The implementation of the roadmap for 20 world class institutions in the country, which would aim to improve the quality of higher education, is expected to begin from the announcement of the upcoming Union Budget for 2017-18, with the Centre’s think-tank Niti Aayog planning to finalise the strategy within the next one month.
“The Niti Aayog has been assigned with the task of preparing a proposal to revamping the University Grants Commission, which is responsible for maintaining the standards in institutions of higher education. But this task could take a year to be completed,” a Niti Aayog official said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Office has suggested that the development of world class institutions should not be delayed for that long.
“The Niti Aayog, along with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has begun working on the strategy and its implementation will begin from the upcoming Budget,” the official said. Finance minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech in February had announced to frame a detailed scheme to set up world class teaching and research institutions to enhance affordable access to high quality education, and had said: “An enabling regulatory architecture will be provided to ten public and ten private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions.”
Jaitley had also announced to set up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an initial capital base of Rs 1,000 crore. The HEFA will be a not-for-profit organisation that will leverage funds from the market and supplement them with donations and CSR funds. These funds will be used to finance improvement in infrastructure in our top institutions and will be serviced through internal accruals, he had said.
The Niti Aayog official cited above said that a draft plan had been prepared according to which, the aforementioned institutes could be governed as per a separate ‘World-Class Excellence Act’. This Act may also specify certain monitoring and evaluation programmes to ensure quality is maintained at these educational institutes. Even as the plan was yet to be finalised, the official said that the University Grants Commission Act could also be amended to give autonomy to these institutions.
Recently, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya had also said that the issue of preparing the plan for these world class institutions was a complex one, and the think-tank would consult several field experts before finalising the roadmap. He had also highlighted the need to remove several “regulatory bottlenecks” in the system, for development of these establishments.