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India: New higher education budget and opening up to the world

The new Indian budget for the 2012/13 period presented on 16 March to the country’s parliament has received mixed reactions from the education community, and higher education community in particular.

Although the figures for the upcoming fiscal year show an overall increase in education funding by 18%, this is lower than last year’s 24% rise. However, this year, most of that increase is earmarked for school education while the higher education budget (EUR 2.3 billion) is too close to last year’s level (EUR 2.1 billion) for some people’s liking.

Notwithstanding, the portion of the pie designated for higher education is very much in line with the objectives and approaches outlined in the Planning Commission’s 12th 5-year plan for the period 2012-2017 (published in October 2011). 2011/12 represented the last year of the 11th plan whose focus was on widening access to higher education. Unfortunately, the results have not been as successful as hoped, with infrastructure and faculty recruitment unable to keep up with demand. The new plan is therefore concentrating on improving the quality and competitiveness of existing and recently established institutions, which is seen as a pre-requisite for further higher education reform at a time when a number of related bills are pending in front of the parliament.

The one of greatest interest to international education is the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill which was approved by the cabinet already in 2010 but has been slowly undergoing scrutiny by various levels of the government since. Once approved by the parliament, international institutions would be allowed to establish branch campuses in India.

However, just when it seemed that some of the proposals might finally pass through the decision-making process this year, they could once again be derailed by the paralysing indecision brought on by the upcoming 2012 state elections. Interestingly enough, the ministry of education is currently exploring creative ways to get around the country’s complex heaps of red tape rather than wait further for the parliament to make a move. More information on this can be found in the Indian Express brief.

Ministry of Finance – Government of India Planning Commission – Government of India The Indian Express