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Union Budget 2023: Here’s what the education sector expects from FM Nirmala Sitharaman

The Union budget 2023-2024 will be presented on 1 February by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. View some expectations for the education sector from the Union budget 2023-24.

Union Budget 2023: This is what the education sector expects from FM Nirmala Sitharaman

By India Today Web Desk: India’s education sector is on its way to greater heights post-pandemic, and a forward-looking budget is expected to future-proof it. That said, there is an urgent and undeniable need to upgrade the Indian education system at all levels, especially the higher education sector, which needs budgetary boosts.

All eyes are on the 2023-24 EU budget and for a sector that has been chronically underfunded in recent years, an encouraging boost is expected to get India’s education system back on its feet and prepare for the coming changes in several sectors. In 2022-2023, the budget allocation for the education sector was only 2.6 percent of the total funding, with Rs 40828.35 crore earmarked for higher education, while a fund of Rs 63449.37 was allocated for school education.

Amid this significant funding gap, India is expected to spend at least 3-3.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education this year, if not the targeted 6 percent.

The government plans to increase the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) in higher education to 50 percent by 2035 by reaching an additional 34 million higher education students. However, the institutions fueling this growth are mainly private institutions, but the support they receive is minimal. Most of the 3.5 crore seats expected to be added in higher education will undeniably come from the private sector.

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A budgetary complement to physical infrastructure expansion, faculty development, research and innovation, and technology-enhanced learning will help tap into the vast supply in the higher education market that is currently eyeing foreign universities for the need to acquire world-class education.

Last year alone, 11 lakh Indian students traveled abroad for higher education. That is about an expense of Rs 2.4 lakh crores. In 2024, it is expected to reach Rs 6.4 lakh crore. According to the India Skill Gap report, $17 billion in potential income is lost due to students going abroad to study.

With the wave of digitization sweeping industries, institutions need a robust technology infrastructure and skilled human resource teams that understand how to handle these rapid technological changes.

Quality intellectual capital, such as academic databases, journals and books, is a huge investment. By investing in these nationally and making them centrally available to institutions, you can transform the education ecosystem and make international learning resources accessible.

India’s current National Education Policy (NEP) recognizes the role of education in the country’s economic growth. It is a progressive and visionary policy for building a sustainable higher education ecosystem in India.

Still, the Institutes of Eminence’s policy is somewhat discriminatory regarding funding between public and private institutions. If cheap funds are made available to both public and private institutions that strive for excellence, they will grow faster and be able to match international universities.

OPEN IN THE FIELD OF INVESTMENT POLICY

“There are specific policies that can also hinder Indian educational institutions from functioning optimally. Under the law, educational institutions are not public entities and cannot operate solely for profit. They are not allowed to have large surpluses as they are not intended to generate profit for shareholders or owners,” said Bharat Mathukumilli, president of GITAM (Deemed to be University) and founder of the Kautilya School of Public Policy.

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“On the other hand, many higher education institutions in the US, such as Ivy League universities and major state universities, have invested large endowments in various markets, including public markets. These endowments can be worth billions of dollars and are often used to fund scholarships, research and other educational programs,” added Bharat Mathukumilli.

This is the kind of freedom that Indian institutions do not enjoy. The government’s interpretation of financial policies will greatly help institutions to invest and build surpluses that they can use to improve education.

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