Plan panel wants hike in higher education spends

Plan panel wants hike in higher education spends

New Delhi: The government may revise the admission and fees structure for colleges in the next academic session that will start in March, giving students greater access to education loans and fellowships in return for higher fees.

In a presentation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, the Planning Commission proposed a new Higher Education Loan Guarantee Corp. that will cover bank loans to students of accredited universities and colleges at modest interest rates.

The commission, which is the government’s top planning agency, also said that it’s time for India to take a “positive view" of international higher education institutions that want to set up here. Since 2005, the Centre has been trying to introduce a Bill in Parliament allowing foreign higher-education institutions to set up shop. But political opposition has stalled the plan.

Thursday’s presentation was made along with senior officials from the ministry of human resources development and the University Grants Commission, which regulates universities in India.

The commission is of the opinion that universities should revise their curricula at least once in three years, and that these revisions should be subject to outside peer review before being implemented.

The gross enrolment ratio (GER) in higher education is 10% in India, far behind the world average of 23% and developed countries’ rate of 55%.

To ensure that those who finish school find higher education relevant, the panel wants to upgrade existing colleges and set up new ones. It proposes to spend Rs88,000 crore over five years on higher education—an annual average of Rs17,500 crore, far higher than the Union Budget’s higher education allocation of Rs9,200 crore.

The target is to achieve a GER of 15% by 2014 and 21% by 2020. “To achieve these levels, the country has to increase capacities and enrol six million new higher education students by 2012. At the current pace, GER will increase only to 12%," said a plan panel official who didn’t want to be named.

The commission has proposed setting up 30 new universities, of which 16 are to be in areas that do not have any such institutes.