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NEW DELHI : NEW DELHI: Nine cities will have a “higher education cluster" each for better coordination among institutions and aiding collective growth without infringing their individual autonomy, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

In the Budget 2021, Sitharaman also proposed 15,000 schools to be converted to “exemplar schools" in 2021-22 and 100 Sainik Schools to be established in collaboration with private players. The FM also reiterated a proposal to create a higher education commission by merging education regulators through legislation.

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Implication: The higher education clusters will be “net positive" in terms of better coordination, resource sharing, and collaboration for teaching learning, as well as the research and development (R&D), she said. The move will allow good private and public institutions in a city to collaborate and edge out the existing silos between the institutions. For example, 40 higher education institutions and universities in Hyderabad can learn from each other and improve education outcomes.

The 15,000 exemplar schools will create a pool of quality schools and may be helpful in rolling out the new education policy in a phased manner in the coming academic session.

The private-public partnership schools will help the expansion of the Sainik School network but this time the financial burden will be shared by the government and private players.

Context: The new National Education Policy, the first in over three decades, is aimed at promoting coherence among educational institution and has advised flexibility in education delivery on face-to-face, online and hybrid models. Besides, it has sought the adoption of credit transfer and creation of an Academic Bank to implement this flexibility. The higher education cluster and a “glue fund" the FM proposed are aimed at catalyzing this flexible learning environment. The cluster also looks like an extension of the “Meta University" proposal of the previous United Progressive Alliance government that failed to take off.

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