Friday, March 11, 2011

Spending on higher education to cross Rs. 2.32 trillion by 2020

Spending on higher education in India will grow at an average 18% a year to cross Rs. 232,000 crore (Rs. 2.32 trillion)by 2020, according to a study by consulting company Ernst and Young (E&Y). The growth in spending will be fuelled by increasing private participation in the sector, said Kapil Sibal, human resource development minister, while releasing the report on Thursday.

India currently spends around Rs. 46,200 crore (Rs. 462 billion) on higher education. The number of students pursuing higher education in India has almost doubled to 16 million in the past decade. The government aims to add 25 million more students in the next 10 years.

"This sector needs academic freedom," Sibal said, encouraging private participation. "We want best minds to come to education as it will help economy grow faster." The number of universities has been rising at 5% annually since 1950, said the E&Y report. Growth in the number of colleges rose to 8% a year after 1990, compared with 6% annually in 1950-90. There are nearly 26,000 colleges and 527 universities in the country today.

"Despite having such a large number of institutes, India's gross enrolment ratio (GER) still lags at 12%, which is less than half of the global average," said Amitabh Jhingan, Partner, E&Y. GER is the number of enrolled students compared with the number of students eligible for enrolment. "The government has set a target of achieving 30% GER by 2020, which translates into more than 40 million students in higher education. This challenge requires radical new thought process and innovative solutions," Jhingan added.

The report said higher education institutes also need to improve their quality, with only 11% universities and colleges qualifying for Grade A rating by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Sibal said the government is keen to usher in reforms to improve higher education, and hoped a number of draft education laws would get Parliament's nod this year.

The number of private unaided colleges is growing fast and their share in higher education spending is now 67%, said the E&Y report. Parthenon Group Llc, an education consultancy, released a report that said the government should promote education loans to help poor students enrol in higher education. Less than 5% students are availing an education loan today; offering subsidies on interest, increasing awareness and urging banks to be more flexible in issuing education loans would help increase the number of loan takers, and thereby enrolment, said Karan Khemka, partner at Parthenon. Sivaramakrishnan V., President of Distributed Learning at Manipal Education, which runs several institutes offering vocational courses, said that while encouraging enrolment is good, the government should focus on employability.

Source: Mint, March 11, 2011
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