New Delhi: The government has decided to rope in universities across the country to help implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s skill development mission. So far, only schools have been part of the mission.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) asked over 700 universities and 35,000 colleges to join the mission. The aim is to put to use the infrastructure of these institutions beyond formal education. To begin with, universities have been asked to implement the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), which aims to train 2.4 million youths in 2015-16, launched by Modi on 15 July. “You are requested to kindly ensure that this scheme is implemented with quality outcomes in your university and in the colleges affiliated with your university," UGC said in a circular dated 12 October, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint. It has asked universities to furnish a plan for the same by 30 October.

The centre’s renewed push stems from a fear that the 1,500 crore initiative might meet the same fate as that of the Standard Training and Assessment and Reward (STAR) scheme unveiled by the previous government and implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). PMKVY, too, is being implemented by NSDC.

Earlier this month, NSDC chief executive Dilip Chenoy and chief operating officer Atul Bhatnagar resigned following the skills ministry’s apparent displeasure over skill development outcomes, Mint reported on 14 October.

A government report has found fault with the STAR scheme on several counts, Mint reported in April. STAR offered school dropouts financial incentives to acquire new skills, but the report said that “of those who got their results, only 24% have received certificates and less than 18% have received monetary rewards. This is despite the fact that 80% candidates reported having bank accounts, and 91.3% stated they had Aadhaar numbers".

“Universities have a huge network in terms of infrastructure and access to youngsters and their role will help in training, counselling youth in the locality. These universities and colleges enjoy local credibility. Hence, such a move will be beneficial for all. Besides, the huge infrastructure will be an added advantage as government need not build any fresh infrastructure for such activities and look to optimize existing facilities," a government official said on condition of anonymity. Besides helping the Skill India mission, it will also help the human resource development ministry, under which UGC functions, reach its own skill development targets, the official said.

The HRD ministry in the past couple of years has failed to meet its skill development targets. In 2014-15, the higher education department achieved just 24.67% of its skill training targets, and in 2013-14, it had a meagre success rate of 17%, according to official data.

UGC’s directive, however, has not gone down well with academics. A professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, said on condition of anonymity that UGC should focus on quality higher education and research instead of dabbling in “areas beyond its core strength".

Close