By Kritika Sharma
Reforms in Higher Education, regulation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) to provide more autonomy to education institutions and setting up of a body that conducts entrance tests, are some of the key highlights of this year’s budget for the education sector, which was a part of the Finance Minister’s 10-point agenda speech.
The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the budget said that “empowering the youth through education and jobs” is one of the highlights of the government this year. However, the budget allocated for education is still among the lowest of all crucial ministries.
There has been an eight per cent increase in the overall allocation to Ministry of Human Resource Development for 2017-18 as compared to 2016-17, with major increase for IITs. The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have been allocated Rs. 7.8 thousand crore, around 2.5 thousand crore more than last year. According to sources in the ministry, the increased budget for support to IITs has been allotted for the project Vishwajeet, under which the government plans to develop seven old IITs and catapult them to world class institutions.
A good amount of money has been allotted for autonomous institutions as well. Allocation for other major heads like Sarva Shikha Abhiyan and teacher’s training has also seen an increase as compared to last year.
Reacting to the allocation for education sector, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “Government’s thrust for improving the overall quality of education is reflected in the budget.” “There has been emphasis on science education by giving more importance to research and innovation and providing the right kinds of skills so that everyone becomes employable,” he adds.
Talking about reforms in higher education, the minister said, “Regulation of UGC is something that has been long overdue and we are dutybound. By doing this, we will be able to give more autonomy to institutes that perform well. Institutes that perform good will be given complete autonomy, average performers will get fifty per cent autonomy and those not performing well will have a greater say by the government.” “It’s good that the new budget has underlined reforming UGC. Improving quality of research and teaching in universities should be top priority. To improve quality of higher education, it’s a good move that institutions will get autonomy based on accreditation and ranking,” shared Vice Chancellor Jawaharlal Nehru University, M Jagadesh Kumar.
“The budget has some exciting proposals for the higher education sector. Hopefully the reforms of UGC will see it pass on some of its multiple responsibilities to the Higher Education Financing Agency and focus on regulation,” says Rudra Sensarma, Professor of Economics, IIM Kozhikode.