PM Manmohan Singh had announced the plan to set up model colleges in each district with a gross enrolment ratio in higher education below the national average, while addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in 2007. The plan is a key component of the PM's higher education vision and is a part of the UPA's plan to improve access to quality higher education to students across India.
Earlier this year, the programme was officially rolled and the HRD ministry set a target of sanctioning at least 110 colleges during the current year.
But valid proposals for only 34 colleges – less than a third of 110 – have been received by the University Grants Commission so far, setting off a flurry of parleys between the HRD ministry and other stakeholders. Only Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep have submitted proposals for the colleges, which are meant to serve as exemplars for other neighbouring colleges to emulate.
“This could become a major source of embarrassment because the PM had announced the scheme,” a senior official conceded.
The ministry has communicated with the minorities’ ministry to help facilitate the setting up of colleges in minority dominated backward districts. The HRD ministry is also writing to the Development of North Eastern Region ministry to similarly help set up colleges in the north east. The HRD ministry is also writing to the railway ministry seeking land to set up the colleges.