Higher education, pro-rich phenomenon in India, says report

Monday, 29 May 2006

Panel finds participation of SCs/STs “abysmally low”

# Universities should step up efforts to supplement funds from the Government
# Fee hike should be considered only if it is “unavoidable”

NEW DELHI: At a time when higher education has come into sharp focus in the wake of the controversy over reservation, a Parliamentary Standing Committee has found higher education a “pro-rich and urban phenomenon.” And, the participation of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in higher education is “abysmally low,” compared to their percentage in the population.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development said the enrolment of the SCs in higher education ranged from 8.6 per cent in 1990-91 to 11.3 per cent in 2002-03 while that of the STs was from 2.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

With access to higher education being cause for concern, the committee, in its report tabled in Parliament earlier this week, said universities should step up efforts to supplement funds from the Government, generating their own resources. One of the measures explored by the committee was fee hike. But after examination, members said it should be considered only if it was “unavoidable,” that, too, after examining other options and the social and economic implications of an increase in fees.

However, in view of the shrinking budget for higher education, the committee favoured a differential fee structure to suit the paying capacity of every student. Though “fully aware” of the implications of a fee hike, it said it was not “prudent to charge the same fees from all students irrespective of their socio-economic status.”

The report, however, comes with a dissenting note from member Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). She is opposed to a fee hike “in the name of cost recovery” since it will further limit access.

On the “imbalance” in the urban and rural scenario, the members said: “Most of the colleges and universities are located in urban or semi-urban areas. Whatever colleges are in rural areas, the less said the better about their quality and output. While only 16 out of every 1,000 are college graduates in rural areas, 111 out of every 1,000 belong to this category in urban areas.”
Faculty crunch in varsities

New Delhi, May 27, 2006 (Agencies):
The Centre is looking at raising the number of seats to absorb the impact of increased quotas, but a parliamentary committee has said there is a serious shortage of faculty in central universities.

In the 16 such universities, there were 1,988 vacancies as on March last year, with Banaras Hindu University and Delhi University having as many as 687 and 396 vacancies, respectively, the parliamentary standing committee on human resource development said in its report.

The “situation is also far from satisfactory in JNU, Visva-Bharati and Mizoram University”, it said, noting that out of the 1,988 vacant posts, 1,056 were of the lecturer category.

Expressing surprise over such a large number of lecturers’ posts lying vacant, the committee feared that the situation might be worse in state universities.

To attract and retain qualified and motivated teachers, the committee felt, there was a need to supplement their salaries with an attractive package of perquisites as well as support academic activities and recognise outstanding achievement.

“Our higher education system is faced with many challenges today. The pressure on it is going to increase further due to a large number of additional students expected to join higher education institutions in the coming years, particularly due to an upward pull generated by popular interventions like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the mid-day meal scheme,” the committee said.

The panel also noted the “tremendous imbalance” in access to higher education between urban and rural areas, and said higher education in the country was largely a “pro-rich and urban phenomenon”.

It said the University Grants Commission had introduced the scheme of establishing SC/ST cells in universities in 1983 to provide information regarding facilities available for them in educational institutions.

But these attempts have not helped much, it said, adding that enrolment of Scheduled Caste students in higher education has ranged between 8.6 per cent in 1990-91 and 11.3 per cent in 2002-03, and between 2.1 per cent in 1990-91 and 3.6 per cent in 2003-04 for Scheduled Tribes.

The panel recommended special programmes to encourage students from backward and minority communities as their participation in higher education was “abysmally low”.

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