Centre-sponsored programme to boost higher education on cards

Written by Subhash Narayan | Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 18 2012, 07:27am hrs
To make higher education more accessible, the government will roll out a new centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) in conjunction with the 12th Plan period. The scheme looks to incentivise states to invest in new institutes and in the expansion of existing ones, so that the supply-side bottlenecks in higher education are eased.

The scheme is also aimed at increasing the gross enrollment ratio (GER) in higher education to 30% by 2020, which currently stands near 15%. GER is an indicator of the actual number of students enrolled in higher education as against potential students.

The Planning Commission has finalised the new scheme and once finance ministry's approval is obtained it could be announced in this year's Budget, said a Planning Commission official privy to the development. The new scheme would be part of a major restructuring exercise of CSS.

For general category states, the proposed CSS for higher education would involve funds from the Centre and the respective state government in a 75:25 ratio. For special category states, the Centre's share will be at 90%. Further, the states would be free to mobilise a part of their share from private partners by means of innovative PPP schemes. The Centre would also dole out incentives, in the for m of soft loans or grants, to states that take up the project on a priority basis.

According to the Planning Commission, the process of setting up new institutions and expanding existing ones would be incentivised for states. The list includes state universities, general degree colleges and professional and technical educational institutions.

We moved the idea of a CSS in September last year and the Planning Commission is seeing if it can be included in the next plan. The scheme is intended to increase enrollment in higher education with greater participation from private partners, said a senior HRD ministry official.

Private sector participation in higher education has been on the government's agenda since last year when it mulled new financing schemes whereby private parties could help in setting up institutes.

The HRD ministry has already mooted the idea of setting up 14 Innovation Universities (IUs) in the PPP mode in which private parties will promote ideas and the government will finance them. In fact, it has already zeroed in on five such universities for the IUs, which will have the freedom to formulate their own policies on admission to programmes, and offer scholarships to the top 20% of the students at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

The proposed CSS, if implemented, would help the sector which is looking for investments of R10 lakh crore by 2020 to create an additional capacity of 25 million seats. The private sector, which accounts for 52% of the total enrollment, would be investing R50,000 crore this per year, according to the annual Ficci-Ernst &Young report on higher education.

At present, the state private universities are concentrated in a handful of states, with the top five states accounting for about 65% of such universities as they have favourable regulatory environment and provide government support.