Undoubtedly higher education is one of the fastest growing sectors, not only in India, but in several other nations. However, alongside this there are a plethora of concerns, such as the poor status of the State higher education system, inadequate financing, ineffective planning at the State level and lack of autonomy, etc.
To overcome a few of these issues and challenges, particularly in India, the government has proposed certain notifications, policies, and various regulatory developments like the policy for entry of Foreign Universities, the policy regarding academic collaborations in higher education, regulations regarding AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education) powers over technical education, Dissolution of Distance Education Council, CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility), and most importantly the newly launched Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, or what is generally called RUSA. RUSA is a centrally sponsored scheme by the government of India for the Universalisation of Higher Education and it can be understood in English as the National Higher Education Scheme.
Milestones Achieved & Future Prospects
Innovative educational policies and missions adopted by the Government of India have been a huge success. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) basically a flagship programme launched by the government of India for the Universalisation of Elementary Education in 2001 and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), a flagship programme launched by the government of India for the Universalisation of Secondary Education in 2009 produced satisfactory results in educational development.
In the sphere of higher education at present the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is 19%, and that needs to be rise to the international standard of 30%. Additionally, gender disparity needs to be reduced, issues and concerns related to the funding of higher education need to be streamlined and at the same time sincere efforts need to be employed to list some of the Indian Universities in world’s best universities. Recognizing this requirement, as well as the basic fact that institutions of higher learning have to perform multiple roles like creating new knowledge, acquiring new capabilities and producing an intelligent human resource pool for which the Indian higher education system has to brace itself to address the global challenges by channelizing teaching, research and extension activities, and maintain the right balance between the need and the demand.
To efficiently meet all these requirements, the government of India launched Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) in 2013 as a comprehensive CSS (Centrally Sponsored Scheme) for higher Education. The scheme aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational Institution. The central funding (in the ratio of 65:35 for general category States and 90:10 for special category states) would be norm based and outcome dependent. The funding would flow from the central ministry through the State Governments/ Union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions. The funding to states would be made on the basis of critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans, which would describe each state’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education.
Thus, RUSA aims to improve access, equity and quality in higher education through planned development of higher education at the state level. Through RUSA, it is proposed to improve the GER from 19% at present to 32% by 2022, while incentivizing states to increase Plan investments in higher education.
The salient Objectives of RUSA
According to the Annual Status of Higher Education (ASHE) (2013), “RUSA will introduce a significant shift in the approach towards development of higher education in India, with the emphasis on reforming state higher education systems. Some of the key provisions of RUSA which seek to address the issues under the current higher education system are scope, funding mechanism, planning, equity, access, academics and examination, faculty recruitment, research and innovation, accreditation, administration and governance, and infrastructure.
To address these issues RUSA ensures that the state higher education system conforms to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework, thereby bringing an overall improvement of quality in state Institutions. To usher in transformative reforms in the state higher education system it aims to create and facilitate institutional structure for planning and monitoring and promoting autonomy and improving governance in institutions in State universities. To achieve the target of enrollment and correcting regional imbalances in access it aims to establish new institutions in un-served and underserved areas by providing adequate opportunities to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs) and socially and educationally backward classes and promoting inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons. Thus RUSA aims to create new universities through up gradation of existing autonomous colleges and conversion of colleges in a cluster.
Creating new model degree and new professional colleges and provide support for recruitment, infrastructure, faculty improvements programmes and leadership development of educational administrators. In order to enhance skill development the existing central scheme of Polytechnics has been subsumed within RUSA. A separate component to synergise vocational education with higher education has also been included in RUSA. Besides these, RUSA also supports reforming, restructuring and building capacity of institutions in participating state.
It is highly expected that RUSA will bring a new and fresh look to Indian Higher Education by ensuring proper and timely funding. With timely and proper efforts, RUSA may achieve its target of increased enrollment and may achieve access, equity and quality in Higher Education in India. Instead of unplanned expansion which is an important issue to be solved, there will be a focus on consolidating and developing the existing system adding capacities as greater emphasis is laid on the improvement of the quality of teaching-learning processes, on research and innovations. RUSA could become a turning point for the Indian higher education system as it seeks to achieve higher enrollment rates and address access, equity and quality related concerns. However, the success of the scheme will depend on whether it can be managed and executed effectively.
Thus, the demand for higher education and the magnitude of planned reforms over the next ten years in India will provide the largest opportunity in the world for international higher education institutions and education businesses as the Indian higher education system is facing an unprecedented transformation driven by economic and demographic change. India will have the largest tertiary enrollment in the world and will be a key source of intellectual capital the world universities will need to tap India’s talent pipeline to engage with the best researchers in the world.