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Engineering regression : Editorial

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The Financial Express | December 28, 2015 |  Fe-columnist |

Fee caps for technical education a poor move…

For a country that needs to bridge significant gaps in higher education, a move to cap fees in unaided private-sector technical institutes is ill-advised. By 2020, the government hopes to increase gross enrolment ratio from 18% to 30%, which will mean providing 40 million university seats, an increase of 14 million from the 2014 levels. But this can’t be realised if critical private sector participation wanes. The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) has accepted the recommendations of a 10-member panel headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna on fixing ranges for maximum fees that can be charged by a private institute for various technical disciplines, including engineering and MBA. So, even as India’s tertiary-age population is set to become the largest in the world in the next four years, the private sector will find it difficult to carry on functioning. Even though the government has significantly increased public spending on higher education, including technical education, it is nowhere near enough to bridge the supply gap—the private sector accounted for a whopping 59% of tertiary level enrolments in 2011-12.

The severe shortage has led to a situation where, while 1 in every 10 applicants in the US gets into the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the IIMs are only able to take in 1 out of every 150 applicants, Price WaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reports. Ironically, while AICTE wants to put caps, about 450,000 Indian students spend over $13 billion to get educated abroad—while AICTE finds the Xavier Labour Research Institute’s (XLRI) R9 lakh per annum for a post-graduate management degree too dear, students think nothing of paying several times that much in the US. If XLRI were forced to charge just R1.71 lakh per annum (the maximum that AICTE wants to allow), how is it going to survive or maintain quality standards? In such a scenario, the government would have to either subsidise private institutes or give scholarship support to all students, adding to its higher education outgo in both cases. Moreover, such a move impairs the chances of foreign universities—after the relevant Bill is passed—being interested in setting up campuses here. It would be really unfortunate if, just when India needs more quality institutes of learning, populist government policy prevents them from coming up—in the long-run, the biggest sufferers will be the very same students in whose name this charade is being conducted. –  Courtesy


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