New Delhi: The Planning Commission proposes to offer incentives to higher educational institutions to admit a larger number of girl students and students from backward areas and minority communities.
A diversity index could be used to measure the performance of such institutions in increasing the participation of disadvantaged groups, and linked to budgetary incentives provided by the government, says the draft 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
The draft has already been cleared by the cabinet. The National Development Council, comprising senior cabinet ministers and state chief ministers, will discuss the document at a meeting on 29 December.
Disparity in enrolment rates and admission ratios across regions, communities and genders remains high although enrolment in higher education grew 7.4% between 2000 and 2009, according to a report prepared by the Planning Commission, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Ernst and Young. The report was released on Monday.
A 2008 report by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which funds, promotes and coordinates higher education, said that out of 584 districts at the time of the 2001 census, 373 districts (64%) had a gross enrolment rate (GER) that was lower than the national average.
The Planning Commission is yet to work out how diversity in educational institutions would be measured and linked with financial support.
“We have not worked out the details yet and it will need more discussion and effort before being implemented,” said a senior plan panel official aware of the matter.
To improve diversity and address inequality in the access to higher education, among other sectors such as employment and housing, the minority affairs ministry’s expert group headed by Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Amitabh Kundu developed a diversity gap index in 2008.
The report was put in cold storage, partly because there were some concerns about access to data, Kundu said.
“But universities will generate the required data if the UGC now decides to incentivize diversity by the same or a new measure,” said Kundu, “This just needs political will.”
If implemented, the proposal could sensitize higher education institutions and emerge as an alternative to caste-based reservations over the next 10-15 years, said Haseeb Drabu, another member of the expert group. “However, good intent must match implementability,” he said.