The central government on Friday said it will give about Rs.70,000 crore to state governments over a period of time to boost state-funded universities and colleges.
“Traditionally, the focus has always been on a modest number of central institutions but the reality is 96% of the students are from states,” Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resource development, told reporters in New Delhi. “(We have been) devoting more resources to a small number of elite institutes while state institutions are languishing in mediocrity.”
The government, he said, is putting in place a new mechanism under which more money can flow to states and this will not be through the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Tharoor said the ministry is putting in place a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to implement the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).
The cabinet committee on economic affairs Thursday approved the scheme that entails spending someRs.98,138 crore over the 12th Plan (2012-17) and 13th plan (2017-22) periods, the minister said. It will be a “new flagship scheme of the government that will pave the way for far-reaching reforms at the state level”. Of the total funding, the central government will spend Rs.69,675 crore and the rest will be contributed by the states.
For the remaining three years of the 12th plan, the HRD ministry has pegged an expenditure of Rs.22,855 crore of which the Union government will spend Rs.16,227 crore and the rest will be taken care of by the state governments. Besides, the HRD ministry will subsume another scheme into RUSA, taking the total funds it will give to states to Rs.18,027 crore under the new dispensation.
As part of the scheme, centre-state funding would be in the ratio of 90:10 for northeastern states and special states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Tharoor said.
The rest will have a sharing pattern of 65:35, like the one in place for the Right to Education (RTE).
Initially, a total of 316 state public universities and 13,024 existing colleges will be covered by the new scheme. During the next nine years, the scheme will help states build some 278 new universities, 388 new colleges, and convert 266 colleges into model colleges. This will also benefit some 20,000 professors, a ministry paper said.
Some experts were apprehensive about how efficiently the programme will be implemented by the government.
“The intent of these scheme, whether its RTE, food security or this new scheme are good, but the question is about implementation and utilization,” said Pramath Raj Sinha, the founding dean of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
“The states are already investing in higher education but have states thrown up enough good quality universities? Perhaps no. So the question is: are we throwing good money after the bad or will it really yield good results,” said Sinha, who is setting up a liberal arts university in Haryana.
The HRD ministry said it will adopt a completely new approach towards funding higher education in state universities. The key principles for RUSA funding will be performance-based, incentivizing well performing institutions and decision making through clearly defined norms. Overall, some 22,000 colleges will benefit from the central funding, R.P. Sisodia, a joint secretary in the ministry, explained. “We are rolling out the scheme today,” he said.
To avail the funds, each state need to set up a state higher education council, remove a ban on appointment of faculty members and improve the teacher-students ratio to a level like 1:15.
Tharoor said the objective is to boost higher education in states as the government aims to bring in more students into the higher education space. While the gross enrolment ratio in India is around 19%, the aims is to reach 30% in next 7-8 years. The global average is 28%, Tharoor said. “Through this scheme we can increase capacity. Now we are availing money to sates and its up to them to give us plan and utilize it.”
But the minister said that the funding will not be routed through UGC indicating that his ministry is in favour of clipping the fund granting powers of the university regulator. The minister said that during the 11th Plan period, UGC got about Rs.22,000 crore but managed to spend less than Rs.8,000 crore.
“We have to be practical about certain issues. While UGC will continue to stay in the standard setting and regulating space, some of its fund giving schemes will be subsumed in the new plan,” Tharoor said.
Source: Education News