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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Education in 11th 5 year plan

UGC to focus on quality and inclusion



 How does it feel to receive one of the highest civilian awards of India?

 It feels good to be acknowledged for the work you do. Apart from research and teaching, I did some work in the field of agricultural development, rural poverty, discrimination, women rights, and economics and lately on education. Moreover, the UGC chairmanship has given me a lot of visibility.

    The National Development Council (NDC) has approved the recommendations of the 11 th Five Year Plan. How is UGC gearing itself to implement them?

    My focus is on how to convert the 11th Plan's recommendations into action. We would now be focusing on quality, inclusion and other academic reforms in higher education. UGC would soon come up with an action plan and policies on each of these areas.

 What about the 30 universities, which the Indian government announced at the beginning of the 11th Plan?

 They are very much on. In fact, the budget for the 14 world-class universities have been allocated for the first year which is Rs 60 crore and the budget for the rest of the 16 universities is Rs 50 crore for the first year. So we would soon have these universities in place. 

   Moreover, we would be having 370 colleges in areas where accessibility to higher education is a problem and state governments would be making matching contributions.

 The education sector is already facing an acute faculty shortage. How will you meet the growing demand following expansion in higher education?

 Faculty is a key issue, which is one of the reasons why UGC has risen the superannuation age of faculty from 60 to 65 years. We have already announced 500 science fellowships and 1,200 fellowships for non-NET scholars. But what is new is that we have decided to extend fellowships to all MPhil and PhD students of all central universities.

 But the superannuation age in most state universities is still 60 years?

 We have written a letter to all state universities to raise the bar, and some of the academic councils have themselves passed the resolution on this and are working out the modalities with their respective state governments. 

Along with expansion we are also expecting a few policy decisions on regulation, private universities and fee structure.

 Will there be any reforms in these areas?

 We have set up two committees. One on policy framework and curriculum and the other on regulation of private deemed universities, which would also look into the fee structure.

 Will there be any hike in fees in the state-run universities?

 We should not make any general statements. We know little about the prevalent fee structure. Apart from the government-run universities, there are private-aided institutions, private unaided and private deemed institutions running in India. Most of these institutions have selffinancing courses and in fact the truth is that these courses cover 50% to 60% of the students. So fee structure is not a very serious debate at the moment.

 There has been a lot of talk about inclusion during the planning of the 11th Plan. Although we have a 3% reservation for the disabled, but not many campuses are disabled-friendly?

We have set up a committee in which Mushirul Hasan, vice-chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, is a member to look into these issues.

   For the physically challenged, we have a grant of Rs 11 lakh for each university besides the 3% reservation. Yet, it is true that not many campuses are disabled-friendly. Primarily all the 16 schemes that we have on inclusion are voluntary; therefore, it is up to the university. However, we are now going to make it a part of the development grant, which is compulsory for every university.


Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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