Government mulls corpus to fund higher education

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: May 25 2012, 08:59am hrs
Despite its ongoing struggle to integrate the Right to Education Act with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, the ministry of human resource development (HRD) is now planning to incentivise higher education by proposing the Rashtriya Ucchhatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA).

Under the scheme, the government plans to set up a corpus to incentivise states to improve and expand higher education. This corpus would be funded by the higher education cess collected by the government. In 2009-10, the amount of higher education cess collected was around R1,900 crore from direct taxes and R1,250 crore from indirect taxes.

Most of the enrollment in higher education takes place in states and they need to be empowered. This corpus will be used by state governments to expand and improve higher education, said an official from the ministry of human resource development.

The scheme aims to increase the gross enrollment ratio (GER) in higher education from 15% at present to 30% by 2020. It will focus on providing higher education opportunities to socially deprived communities by promoting inclusion of women, minorities, SC/STs and differently-abled persons by creating additional capacity and establishing new institutions.

This is another step of the governments to strengthen the state governments where more than 80% of the enrollment in higher education happens.

In fact, the ministry along with and planning commission are mulling new ways of funding the state run institutes-which often complain of paucity of funds. Currently, the centre funds the state run institutes individually through the University Grants Commission (UGC) in stages but under the new system, states would be funded as a whole.The new system aims to increase the funding to state universities and colleges from R7,600 crore in the 11 th plan to more than R25,000 crore in the 12 th plan (2012-17) period.

The corpus is an important part of the next plan period for which the government aims to increase the education spending to 25% . At present, about 18 % of all government education spending or about 1.12 percentage of GDP is spent on higher education today. This should be raised to 25% and 1.5% respectively. An increase of 0.38% of GDP means an additional allocation of about R25,000 crore to higher education for the centre and the states taken together.

The scheme, which is yet to be finalised, also intends to subsume the current scheme of setting up model degree colleges in 374 educationally backward districts of the country.