Interim budget: Centre slashes allocation for education, UGC funding cut by 61% | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Interim budget: Centre slashes allocation for education, UGC funding cut by 61%

By, New Delhi
Feb 02, 2024 06:46 AM IST

The interim budget for education in India has been reduced by 7%, with the allocation for the UGC slashed by 61%

The interim budget presented on Thursday set aside 1.2 lakh crore for education, a roughly 7% decrease compared to the revised estimate number for 2023-24, even as the allocation for the University Grants Commission (UGC) was slashed by 61%, the largest ever cut in at least five years.

The interim budget presented on Thursday set aside <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1.2 lakh crore for education. (HT Archive)
The interim budget presented on Thursday set aside 1.2 lakh crore for education. (HT Archive)

According to the budget document, of the total outlay, the Union government has set aside 73,008.10 crore for schools, a marginal 0.73% increase from the revised estimate for 2023-24, while higher education was earmarked 47,619.77 crore, down by a sharp 9,600 crore (16.8%).

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However, the Union ministry of education claimed that the school education budget has increased by 19.5% as the overall revised estimate was different from what is mentioned in the budget document released by the finance ministry.

“The revised estimates mentioned in the budget document have been added to it. However, it should be calculated without it,” said a senior ministry official.

No changes were made in the budget document by the time this report was filed.

During her budget address, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s aim to transform education using the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and said the focus is on empowering the “Amrit Peedhi” (the generation that will grow during Amrit Kaal, or the 25 years leading to 2047).

“Our prosperity depends on adequately equipping and empowering the youth. The National Education Policy 2020 is ushering in transformational reforms. PM Schools for Rising India (PM-SHRI) are delivering quality teaching, and nurturing holistic and well-rounded individuals,” she said, during a relatively short 58-minute speech.

However, funding for UGC was pared down significantly. The allocation was cut from a revised estimate of 6,409 crore in 2023-24 to 2,500 crore in 2024-25.

Experts raised concerns over decrease in UGC budget. Rajesh Jha, an assistant professor at Delhi University said, “The drastic cut in UGC fund has deleted G (Grants) and reduced it to merely a regulatory agency. This will further encourage universities to start more self financing courses which will be an additional burden on students. It will also make universities more dependent on loans from Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).”

Abha Dev Habib, associate professor of mathematics, at Delhi University’s Miranda House college, said, “The cut has come at a time when the universities are going to implement four year courses and will need additional funds to accommodate more students at a time. How will the universities manage? The government should consider this,” she said.

UGC chairperson M Jagadesh Kumar in a statement said that that the commission remains committed to its core mandate of supporting quality higher education.

“It will continue to work in synergy with all stakeholders to ensure the efficient use of allocated funds. We are confident that the strategic distribution of resources and NEP 2020 transformative vision will build a learner-centric higher education system in India,” he said.

On the other hand, the budget estimate grants for central universities shot up 28% to 15,928 crore from the revised estimate of 12,394 crore last year. The budget estimate in last fiscal year’s document was 11,528 crore.

The revised estimate for central universities during the 2023-24 fiscal year went up to 12,394 crore.

Support to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) reduced by 59.7 crore when compared to the revised estimate, even as for the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, it increased by 220 crore.

However, the budget for Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) were trimmed for the second year in a row. The allocation for the premier business schools have now dropped from 608.23 crore in 2022-23, to 300 crore in 2023-24 and now to 212.21 crore in 2024-25.

Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan called the budget a stepping stone towards a “Viksit Bharat” (developed India).

“The biggest announcement of this budget is the “Jai Anusandhan” scheme, for which 1 lakh crore has been announced as a corpus fund in today’s budget…. To sum up, this budget is well-balanced between welfare and wealth creation,” he said.

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