India has the third largest system of higher education in the world, with many expecting this system to drive India's economic development going forward. And yet there is profound variation across this system, as some public universities perform admirably even as others suffer from endemic problems that we associate with weak states: absenteeism, bribery, and the like. What explains why some public universities seem to function so well even as others struggle? I argue that the presence or absence of meritocratic practices explains this variation, and in this talk, we shall examine the conditions under which meritocracy comes about. This research brings together five years of archival work, more than one-hundred interviews, as well as data from a large survey I conducted.
Dinsha Mistree is a Postdoctoral Fellow at CDDRL, where he studies governance in developing countries. He is currently working on a book project examining India's higher education sector. Dinsha's previous work has appeared or is forthcoming at Comparative Politics, Springer Press, and Cambridge University Press. Dinsha holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton as well as Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from MIT.