Friday, February 29, 2008

How well has higher ed done in this budget?

First, get hold of the Expenditure Budget for Higher Education (Department-wise break up of allocations is available here). Let's take a look at the figures for IITs first.

Last year, the IITs were allocated a whopping Rs. 1111 crores under Plan spending -- this represents fixed, one-time costs for infrastructure, equipment, etc. This figure is referred to as the Budget Estimate (BE-07). But, they are estimated to have spent only 335 crores (Revised Estimate, RE-07)! If you look at this year's allocation, it appears to be way out of line with the actual performance: BE-08 is back up at 1020 crores!

The story is the same for IISc. The corresponding figures are 196 (BE-07), 40 (RE) and 130 (BE-08) crores. For the IIMs, they are 103, 43 and 88 crores.

So, what's going on?

This requires going back to what happened last year, when the allocations (BE) went up to 1111 crores from 253 crores in the year 2006. For IISc, the allocation of 196 crores was way higher than 85 crores in 2006. For the IIMs, the 2007 figure of 103 crores was nearly three times the allocation of 35 crores in 2006.

But this only pushes the question back by one year. What happened in 2007 that called for such huge increases in allocation for IITs and IIMs?

The short answer is: OBC reservation. Recall that this reservation policy was to be implemented by increasing the intake in all the Central Government institutions. The huge increases in 2007 allocations over 2006 were meant for taking care of this. However, the Supreme Court stayed the process of implementing the new reservation policy, and this enhanced allocation went unspent.

Thus, a fairer comparison should be in terms of the revised estimates of the previous three years; remember, RE is the government's best guess -- at the end of the financial year -- of how much was spent during the previous year. Let's look at the RE figures for 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Institution RE 2005-06   RE 2006-07   RE 2007-08  
IITs 236 254 335
IISc 33 85 40
IIMs 32 35 43

Now, the picture is clear. Except for IISc, whose plan expenditure shot up to 85 crores during 2006-07, the other institutions seem to be following a trend. But, happily, it's also an upward trend that appears to be accelerating (again, IISc seems to be an exception here).

So, what's the deal with this year's allocations that are -- just like last year -- way out of line with the trend? Compared to what the IITs spent last year (335 crores), hasn't this year's Budget lavished them with 1020 crores?

The notes at the end of the Expenditure Budget says that the enhanced allocation "also includes a provision of Rs.771 crore towards implementation of Oversight Committee recommendations for meeting the requirement for enhanced number of students."

In case you are wondering what that Oversight Committee is all about, why, it's the same committee that made recommendations about implementing OBC reservations!

As Yogi Berra put it so well, "It's like déjà vu, all over again!"

* * *

I thank my colleague U. Ramamurty, who brought this stuff to my notice, for helping in untangling this stuff.


  1. Vishnu said...

    I remember an article in The Times of India (as well as on CNN-IBN's website) which said that IIT's don't have enough funds from the Government to pay salaries to faculty and staff, and so they have to dig into endowments etc. (I am unable to locate the article now.)

    Now, aren't these "facts" contradictory? Or is it that the unspent 776 crore could not be used for salaries because of some Govt. regulation?

  2. Anonymous said...

    Nice blog. I find you very ratiocinative and shows a lot of perspective. You have a lot of good, practical ideas about higher ed. I hope you'll rise up in the ladder and reach a position where you can make more concrete contributions. Like scientific adviser, etc. Just maintaining such a prolific blog is great in itself, though.

    All the best.

  3. Krishnan Viswanathan said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  4. Krishnan Viswanathan said...

    So let me get this straight - each IIT gets 146 crores while each NIT gets 36 crores. And the fun part is that the NITs got 0 funding for the last fiscal year. Granted that the IITs are the brand and all that, but the NITs train way more students and can do with the additional funding to improve infrastructure and faculty recruitment. So while i am not asking for parity at least don't make the funding so lopsided for the IITs. And i think the NITs should be more effective in their lobbying of the GOI for fund allocation. Disclosure : Alumnus of REC Trichy (94) .

  5. Anonymous said...

    Abt NITs- I am an alumnus of NIT Calicut, and I feel that my institute is squandering all the money. Heave construction is being done (mostly unnecessary), the whole natural habitat inside the campus is devastated ( most of the trees cut down), there is a building coming up in the football stadium, etc. Still no change in actual stuff that is required. The Comp Sci department is short of at least 15 faculty members for the last 4 years and is managing with Ad hoc lectures with no graduate degree. The labs are in a horrible stage- all machines very old, staff maintaining the same old attitude etc. After becoming a deemed univ, the exams are internal, and this has made some faculty skip half of the syllabus. No improvements in research facilities or actual
    research. The director is an autocrat, with no knowledge abt real science and technology.

    So, if NITs are getting more funding, I hope someone will put in a more accountable and participatory system.

  6. rahul said...

    ...Leave aside the funding ...what about the faculty crisis these institutes are one is doing anything about it

  7. Anonymous said...

    Faculty crisis.. they just don't come for this salary man.. Rs. 10000 p.m + Rs. 250 yearly increments!!