By Elton Gomes
Higher education in India might receive a significant monetary boost as the government is planning to rope in private companies and high-net individuals (HNIs) to finance and promote higher education across the country. The ministry of human resource development has prepared a draft of the plan and will present it before the Union cabinet for consideration.
Two government officials have stated the plan will be implemented through the higher education funding agency (HEFA), a non-banking financial company, under the human resource ministry, as reported by Live Mint. According to Swarajya Mag, the plan is to raise Rs 1 lakh crore from the market, and spend it on funds for ‘infrastructure requirements of educational institutions.’
Roping in HNIs and private companies might lead to improvements in higher education in India, and government officials seemed optimistic. “Bringing in industries or industrialists or high net-worth individuals for HEFA equity will have three benefits. One, structured and clean private funding. Two, outside experience of managing higher education funding. And three, curb chances of manipulation at the institutional level,” a government official told Live Mint.
In February 2018, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the education sector was a priority for the Indian government.
Why does this matter
In 2014, the Times of India reported that a mere 10% of students have access to higher education in the country. The article cited a report by a development economist Abusaleh Shariff, and mentioned that residents of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal have the worst access to higher education.
A report in Live Mint details that lax quality and a lack of accountability and widespread innovation is what ails higher education in India. Indian higher education seems to be suffering from a two-fold problem of quality and quantity. The Indian government seems to think that privatising education is the only solution. However, along with private investment, the government also should look to invest more in education.
In 2016, China spent roughly $565 billion on education – more than 60% of which came from the government. In the same year, India spent approximately $4.5 billion on higher education, as per the Quint. India’s spending on education is much lower than that of other countries.
Mumbai’s apex varsity – the University of Mumbai – has been in shambles despite having a highly conducive environment for studies. Further weakening the reputation of the university is the incessant delays in results.
Perhaps some degree of privatisation is the only way out for better higher education in India. However, along with adequate funds, the government must ensure the funds are being allocated to improve the quality of teaching offered to Indian students, thereby, improving accountability of the system.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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