Aiming to provide greater tertiary opportunities for its young population, India has increased its higher education budget by 34 percent to NZ$4 billion for 2011-12. Overall, the education sector received a hike of 24 percent compared to last year in order to provide universal access to secondary education, increase the number of students in higher education, and grow skills training for youth.
“Our demographic dividend of a relatively younger population compared with developed countries is as much of an opportunity as it is a challenge. Over 70 percent of Indians will be of working age in 2025,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while proposing the allocation for education on 28 February.
India wants to increase its university enrolment rate from around 12 percent at present to 30 percent of the 18-24 year population by 2025, approaching the levels of many Western countries.
A major portion of the money for higher education will go to the 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), which will receive $1.7 billion, followed by the University Grants Commission, the regulatory body for higher education, which will receive $1.6 billion.
However, the increase falls short of the nearly 100 percent hike in higher education funding that the Education Ministry was pushing for to meet a slew of promises made under the country’s 2007-12 Five Year Plan.
The 2011-12 financial year is the last under the Plan, and the budgetary allocations will not be enough to finance many promises made, senior official sources said. India’s National Knowledge Commission has estimated that India needs 1,500 universities compared to around 370 now.
By Alya Mishra at University World News