Budget 2024: Here’s what stakeholders expect for higher education in India | Education

The Finance Ministry allocated Rs. 1.12 lakh crore to the education sector for the fiscal year 2023-24. Of which the Department of Higher Education was allocated Rs. 44,095 crore.

NEP mainly aims to achieve the establishment of at least one large multi-disciplinary higher education institution in every district, improving accessibility, increase in research & innovation and expanding the vocational training of the students.((Raj K Raj/HT Photo))

The allocated amount received by the Department of Higher Education is used to fund central universities, IITs, NITs, and other centrally funded universities. Funding for higher education regulators UGC and AICTE, grants and scholarships for research are among the functions carried out by the Department of Higher Education.

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Institutional Restructuring

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 sets a target of achieving a 50% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education by 2035. This would require intensive institutional, infrastructural and policy changes to align with the mandates in NEP.

Also Read: Budget 2024 expectations: Stakeholders pin hopes for Edtech and AI integration

“In the upcoming budget, we anticipate a significant emphasis on elevating higher education. This entails a strategic allocation of augmented funds towards infrastructure development, research endeavors, and skill enhancement initiatives. The infusion of additional financial support is poised to empower educational institutions to revamp facilities, embrace cutting-edge technologies, and attract top-notch faculty. This increased funding not only fortifies institutions but also plays a pivotal role in augmenting the overall quality of education, nurturing a highly skilled workforce,” says Dr Yajulu Medury, Vice-Chancellor, Mahindra University.

Vocational Training

In the context of the higher education arena in the country, NEP mainly aims to achieve the establishment of at least one large multi-disciplinary higher education institution in every district, improving accessibility, increase in research & innovation and expanding the vocational training of the students.

With NEP setting targets of achieving 50% GER in higher education, employment and job opportunities for the graduates will have to be addressed. This is where vocational training for students comes into play.

“ The government’s efforts in implementing skill development programs have set the stage for positive change. However, there is a need to strengthen industry-academia collaboration for better alignment of academic curricula with the evolving job market. Moreover, prioritising financial support for Academic-Industry Collaboration is crucial, as it serves to forge robust connections between educational institutions and industries. This strategic emphasis ensures that academic curricula stay abreast of the ever-evolving demands of the industry, thereby nurturing a workforce equipped with agility, adaptability, and preparedness for future challenges. Additionally, it’s important to extend support to COA-approved Institutes with larger research grants akin to those provided to AICTE. This will foster innovation and excellence in education,” says Dr Prof Anand Achari, Principal, Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Architecture.

Research and Innovation

Research and innovation will step up our game in pushing our education sector as a global study destination. In the 2023-24 fiscal year, the total expenditure budget for Research and Innovation was Rs. 210.61 crore.

Statutory bodies University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) were allocated Rs. 5,360 crore and Rs. 420 crore, respectively. Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) was allocated Rs. 9,661.50 crore and NITs and IIEST were allocated Rs. 4,620 crore.

Also Read: Union budget 2024: From where does Centre get money for expenditure?

“ In anticipation of the upcoming budget, I propose a few key areas of focus. Establishing a National Design Research Fund will support innovation and attract talent, improving faculty development and infrastructure. Addressing the faculty shortage by incentivising the hiring of foreign faculty members can enhance the quality of design education. Encouraging collaboration between design institutions and industries through tax incentives will provide valuable opportunities for students. Additionally, increasing scholarships and grants is crucial for making design education accessible to diverse backgrounds, ensuring that talent from all walks of life contributes to our creative landscape. Additionally, creating an innovation ecosystem, leveraging cultural heritage, and aligning India’s design policy with global trends are vital,” says Dr Sanjay Gupta, Vice Chancellor, World University of Design.

Access to Higher Education

Improving the inclusivity and accessibility of students to higher education, especially from rural areas is imperative. Improving access to education among members of socio-economically disadvantaged groups like SC and STs is also being discussed by experts.

Bridging the digital divide, increasing the exposure and availability of digital learning are some aspects that the stakeholders believe focus should be laid upon for the next fiscal year.

“Addressing issues like gender disparity, access to quality education in rural areas, and the need for increased investment in education are crucial in achieving equitable and inclusive education for all,” says Shweta Sastri, Managing Director, Canadian International School, Bangalore.

Student Loans

Experts believe giving the student community relief on student loans can help in favour of the education ministry as a large section of people rely on them to pursue their studies. A favourable decision in terms of student loans can also help students who look forward to studying aborad for their higher studies.

“There is a need to upscale the education system to attract more foreign students to the country and India should be promoted as a global study destination. A large part of the population depends on educational loans to pursue their studies. Hence, encouraging more students to take up their course of interest with lower interest rates on such loans is essential for their optimal growth and development,” says Shweta.

“It is expected that the budget will address the concerns surrounding the Tax Collected at Source (TCS) rate, which directly impacts students studying abroad. Especially curious about possible ways to reduce TCS’s influence on remittances for costs associated with education. Options like zero forex international cards, which are free from TCS up to Rs. 7 lakhs annually, would be very helpful for students who are struggling financially. To mitigate the effects of TCS on tuition and travel expenses, the budget may guide parents who are sending money overseas for their children’s education. It may also encourage responsible financial decisions. Also, we anticipate budgetary proposals that would increase the availability of student loans. It’s laudable that the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) should reach 50% by 2030, and we’re interested to see how the budget will help achieve this goal,” says Raghwa Gopal, CEO of MSM Global.

Also Read: Budget 2024: How Union budget is prepared? Explained in 7 points

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