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.
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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.