Insights into Editorial: A game-changer for higher education
In the Union Budget for the financial year 2018-19, Education sector has witnessed an increase of almost 4% in terms of funds allocation.
The Union Cabinet has taken a decision recently to give due importance to the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a centrally sponsored scheme launched in 2013 to provide strategic funding to eligible State higher educational institutions.
What is the reason behind launching RUSA?
These schemes produced great results in the educational developments.
For higher education, University Grants Commission (UGC) has provided funds which are quite adequate for centrally funded universities and colleges.
However, India is estimated to have over 800 universities (over 40,000 colleges are affiliated to them). About 94% of students of higher education study in 369 State universities.
Today about 150 Centrally-funded institutions (less than 6% of students study in them) — get almost the entire funding by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
Thus, a larger number of higher institutes run by state governments, which are limited in their own management, are not provided with sufficient financial support to enhance their facilities for educational reforms.
The University Grant Commission’s system of direct releases to State institutions which bypasses State governments also leads to their sense of alienation.
It was to address these critical concerns that the MHRD launched RUSA.
The reforms initiated under the RUSA push for greater accountability and autonomy of state institutions.
What is RUSA?
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
The central funding is in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, 90:10 for special category states and 100% for union territories.
Funding under RUSA is provided by the central Ministry of Human Resource Development directly to the state and UT governments. From the state/UT budget the funds are disbursed to individual institutions.
State higher education councils (SHEC) will have to undertake planning and evaluation,
The scheme is largely based on the conditional release of funds linked to reforms in the key areas of governance, learning-teaching outcomes, reaching out to the unreached and infrastructure support.
What are the objectives?
Unlike other schemes, under RUSA, States and institutions have to give an undertaking expressing their willingness to the idea of reform and agreeing to meet the States’ share of the cost.
RUSA is a process-driven scheme. Its design and conceptualisation were finalised through extensive consultations with all key stakeholders, especially State governments.
All States except a Union Territory (Lakshadweep) are a part of RUSA now.
Objectives of RUSA are to;
- Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed standards.
- Bring in transformative reforms in the state higher education system by facilitating planning and monitoring at the state level
- Promote autonomy in State Universities and to improve governance in institutions.
- Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
- Reduction in the number of colleges affiliated per university by creating cluster universities and promoting autonomous colleges.
- Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions
- Create an enabling atmosphere to research and innovations.
- Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education
- capacity-building of faculty and selecting teachers in a transparent manner
- Involving academics of repute and distinction in decision-making processes.
What kind of evaluation system is in place for funding under RUSA?
RUSA began with a modest allocation of ₹500 crore, but over time has seen its resource allocation being increased. For the current year, ₹1,300 crore has been provided.
This funding is conditional to performance. So it is critical to have a robust monitoring and evaluation system in place.
In this regard, geo-tagging, introduction of a public financial management system, a fund tracker and reform tracker system and regular video conferences have proved effective tools, since 2015.
Governance reform is central to the scheme. In order to avoid arbitrariness, a State has to also give its commitment to creating a search-cum-select committee in the selection of vice-chancellors.
An important precondition is the filling up of faculty positions.
What is the visible change after RUSA was introduced?
An independent performance review of the scheme was done by IIT Bombay in 2017. It concluded that the funding linked to reforms has had a visible impact on higher education.
When RUSA began, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 19.4%, faculty vacancies were at a shockingly high level of 60%, and a large number of universities were suffered with a teacher-student ratio of 1:24.
Today, the GER is 25.2%, faculty vacancies are down to 35% and the teacher-student ratio is now 1:20.
Several universities in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been right-sized and critical governance reforms.
Merit-based appointments of vice-chancellors in Odisha, Goa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu are visible.
There has been an improvement in the number of institutions accredited and their scores.
RUSA can prove be a real game changer for higher education in the country.
With the assistance under RUSA Scheme there is an increase in the Gross Enrolment Ratio [G.E.R.], quality, access and equity in higher education.
It has reprioritised the country’s needs from funding just a few premier institutions to reaching out to institutions at the bottom of the pyramid.
It has also changed the way regulators need to function.
However its litmus test will be in how impartially the scheme is administered by the MHRD and the degree to which State governments allow the SHEC to function.