Union Budget 2021-22 Expectations for Higher Education Sector: Pandemic hit higher education sector in India is anxiously waiting for the implementation guidelines of the NEP 2020 from upcoming Union Budget 2021.
By Prof. P. C. Biswal,
Union Budget 2021 Expectations for higher education: Higher education sector in India is looking at the budget 2021 with lot of hope. This will be the first budget after rollout of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 by the Government of India. Furthermore, this will also be the first budget after Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world. Pandemic hit higher education sector in India is anxiously waiting for the implementation guidelines of the NEP 2020 from upcoming Union Budget 2021. Here are the top four expectations of the higher education sector from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Budget 2021.
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Technology and Learning: Pandemic had adverse effects on the economy in general and more so on education sector. Conventionally classes happen through face-to-face interaction, be it school education or be it higher education. However, education sector rose to the challenges of pandemic and almost migrated to online mode of delivery in a very short span of time. Nevertheless, there are debates and discussions happening about effectiveness and efficacy of online mode of education. Leaving apart above debates, there is no doubt that higher education sector invested heavily on technology and training to continue with providing quality education. Higher Educations Institutions (HEIs) have realized that this change is for good and would like to continue with the use of technology for the classes even after pandemic. Maybe with certain percentage of online education if not fully. In view of this, HEIs expect that Government should take cognizance of this fact and should advise regulators to make necessary amendments in their regulatory frameworks to recognize a mix of both offline and online mode of education. At this moment, there is lot of confusion regarding whether regulators will allow and approve blending of offline and online modes for award of various degrees and diplomas.
NEP 2020 and Budget 2021: No doubt NEP 2020 is a game changer in education sector. There are major reforms proposed in NEP 2020 with respect to higher education such as moving towards ‘Multidisciplinary Universities’, having a single regulator named as the Higher Education Council of India (HECI), envisaging India as a global knowledge superpower and inviting top 100 universities to set up campuses in India, and committing budget allocation of 6.0% of GDP towards education. I hope that Budget 2021 will outline a clear roadmap towards implementation plan of NEP 2020 by creating budgetary provisions. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the HEIs to plan their next course of actions in line with the proposed changes in NEP 2020.
Funding Support: Education should be one of the priority areas of the government and accordingly financial support should be provided to deserving HEIs. Currently some selective HEIs such as IITs, IIMs, and Central Universities receive government support. To capitalize on the demographic dividend in India, government should target scaling up of the higher education. This is an appropriate time to scale up the reach of higher education to masses by utilizing investment made by HEIs on technology for education. Government should create platforms to support highly ranked private institutions for making quality higher education affordable and reachable to masses in India. This effort will be helpful in addressing unemployment problem that grew especially due to pandemic.
More Focus on NIRF Ranking: The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) launched by MHRD in the 2015 has emerged as one of the mostly sought after ranking system in India for HEIs. This is regarded as most authentic and reliable ranking framework for higher education institutions in India by various stakeholders in this sector. Government should focus and invest more in this ranking framework to make it much more broad based and scientific with all applicable parameters for both government and private higher education institutions. Secondly, government should target to expand National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) internationally to project India as an emerging global knowledge superpower.
(The author is Professor, Accounting & Finance, MDI Gurgaon. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial ExpressOnline.)