Empowering Higher Education: Pre-Budget 2024 Expectations
As the nation eagerly anticipates the unveiling of the 2024 budget, the spotlight is inevitably cast on the realm of higher education—a sector that serves as the bedrock for a nation’s intellectual capital and progress. The expectations are not mere fiscal projections; they represent the collective aspirations of institutions striving for excellence and students aspiring for a brighter future.
In 1964-66, the Education Commission envisioned allocating 6% of India’s GDP to education. However, this ambitious target remains unmet, with the current allocation hovering around 2.8% to 2.9% of the GDP since 2015. A closer look reveals that despite increased allocations, challenges persist, particularly in the realm of higher education. The Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports highlighted the inadequacy of student financial aid schemes, particularly in covering the soaring cost of higher education. This forms the backdrop against which the pre-budget expectations for 2024 take shape.
The Funding Conundrum
A significant proportion of higher education funding is directed towards central universities, IITs, NITs, IISERs, IIMs, and affiliated institutions. While these institutions play a crucial role, the pre-budget expectations emphasize the need to address the financial plight of self-funded autonomous institutions approved by AICTE and offering PGDM degrees. These institutions heavily rely on student fees, often making quality education financially burdensome for the middle-class student. The proposal advocates for a specific fund earmarked for such institutions to enhance research, consultancy, training, accreditation, and overall academic activities.
Earmarking Special Funds:
Often overlooked in the budgetary allocations, self-funded autonomous institutions are seeking special funds dedicated to their unique needs. This strategic allocation would facilitate the enhancement of research capabilities, training programs, and infrastructural upgrades, contributing significantly to the nation’s academic growth.
Pension Fund for Faculty:
Recognizing the pivotal role of faculty members, the proposal suggests the creation of a pension fund specifically for educators in self-funded autonomous institutions. This measure aims to incentivize better recruitment and retention of high-quality teaching talent, fostering a stable academic environment.
Tax Slab Re-examination:
Acknowledging the financial challenges faced by faculty members, especially in self-funded autonomous institutions, the pre-budget expectations call for a re-examination of tax slabs. This initiative aims to stimulate savings and investment growth within the sector, promoting financial well-being for educators.
Faculty Development Initiatives:
To ensure students receive education enriched with updated knowledge, the proposal advocates for sponsored advanced and contemporary courses for faculty members within and outside the country. This initiative aligns with the broader goal of nurturing a faculty that can effectively impart cutting-edge insights to students.
The Role of Institutions in Nation-Building:
Institutions like these are not just educational entities; they are the backbone of the Indian economy. Students emerging from such institutions become the driving force behind the nation’s growth and development. As the architects of the future, they contribute substantially to the economy, embodying the essence of nation-building.
The Impact of Grants:
Financial support through grants can transform the educational landscape. It enables institutions to provide state-of-the-art facilities, enhance research capabilities, and offer grants and training opportunities for faculty members. This infusion of funds contributes to excellence in teaching and learning, preparing students for the dynamic challenges of the corporate sector.
Beyond the Classroom
Grants open avenues for international exposure, internships, and community-focused initiatives. Through programs like “Campus to Community,” students can actively engage with societal issues, providing solutions and bridging the gap between academia and real-world challenges.
As the budgetary discussions unfold, the pre-budget expectations for higher education underscore the need for strategic financial allocations. Beyond monetary considerations, the proposals champion a holistic approach—nurturing institutions, supporting faculty, and empowering students to become catalysts for societal change. The ripple effects of such targeted investments will not only bolster the academic sector but contribute significantly to the nation’s growth and development. As the nation looks towards the future, a robust higher education system emerges as a linchpin for progress and prosperity.
Dr Madhumita Chatterji, Director, ABBS School of Management for publishing