The Narendra Modi-led union government has launched ‘Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan’ (RUSA) or National Higher Education Mission, for fostering higher education in the country. It is a centrally holistic scheme of development for higher education in India initiated in 2013 by the then UPA government, but formally launched by the current NDA government on April 1, 2015 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, led by Smriti Irani. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved this scheme worth Rs 1 lakh crore.
It will focus on state higher educational institutions. It will be a new flagship scheme of the government that will pave the way for far reaching reforms at the state level. Funding is provided by the central ministry through the state governments and union territories (UT), which in coordination with the central Project Appraisal Board will monitor the academic, administrative and financial advancements taken under the scheme. A total of 316 state public universities and 13,024 colleges will be covered under it.
Innovative educational policies in India have been a huge success. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), that was launched in 2001 for elementary education and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), launched in 2009 for secondary education produced great results in the educational developments. For higher education, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has a provision for routine innovation and development fundings. The UGC funds are quite adequate for centrally funded universities and colleges, which are recognised under sections 12B and 2(f) of the UGC Act.
From the state/UT budget, the funds are disbursed to individual institutions. The funding to states would be made on the basis of critical appraisal of state plans for higher education plans. The amount of funding from central government will be 65% of the total grants, and 35% will be contributed by the state/UT as matching share. For the north-eastern states, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand, the matching share has been waived to 10%.
During the first phase, 80 new universities would be created by converting autonomous colleges in a cluster to state universities. Around 100 new colleges would be set up and 54 existing colleges would be converted into model degree colleges. Infrastructure grants would be given to 150 universities and 3500 colleges will upgrade and fill critical gaps in infrastructure especially libraries, laboratories, auditoriums and so on. A further additional 5000 faculty positions would be supported.
RUSA aims to provide equal development to all higher institutions and rectify weaknesses in the higher education system. Its main target achievement is to raise the gross enrolment ratio to 32%, by the end of 2018. The major objectives to be attained are as follows:-
- To improve the overall quality of existing state institutions, by ensuring that all institutions conform to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
- To usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in state universities and improving governance in institutions.
- To ensure academic and examination reforms in the higher educational institutions.
- To enable conversion of some of the universities into research universities at par with the best in the world.
- To create opportunities for states to undertake reforms in the affiliation system, in order to ensure that the reforms and resource requirements of affiliated colleges are adequately met.
- To ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
- To create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions and to devote themselves to research and innovations.
- To expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
- To correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by facilitating access to high quality institutions in urban and semi-urban areas, creating opportunities for students from rural areas to get access to better quality institutions and setting up institutions in unserved and underserved areas.
- Finally, to improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes, promote inclusion of women, minorities and differently abled persons.