Students at self-financing universities and colleges may soon be eligible for a slew of prestigious University Grants Commission (UGC) fellowships and scholarships at present open only to students from institutions receiving government grants.
The UGC has proposed allowing students from self-financing institutions including private universities benefits like the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and the Post Graduate Merit Scholarship, top government officials have told HT.
The Indira Gandhi Scholarship for girls, the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students, and postdoctoral fellowships for SC/ST candidates are other UGC schemes proposed to be opened up.
The proposal is likely to be accepted by the human resource development (HRD) ministry, the officials said. "We are in principle okay with this proposal. The more the number of beneficiary students, the better," a senior official said.
The HRD ministry had earlier shot down a proposal from the UGC to provide grants to private and self-financing institutions, the official said. The ministry had argued that the UGC should concentrate on funding government institutions apart from selective grants to private institutions for specific purposes.
The UGC then revised its proposal to keep out direct grants to these institutions and instead target students. Under its proposal, the UGC will reimburse private and self-financing institutions the amount of the fellowships and scholarships that are awarded to their students.
Though the HRD ministry does not have exact data, estimates suggest that tens of thousands of students today study in private and self-financing institutions. The government does not want to keep them outside the net of UGC benefits, sources said.
The move to expand the reach of UGC scholarships and fellowships to students of private and self-financing institutions also comes at a time when the private sector is being wooed by the government to invest in higher education.
Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and HRD minister Kapil Sibal have on more than one occasion argued that the private sector in India needs to substantially enhance its investment in education for nthe country to meet its targets in the sector.
Sibal has set a target of achieving a 30 per cent enrolment rate in higher education by 2020 – India's current enrolment rate is only 12.4 per cent.
Achieving the target will mean more than doubling the number of higher education seats available today, a task the government argues it cannot perform on its own.