Thursday, March 01, 2007

Budget highlights for higher education

For political reasons, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram spent a good part of his budget speech on reviving and rejuvenating agriculture, easing rural credit, and enhanced allocations for education and health. On higher education, he had just two not-so-substantial references:

112. As in the last two years, I propose to make a special grant of Rs.100 crore to recognise excellence. Government has selected the Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Pantnagar and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, and each will be given Rs.50 crore.

181. I have a proposal regarding the cess for education. While the cess of 2 per cent on all taxes to fund basic education will remain, I propose to levy an additional cess of 1 per cent on all taxes to fund secondary education and higher education and the expansion of capacity by 54 per cent for reservation for socially and educationally backward classes.

This might give one the impression that higher education didn't get the attention it deserves. Is this impression correct? Let's look at some figures from the detailed allocations for the Ministry of Human Resource Development (taken from this page (pdf), which can be accessed by clicking through these pages). In doing so, let's concentrate on the so-called 'plan' expenditure which is meant for infrastructure and equipment ('non-plan' expenditure is for meeting recurring or running costs, and it typically increases in line with inflation):

UGC has seen its plan allocation rise by a whopping 86 percent from Rs. 1140 crores to Rs. 2124 crores. For the IITs, plan grants have more than quadrupled from 253 crores to 1111 crores! For the IIMs too, the story is similar: a three-fold increase from 35 crores to 103 crores. And allocation for the IISc, has more than doubled from 85 crores to 196 crores. By any yardstick, these are BIG increases.

The explanatory note at the end of the document makes it clear that these huge increases are meant to help these institutions prepare for a larger student body. You may recall that the government gave a commitment that when the 27 percent OBC reservation is implemented, it would 'protect' the number of seats in the general category. This commitment implies that the number of seats will go up -- over three years -- by 54 %. The explanatory note has some information about how much of the huge increase is for meeting the government's commitment. For the IISc, for example, Rs. 90 crore (out of an increase of 111 crores) is meant for preparing for the larger student intake.

These allocations do not include the plans for three new IITs, for which a separate provision of about Rs. 80 crores has been made. Interestingly, this document also mentions that the government plans to set up three new IISERs -- one each in the Northern, Central and Southern regions. This is the first time I am hearing about them. The government plans to spend 125 crores on IISERs (including the three new ones).

Many institutions that are under the Central Government receive their funding through ministries other than the MHRD. For example, TIFR comes under the Department of Atomic Energy, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research comes under the Department of Science and Technology. You will have to look at the detailed budget allocations for these respective Departments/Ministries for information about these institutions.

Overall, however, the unmistakable conclusion ought to be that this has been a good budget for higher education. In a later post, I will look at the grants for scientific R&D.

* * *

Related links:

Indian Express story by Shubhajit Roy: The quota effect: 156% hike in funds for higher education in this Budget.

Toi story: Education gives, quota takes away.


  1. pradeepkumar pi said...

    This is the info I got on IISERs-new ones are at Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram

  2. Anonymous said...

    The cool Sitaram Yechuri said yesterday in some interview that inspite of the announcements about 100 crores to IISc, 50 crores each to Madras and Calcutta Universities, these places have not yet received anything... Point to ponder about. Pledging is not same as delivering.

  3. Abi said...

    Pradeep: Thanks for that link. I missed that news when it came out last December.

    Anon: Yechuri is wrong to claim that no money has gone to IISc (and other places). After the (surprise) budget announcements, the concerned institutions must seek the money by sending their expenditure proposals, and the government is committed to giving them that money. I don't know about Madras, Bombay and Calcutta Universities; IISc is currently implementing the plans funded by the 100 crore grant announced two years ago.

  4. Pratik Ray said...

    Another skewed budget from education standpoint. 7 IITs get 1553.7 crores. AICTE (including the 17 NITs and a whole host of other technical colleges) have 1126.5 crores.

    Agreed that best institutes should get the maximum funding; but when you consider that a LARGE part of technical manpower serving the nation comes from institutions other than the "best" and that there is a fairly large number of students as good as the "best" (or almost as good) who necer make it to IITs due to the cut throat competition, lack of access to tutorials etc. I really wonder whether it is justified to artificially keep increasing the gap between IITs and the rest.

    By the way, I hear that the seat increase isnt just for IITs; other colleges (NITs and other central institutes) will also have a 54% increase over 3 years. Therefore if IITs need added funds for increasing seats, so do other colleges.