Features Friday, July 18, 2014 - 05:30
Nihar Ranjan| The News Minute| July 15, 2015| 06:15 pm IST Riding high on hope, NDA government has come up with an unparalleled majority. It has started getting its act together and has started announcing its manifesto promises as policies going forward. One announcement which has stirred up a hornet’s nest is starting more government run IITs and IIMs across India, one in each state. It has generated much online debate. There are sympathizers and criticizers of the idea. There is not much new in idea itself as it is continuation of UPA policy with more urgency. There is no denying that higher education in professional courses requires more capacity creation. On the other hand, it is also true that government doesn’t have enough resources in terms of capital, quality faculty etc. to start new IIT and IIM institutions without compromising on quality of education imparted. It is a well-known fact that there is 40% faculty post lying vacant in existing IITs due to lack of quality faculties. The more remote the location is, the challenge in hiring good faculty gets exponentially increased. Is there a way out to find a policy solution to this conundrum? As per our media reports, setting up an IIT costs Rs. 1,750 Crore and an IIM and central university need 1,000 crore each. This excludes the cost of land state governments have to acquire and hand over to the central government free. In last budget, government had provided 2,220 crore to IITs double the allocation which they received in 2012-2013. IIMs had received Rs. 331 crore, triple the amount received in 2012-2013. Considering these numbers opening new IITs and IIMs cannot happen either without compromise on quality or a major fund diversion from primary and secondary education. Our primary and secondary education infra is crumbling. It has reached in ICU and demands immediate attention. We can’t afford any slack on that count as that is most relevant for a major portion of population which constitutes middle and bottom of pyramid. The alternative way out is to turn professional higher education institutions from cost centers to profit centers. It can happen only if government decides to stay away from building new institutes on its own. It should invite private participation. What India needs is not more IITs and IIMs but more ISBs. Government can go one step ahead and start exploring PPP opportunities. It should provide its contribution in terms of land and brand (IIT, IIM) to private partners. New IITs and IIMs might get created but not at the cost of exchequer. Government can generate royalty out of this arrangement. Obviously, it needs to ensure check and balances before going for brand extension. The royalty amount coming out of this arrangement can be used to kick start many research led institutes like Indian Institute of Science unlike teaching led institutes IIT and IIM. Professional Higher education should get support from government only in terms of cheap educational loan. Government should start spending more on primary and secondary education. It should start teacher training courses and also offer better pay to existing school and university staffs. Professional higher education should be left to be taken care of by market forces. It is bottom and middle of pyramid which requires more attention. Top of pyramid is immensely profitable. Private players will lap up this opportunity. Government can also generate fund from this privatization of professional higher education by being a land or brand partner. Government can ensure economically poor classes also get opportunity to pursue higher education via providing easier access to education loan. India need IITs, IIMs and equivalent institutions but not necessarily started by government. Government has limited resources, and it is more appropriate that its limited resource get used to solve basic school infrastructure as that level of education has impact on larger set of population. Nihar Ranjan currently works as an investing professional. An engineer by education, he interested in public policy, history and economics. (Views are personal)

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