In the Union Budget, the government gave a push to two crucial aspects of higher education: a three-fold increase in funding for creation of world-class institutions, and creation of a separate National Research Foundation (NRF) to “fund, coordinate and promote research activity in the country”.
In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the NRF will be entrusted with an import function to assimilate research grants given by various ministries independent of each other.
Sitharaman said, “NRF will ensure that the overall research ecosystem in the country is strengthened with focus on identified thrust areas relevant to our national priorities and towards basic science without duplication of effort and expenditure. We would work out a very progressive and research oriented structure for NRF. The funds available with all Ministries will be integrated in NRF. This would be adequately supplemented with additional funds,”.
The Budget has allocated Rs 400 crore, more than three times the revised estimates for the previous year, to create world-class institutions. “There was not a single Indian institution in the top-200 in the world university rankings five years back,” the Finance Minister said. “Due to concerted efforts by our institutions to boost their standards, and also project their credentials better, we have three institutions now —- two IITs and IISc, Bangalore — in the top-200 bracket. This window is open now thanks to our efforts. We will continue making concerted efforts to improve.”
According to the expenditure budget estimates, the Department of Higher Education will be allocated Rs 38,317 crore — a 14.33-per cent increase over the previous year’s revised estimates. Research and innovation has been allocated Rs 608.87 crore — a 150-per cent jump.
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The Department of School Education and Literacy will be allocated Rs 56,536.63 crore — a 12.82-per cent increase over last year’s revised estimates.
To address the issue related to lower international student ratio, which has resulted in fewer premier Indian universities featuring in the top-200 global rankings, the Budget proposes to start a programme — Study in India — aimed at attracting more foreign students. Sitharaman said, “…India has the potential to become a hub of higher education. I, therefore, propose to start a programme, ‘Study in India’, that will focus on bringing foreign students to study in our higher educational institutions.”
The government also said that a draft legislation for setting up Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be presented in the year ahead. “The regulatory systems of higher education would be reformed comprehensively to promote greater autonomy and focus on better academic outcomes,” she said.
Sitharaman said, “The government will bring in a New National Education Policy to transform India’s higher education system to one of the global best education systems. The new policy proposes major changes in both school and higher education, better Governance systems and brings greater focus on research and innovation…”