Monday, March 12, 2012

UGC sets target for higher education enrolment

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has chalked out several plans to increase gross enrolment ratio (GER) of students in higher education from the present 20 per cent to 30 per cent during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). The Commission has prepared a document on inclusive and quality expansion of higher education. The country's GER, indicator of access to higher education is about 20 per cent of the relevant age (17-23 years) group — low compared to that in advanced countries, UGC Chairman (Acting) Ved Prakash told The Hindu on the sidelines of a programme at the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in Bangalore on Sunday.

“The GER in India will be increased to 30 per cent. I am very optimistic,” he said. It would require an increase in the student enrolment from the present level of 14 million to 22 million in colleges and the universities. More colleges would be opened in low 374 GER districts, he said. With higher education passing though a phase of unprecedented expansion marked by substantial increase in the number of institutions and enrolment of students, the UGC has sought Rs. 184,470 crore (Rs. 1.84 trillion) for its various programmes during the 12th Plan against Rs. 85,0000 crore (Rs. 850 billion) in the 11th Five-Year Plan.

Prof. Prakash said the Commission had planned strategies for the 12th Plan with various schemes under the three major heads of access, equity and quality with interlaced components of relevance, value-education and creativity. “The overall budget requirement projected to achieve the proposed initiatives is Rs.184,700 crore.” There are 611 universities and university-level institutions and 31,324 colleges in the country, as of 2011. Asked about increase in the number of colleges under universities, he said the Commission was in favour of granting autonomy to colleges and those with potential for excellence and having a student strength of more than 3,000 would be converted into universities or deemed universities.

About the challenges in the next Plan, he said access to higher education was still less than the minimum international threshold levels. Distribution of institutions is skewed, enrolment is largely concentrated in public universities and in the conventional disciplines, the UGC chief said.

The focus would be on achieving higher access through better utilisation of existing infrastructure and creation of new institutions to meet the objective of regional equity, he said. Noting that the three challenges of expansion, equity and excellence cannot be addressed in isolation, he said a single-minded pursuit of expansion could turn into chasing meaningless statistics. Exclusive focus on equity could compromise on quality and pursuit of excellence could be confined to a few islands. "The 12th Plan needs a more holistic approach," he said.

Source: The Hindu, March 12, 2012

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