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State’s share in funding higher education

Monday 10 April 2006, by DORAISAMY*Vani

Two academicians speak out on quality in the context of increasing privatisation of advanced studies

NEVER IN the last decade or so has the simmering discontent against the lack of accountability by private higher education providers come out as nastily in the open as in the past few weeks.

Be it the stand-off between the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education vis-a-vis Deemed Universities or the student discontent about the quality of education offered by self-financing institutions, higher education in Tamil Nadu is in a stock-taking mode right now, after nearly a decade and more of unfettered privatisation of education.

Stakes high

The stakes are high: the State’s literacy rate is 75 per cent as against the national average of 63 per cent. In all, 15 deemed universities, 503 arts, science and commerce colleges, 209 polytechnics, 239 engineering colleges and over 600 ITI institutes together turn out around four lakh skilled manpower annually.

Even so, State funding for higher education has not caught up with the altered reality, and the field is being left more to private players.


A few critical questions that need to be answered at this juncture are: Should the State’s investment in higher education be progressively allowed to decline, in direct proportion to the privatisation of higher education? To what extent can both channels of funding go in tandem to ensure that the State’s control over higher education does not slip?

Two eminent academicians draw out their views on this contentious issue:

M. Anandakrishnan, former Vice-Chancellor, Anna University and Chairman, Madras Institute of Development Studies:

Government funding for education has been on a steep decline in real terms.

Though there are nominally higher allocations for education year after year in the government budgets, they are nowhere near the real needs in filling up vacant positions or providing minimally decent infrastructure. The plea of paucity of resources for education is more out of incompetence on the government’s part rather than a real resource crunch. It should be possible for responsible governments to float educational bonds.

The substantial scope for building up educational development funds has been ignored.

There should be predictability of funding for education as prescribed percentage of GDP by Central Government and as a prescribed ratio of Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) in the case of State funds. Government institutions capable of mobilising extra-budgetary funds should be allowed to use them for their own development, rather than submit them to the government pool, thereby removing all incentives to raise additional resources.

Self-financing courses should be banned from government and government-aided institutions.

There should be a fixed proportion of funds for research and development including a large number of doctoral research fellowships.

Sufficient allocation

Also, the States should try harder, than at present, to search sufficient allocation from Central Funds.

For every two private institution permits to be opened, the State or the Centre should start one government-funded institution to prevent disproportionate dominance of private educational institutions.

Even in permitting private players it should lay down a condition that individuals and families should not be allowed to establish and manage educational institution.

It should be only by public trusts or societies. Individuals and family trusts can establish and manage institutions as purely commercial ventures, subject to commercial laws and not pretend to be `charitable’ institutions.

V.C. Kulandaiswamy, former Vice-Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University:

Though private participation in education is inevitable, the government can neither withdraw nor minimise its own commitments. Certain areas of higher education such as basic applied research or education for the disadvantaged sections should never be left to the private sector.

Developed countries

The Central Government should enact the Private Universities Bill that has been pending with a parliamentary committee since 1995 without further delay.

The age group entering higher education in countries like the U.S. and Canada is above 80 per cent. It is above 50 per cent in all developed countries.

If India is to become a developed country by 2020, the age group entering higher education by that time must be at least 25 per cent.

This will mean a three-fold increase from the present 7 or 8 per cent - something which is beyond the capacity of the governments which is why private providers have been allowed to come up in a large way.

However, in Indian conditions, private participation must only complement the government and not substitute it to ensure access and equity.

See online : The Hindu

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