in what will be taught at these. However, Goa needs courses that are designed for its youth and towards creating a workforce that will find potential job openings in the State.
There surely is a lesson to be learnt in the fact that the course in mining management that had been introduced in the Goa Engineering College had to be withdrawn as there were few takers after the sector was summarily shut down.
Currently, the State offers jobs in the pharmaceutical industry and by taking a wider view, also in biotechnology, food processing, business process outsourcing, retail and logistics. It has the potential in media and entertainment, sports management and agriculture to a certain extent.
There is also a growing demand for animation production and design, fine arts and related sectors. It, however, doesn’t have the institutes to provide education in these areas. It has instead a number of engineering colleges, and there are periodic reports of seats going vacant in these institutes.
The focus of an educational hub should not be restricted to attracting top institutions from India to set up campuses in Goa, but attempting to bring in international colleges too. Goa, already a known international tourism destination, certainly has the ambience to offer international colleges.
What it requires is finding the right path to promoting itself as a student destination. It currently has a sprinkling of international students in certain colleges and even at the Goa University. Can this be conceived further and then implemented to bring about that change?