State governments have not shown enough commitment for strengthening higher education, UGC chairman Ved Prakash said, stressing that the challenge before the Centre was to take them on board.
Batting for public-private partnership in higher education, he said that the UGC is going to support private initiatives in this sector in a big way and added that a suitable model of collaboration needs to be evolved in which public resources can be synergized with the private philanthropy.
"This is a huge challenge. We regulators want to say that we are not adversaries, we are companions as the goals remain the same. While they should make the most out of the regulations that we are coming out with, they should not consider them as infringement on their autonomy," Prakash said at an event.
On state higher education system, he said it has to be provided much greater support academically, administratively and financially. "While the central government has displayed enormous amount of commitment to strengthening the higher education system, that kind of commitment is not displayed by provincial governments," Prakash said.
He maintained that the central government has already allocated 25,000 crore under Rashtriya Uchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) to boost up this sector in states. "We have allocated Rs 25,000 crore under RUSA. We never had a centrally sponsored scheme in higher education sector in the country and this is the first time in higher education. The purpose of the scheme is to strengthen the state higher education system," Prakash added.
Prakash said according to his projections, the country's Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) will reach 30 per cent by 2017 despite some people saying that it will reach that percentage by 2020.
"Although people are setting goals that we would be hitting 30 per cent GER by 2020, I am of the opinion that we would this by 2017 and by the end of this current five year plan," he said. Citing figures, Prakash said that currently there are about 20 million students enrolled in the formal sector of higher education while 4.6 million are enrolled in the open and distance learning system of higher education. "This number is going to increase from 20 million to 29 million in the formal sector and from 4.6 million to 6.5 million in the distance learning sector in five years from now. So we are going to hit 30 per cent GER," he added.
Prakash said it will also be extremely important to Prakash said it will also be extremely important to invest greater resources in research and innovation intensive universities. "We have identified some but we are not happy at the national level. We would like at least 30-35 such universities by the end of 2017. We have schemes and programmes to do that," Prakash said during his inaugural address of Engaging Canada and India : Networking for Quality Improvement.
The UGC chairman said that it was not only about setting up of new educational institutions, but also about directing students to the right kind of schemes. "There are huge variations in the total enrolment. If one looks at the enrolment in medicine, it is only 3.5 per cent, in teacher education, it is less than 3 per cent of the total enrolment.
Therefore we need to increase the capacity of the existing institutions," Prakash added. He stressed the need to set up newer institutions in areas which are low density areas and said the present day calls for creation of enabling conditions so that the existing institutions can operate at the optimum level.
He stressed on the need to make higher education more inclusive by participation of students coming from marginalised sections of the society. The challenge is to identify and nurture that talent, he said. He said that India has made massive investments in higher education in the recent past. "In the last five year plan, we had increased our allocation to nine and a half times. No nation on Earth has massified higher education as India has done, he added.
"When the world was shivering with global financial crisis, we did not make cuts into our budget. No nation in history would have set up as many as 151 public institutions of higher education which we have done in the last plan period," Prakash said.
Talking about collaborations with Canada on higher education, Prakash said that India is looking forward to working with its institutes of higher learning. Both the nations are welfare states and we have almost identical system of school education, he said.
"We have forged linkages with several institutions of higher learning with US under Singh-Obama knowledge initiation, UK, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Canada," Prakash said.