Vision Every year, when the finance Vision minister presents the Union Budget, there is great expectation that it will infuse substantial funding in higher education sector. Unfortunately, regardless of whichever party is in power, the sector has been the most neglected and least cared for. Today’s India has an Vision aspiration with regards to its universities. There have been path-breaking policy initiatives such as Institutions of Eminence, which can promote excellence in the sector. The government needs to look at universities from the standpoint of opportunities they can provide in building a knowledge society. There is a need for a budgetary vision that Vision captures the reality of the state of Indian universities. Around the time when the Budget was presented a few weeks ago, the renowned Times Higher Education had released Asia University Rankings, which ranked the top 350 universities in Asia. China has witnessed a significant rise in the number of universities that Vision found place in international rankings. Japan topped the Asian rankings with 82 universities, China had 63 universities on the list and India had 42 higher education institutions.
The need of the hour is a significant enhancement in government-led investment in higher education. Resources are needed in five areas.
* Building new universities with global standards: India needs many more universities. While our current numbers have improved over the years—864 universities, 40,026 colleges, and 11,669 standalone institutions—we need to build new universities to cater to the growing aspirations of young people. These universities have to be built keeping in mind international standards and global benchmarking mechanisms, so that excellence becomes central to their institutional vision and imagination from the very beginning. This requires significant investment that has to come from both the government and private sector.
* Providing government scholarships in public and private universities:Access to education is critical. Most student scholarships provided by the government are applicable only in public higher education institutions. We need to rethink this aspect as the private sector comprises more than 70% of all higher education institutions and over 70% students study in private institutions. If this is the reality, it is important that government scholarships should not differentiate between government and private institutions. A suitable criteria regarding eligibility should be formulated, but made applicable for both public and private institutions. The private sector also needs to support students with scholarships so that affordability does not become a roadblock for them to pursue higher education.