Friday, February 14, 2014

IITs may not get additional government funds to meet escalating costs

The government has signalled its reluctance to stump up additional funds for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to meet escalating costs, likely impeding expansion of the elite technology schools. The 16 IITs, including eight new schools that have been functioning out of temporary campuses since they opened in 2008-09, may be forced to reduce spending because of the government’s aversion, which stems from the need to limit its fiscal deficit.

New IITs may have to delay plans to move to permanent campuses in 2015-16 and their older counterparts put infrastructure expansion on hold, said two officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) that oversees education in the country. “We had an expenditure finance committee meeting earlier this week, but the committee was not very keen in accommodating the cost escalation. The way forward seems cost-cutting,” said one of the two officials, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

For the 12th Five-year Plan (2012-17), the government had allocated nearly Rs. 12,500 crore (Rs. 125 billion) for the IITs, of which the new tech schools were to receive a little over Rs. 6,000 crore (Rs. 60 billion), the official said. But construction delays and rising cost of infrastructure development pushed the funding requirement of the new IITs alone to Rs.14,000 crore (Rs. 140 billion).

So far, the MHRD has spent Rs. 2,500 crore (Rs. 25 billion) on the new IITs, which are located in Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Mandi, Patna and Ropar. The older institutions are IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Guwahati, IIT-Roorkee, and IIT-Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

The MHRD is calling a meeting of the tech schools to discuss the funding issues “and the way forward”, the official cited above said. The second official said the reluctance of the government to allocate additional funds to the IITs stemmed from the need to restrict the fiscal deficit, which has been projected at 4.8% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal year.

The MHRD has called a meeting of IITs next week, said U.B. Desai, Director of IIT-Hyderabad. Without giving additional details, he said the meeting would discuss matters related to the construction of campuses for new IITs.

At least 64,000 students are pursuing education at the elite engineering schools, which together admit some 8,500 undergraduates every year.

Cutting costs will be counter-productive, said an administrator at another IIT, who requested anonymity. “It is not just physical infrastructure like buildings and classrooms, but the intellectual infrastructure like faculty hiring, purchase of lab equipment that will get affected. It will have an overall cascading impact,” this person said.

The IITs have been facing a faculty crunch for several years. The MHRD told the Lok Sabha on 18 December that its norms required all IITs put together to have a complement of 6,591 teachers. But there were only 4,099 teachers in all IITs combined, the ministry said.

It is evident that the government doesn’t want to accommodate cost escalation because it is keen to curb the fiscal deficit, said Enayet Kabir, a former associate vice-president, education practice, at consulting company Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd. “Unless you mobilize required resources, the brand IIT will get affected,” Kabir warned. “Before establishing new IITs, the government should have done its homework on cost of setting up new ones and operating cost of all the 16 IITs.”

In their formative years, the new IITs need more hand-holding to catch up with their more established counterparts in terms of quality, he said. Given that IITs don’t work on a fee-based model, cost controls could undermine the institutions, he said. The government allowed IITs to increase fees from Rs. 50,000 a year to Rs. 90,000 a year at the undergraduate level in January 2013. But tuition fees meet less than 30% of the recurring expenditure at IITs.

Source: Mint, February 14, 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive