Theses Doctoral

Promise Versus Practice: Formulation and Implementation of Higher Education Reforms in India

Mishra, Soumya

The Government of India launched the National Higher Education Mission (NHEM) in 2013 to address concerns of severe funding shortages, poor governance structures, and weak quality assurance mechanisms in the country’s public state universities. NHEM provided funding incentives to states conditional on the implementation of multiple reforms in the university systems. This study answers important questions about the policy - why and by whom was NHEM formulated, and how well have the policy’s reforms been implemented in Indian states. The study uses a theoretical framework based on Advocacy Coalition Framework and institutional theory. Using qualitative methods, this dissertation examines the policy formulation process for NHEM at the federal level and explores the implementation of NHEM reforms through case studies of four Indian states. The study finds that NHEM was developed when the federal ministry of education saw a window of opportunity to push its reform agenda. However, the policy was created in a short span of time, in a top-down manner, and with insufficient involvement of stakeholders. NHEM was created by borrowing policy problems and solutions from prior government reports and layering them on a pre-existing funding structure. The resulting policy lacked a cohesive design and theory of action.

Implementation of the policy’s reforms in states has been limited. The findings of the study suggest that implementation is thwarted by four challenges; the bureaucratic higher education culture in states; the weak political will to decentralize the government’s powers; limited technical capacity; and inadequate financial resources. As a result, states have engaged in a variety of reform responses ranging from avoiding compliance, engaging in proforma implementation of reform requirements to receive federal funds; and reinterpreting reforms in ways that suit their existing cultures and structures.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Policy
Thesis Advisors
Dougherty, Kevin J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2021