Budget 2023: Expectations Of Higher Education Sector

The budget should focus on setting up a resilient education delivery mechanism for facilitating the delivery of quality education using digital platforms

The New National Education Policy 2020 has been a great move by the Government of India towards improving the quality of education in the country. Union budget provides a window to address many financial and other policy issues that have focus on implementation of NEP-aligned initiatives.

Expectations from the budget 2023 are:

- The government allocated Rs 1,04,278 for the education sector in the financial year 2022-23. This was 11.86 per cent higher than the money that was allocated in FY 2021-22 (Rs 11,054 crore). But if we look at the share of education in the total social sector, it came down from 50.79 per cent to 47.22 per cent . In that the share of higher education was only 39 per cent, that is 40,828 crore. It is expected that the overall budget allocation on education should be doubled from approximately 3 per cent of GDP to 6 per cent of GDP as recommended in NEP 2020 and in higher education, it should be increased to about 80,000 crores.

- This window should be used by the Finance Minister to strengthen the linkage between a sound higher education system and the economic development of the nation. One of the objectives is to double the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in about 10 years. Post Covid-19, HEIs in India have been pushed to invest in digitisation and the physical infrastructure is being transformed into smart and high-tech, placing additional financial burden on the already resources constrained institutions. More project funding needs to be provided for upgradation in both the public and private sector institutions. Industry can be provided tax incentives if they help HEIs in upgradation. The budget should focus on setting up a resilient education delivery mechanism for facilitating the delivery of quality education using digital platforms.

- Research needs to be given boost through more liberal funding across HEIs, which is at present available mostly to the elite public sector institutions, while private sector institutions account for two-thirds of total enrolments. Also, in India most of the research funding (approximately 60 per cent) comes from the government agencies. There is a need to increase the funding from private industries like in most developed countries. The budget should provide incentives in the form of attractive tax deductions etc. to industries funding research in HEIs.

- India enjoys a significantly high demographic dividend which is likely to peak out by 2030-31. To potentially leverage it, the budget should emphasize more on skill development sectors to tap the aspirations and ambitions of millions of career-focused citizens. HEIs offering vocational education should be incentivised through the budget. Investment also needs to be encouraged in teacher training, digital inclusion, regional content and DESH-stack etc. We expect similar announcements in this budget too which will result in unveiling a new opportunity landscape comprising of a new generation of digitally savvy quality education seekers.

- Edtechs and blended educators are the future and we are looking forward to some positive announcements in this budget regarding policy, taxation, incentives/rebates etc. in order to encourage collaborations and expand the pool of new-age education seekers while narrowing down the learning curve.

- Addressing the employability concerns of graduates from Indian HEIs needs to be addressed urgently. Most graduates are expected to show work experience along with education and skills acquired. Universities and HEIs blending education and work experience is the need of the hours. Marketplace Experience Lab created at JAIN University is one such case in point. Such initiatives need to be provided financial support through project funding which will be utilized towards creating technology platforms and training of teachers.

- The government should look into easing the financial and regulatory challenges revolving around international expansion of Higher Education Institutes, and the same should be finding a mention in the upcoming union budget. High quality institutions should be incentivised through an easy regulatory mechanism to enable establishing campuses abroad.

- Finally, it is proposed that foreign universities and institutions setting up campuses in India, will be provided significant autonomy as compared to Indian HEIs. To create a level playing field, many of the proposed benefits (like freedom to recruit foreign faculty members, admission criteria, fee etc.) should be extended to Indian HEIs also. Time has come when India should seriously think about for-profit education. Profit making edtechs have done well but in effect they have emerged as a sort of alternative education system which does not reflect good for the country. Institutions incubating edtech startups on campuses should be incentivised in the budget.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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