The higher education space has undergone a transformation over the last two years and several changes have defined the way education will be imparted in the coming years. These changes will require monetary and policy support on the part of the government, which will help educational institutes and students, and also help shape the future of higher education in the coming years. The government’s efforts through the Union Budget 2022 can play a significant role in this regard. I see three major areas where the Government can support the higher education sector.
First, we hope that the budgetary allocation to the overall education sector will see an increase this year. Predictions say that we might see a 10 percent rise in budget allocation to the education sector than last year. Last year’s Budget allocation stood at Rs. 93,223 crores, a decline of 6 percent over the previous year’s budget. With the pandemic situation improving, the hope is that the government increases its spending on the education sector. The last two years have severely impacted both institutions and students when teaching and learning went online and many of them lacked access to technology infrastructure, connectivity, and computers.
The blended form of education has become an integral part of pedagogy at higher education institutes and will continue to coexist with the traditional classroom in the future. The government can provide a kind of ‘Technology Infrastructure Advancement’ fund allocation to higher education institutions that will enable institutes to invest in the latest technology tools, software, and high-speed connectivity that will enable them to deliver a seamless high-quality learning experience to their students. In addition, they can support students with laptops at affordable costs.
Secondly, the government can design a scheme for affordable and accessible student loans which will allow parents and students to fulfill their higher education aspirations. The most important aspect of this scheme would be the ease of accessibility, disbursement, and repayment terms which will support students from the lesser privileged strata and the remotest parts of the country to benefit from this scheme. This step will encourage parents who have been hit hard by the economic slowdown to support the educational choices of their children. The institutions will benefit by getting a talented and diverse student body into their classrooms.
Thirdly, the government can create a fund and mechanism to award research grants to higher education institutions to advance their research agenda. The NEP 2020 has a clear mandate for creating a culture of research at higher educational institutes in the country. Under the aegis of the National Research Foundation, the Government can work out a mechanism for the allocation of research grants to higher education institutions based on a rigorous, action-oriented, competitive process and requirements. This has the potential to become a game-changer and an accelerator of sorts for knowledge creation in India.
More investment in India’s education sector is critical to remain competitive globally. What we do today is going to have a far-reaching impact in determining India’s future, given that the pandemic has created a pivotal moment for the higher education sector in India. This year’s budget will hold the key to India’s future.
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