The Ministry of Human Resources proposes an investment of Rs 1,72,500 crore in higher education in the next 5 years

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) proposes an additional investment of Rs 1.72,490 crore in higher education in the next five years, seeking to achieve a quantitative leap in terms of both quality and access.

The proposal and suggested strategic interventions will now be placed before the Cabinet of the Union for approval. The proposed investment will be shared with most of the amount, Rs 1.34,564 crore, from the Center and the states that contribute the rest of Rs 37,926 crore.

The vision document prepared by 10 expert groups proposed the creation of 8,000 Samras shelters to accommodate 16 lakh students from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds without access to higher institutions in their surroundings to continue education, including scholarships to cover their expenses of shelter.

The ministry also proposed a single update subsidy for each institution for a period of five years. This would be used to fill vacancies and finance 100 universities in states with low gross enrollment ratio (GER) with a single grant of 50 million rupees per university and 10 million rupees per university.

The document – EQUIP (Education Quality Upgradation Inclusion Programme) – suggested strategic interventions in the sector for the period 2019-24 and cites inadequacies in the sector by comparing the situation to the global scenario. It also highlights decline in public investment in higher education , skewed teacher-student ratio and the fact that central and state universities as well as IITs are hamstrung by huge vacancies.

The 10 groups of experts, chaired by Hasmukh Adhia, Chancellor, Central University, Gujarat, former President of ISRO, K Kasturirangan, Pawan Goenka, President of BoG, IIT-Madras and Vijaya Raghavan, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, identified 10 main challenges

The challenges include, disparities in access to higher education and lack of adequate academic support to vulnerable student communities, inability of students to achieve desired learning outcomes and incapacity of teachers, lack of global standards of excellence in Indian higher education Institutions, absence of overarching funding body to promote research and innovation leading to a lack of adequate funding in research and innovation, and inadequate investments in higher education as a proportion to the GDP as against recommended 6%.

Recommending strategic interventions, the vision document suggested expanding access and increasing GER to 40% by 2024 from that of 26.3% in 2018. For which the expert group on access suggested alignment of higher education with the needs of the economy. It stated that “except for removing the deficit of colleges in certain backward areas as suggested in our strategy, no new colleges or institutions should be created to expand access,” because 7.9% of the colleges have student strength of less than 50, less than 18.5% colleges have student strength of less than 100, 38.2% of the colleges have less than 200 students. It emphasised on maximum utilisation of existing colleges. The document also stated that to achieve GER of 40%, 1.53 crore SC/ST students should be on the rolls by 2024.

While suggesting 10 focused areas to utilise the additional fund, which include access, governance, research and innovation, employability and technology, the document stated that “the more worrying aspect is that public investment in higher education has declined as a percentage of GDP from 1.14% in 2006-07 to 0.71% in 2016-17."