What India’s Budget 2019 means for Higher Education?

By Tara Panjwani

The Union Budget presented last week saw mixed responses from the Indian education community. In her Budget speech, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, highlighted three key measures in particular: a new National Education Policy, the establishment of a National Research Foundation, and the Study in India programme. 

The New National Education Policy has been in development for over four years now. It was therefore promising to hear the Government’s initiative to announce it in the near future, bringing in better governance, access, and quality of education, as advocated in the UK India Business Council’s dedicated report, ‘Beyond the Top 200’.

In addition, the proposition to launch ‘Study in India’ and attract overseas students will be a catalyst to improve the Indian education experience and offer new opportunities to educators and the e-learning sector.

The proposal to establish the National Research Foundation to fund and improve the quality of research across all levels of private and public educational institutes is a significant boost towards building India’s technical competence and creating the right ecosystem for R&D in the country.

The allotment of INR 400 crore for “World Class Institutions” is a step in the right direction in building a robust education system. It is worth considering that this will provide huge benefits to a select few established universities and business schools. This has the risk of neglecting other lesser known, although high quality, institutions.

The Government’s focus on encouraging skill development and training in various tech-centric areas including Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics, etc. is an extremely welcome step. We would have liked to see this being complimented by a greater emphasis on soft skills important for long-term employability such as leadership, presentation, networking and communication skills as well.

The budget omitted to mention the fact that FDI in the education sector is extremely low (0.5% based on 2000 to 2018 data) which is due to policy restrictions and regulatory hurdles. These should be addressed as a priority to encourage more foreign investment and international collaboration in order that Indian students have access to the best education the world has to offer.

This is the case we make in our dedicated report, ‘Beyond the Top 200’, which highlights how greater international collaboration based on the needs of India’s higher education institutions, instead of rankings, can fast-track the significant expansion of India’s higher education whilst improving excellence, equal access, and employability. Indeed, as the draft New Education Policy recognises, Mutual Recognition Acts will be an important means to achieving this.

Taken together, the New Education Policy and the Budget are steps in the right direction. All parties are excited to rise to the challenge and the UKIBC will continue to engage with the Government to follow up on our recent submission to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to help India build an education system to match its economic ambitions.

If you would like to find out more about the UK India Business Council’s work supporting higher education institutions between the UK and India, please get in touch with our Higher Education Sector Manager, Tara Panjwani, at tara.panjwani@ukibc.com

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