Why RUSA Might Fall Short on Hope

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Against the backdrop of nation’s optimism with Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) as a game-changer for its higher education sector, several state universities are skeptical about implementation of the guidelines in reality. Rozelle Laha of Elets News Network (ENN) finds out the views of the end beneficiaries of the scheme

The central government proposes to spend Rs 98,983 crore through RUSA over next eight years with the aim of strengthening the country’s higher education segment. Under RUSA, the funding will be released jointly by the central government and state government. State universities, the ultimate beneficiaries of RUSA are barely induced by the whole new funding mechanism. This prevailing communication gap between the implementers and the end users may lead to an undesired output from this overarching scheme.

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RUSA Glimpses

RUSA will be implemented over 12th and 13th Five Year Plan period

Private government-aided institutions on fulfillment of certain pre-requisites can avail funds under RUSA

RUSA to cover 316 State universities and 13, 024 colleges

54 existing colleges to be converted into model degree colleges 150 universities and 3,500 colleges to receive infrastructure grants under RUSA

RUSA will support 5,000 faculty positions

RUSA’s financial outlay during 2012-17 (12th Plan) is `22, 855 crore

Out of `22, 855 crore, `16, 227 crore is under the share of the central government

No role-play for institutes in framing RUSA

The RUSA Mission Authority in collaboration with a Project Advisory Group, Technical Support Group and Project Directorate will be responsible for implementing the scheme at a national level. At the state level, State Higher Education Councils (SHEC) will be functioning as an autonomous body to coordinate directly with the RUSA Mission Authority and plan, monitor and ensure execution of the scheme. A State Project Directorate and Technical Support Group will assist SHECs and a Project Monitoring Unit will oversee the advancement of the projects in the institutes.
In the overall scheme of things, it is evident that there is no direct involvement of institutes in the overall policy framing process. All decisions will be passed on to the Mission Authority via SHECs. As Prof Mohan Paul Singh Ishar, Vice Chancellor, University of Jammu said, “The State Higher Education Council is supposed to forward our request to the UGC. In case, they start pruning or and put checks in the requirements (before passing it on to UGC), it will not be good. It was much better to apply with UGC directly. Now, we are not sure if the correct information will be passed on to them.” On similar lines of apprehension, Dr S S Chahal, Vice Chancellor, Desh Bhagat University, Punjab also added, “Policy is formed first and then we come to know.”
Some say that approaching the state government for funds was comparatively tougher. As Prof K Lal Kishore, Vice Chancellor, JNTU Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh says, the state councils are better aware of the issues faced by the universities than the state government and secretaries.
Lack of awareness among direct beneficiaries too can be a spoiler in the implementation of this centrally sponsored scheme. As Dr Akshai Aggarwal, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Technological University pointed out, “All decision making in India is done by people who are not the direct beneficiaries. Those who travel by air and have never set their foot in a train decide policies about facilities to be given to railway travelers.”

“With nearly 96% of student enrolment in state universities of the country, it is indeed significantly important to fund them to ensure threshold quality is maintained”

A direct involvement of vice chancellors in the policy framing of funding mechanism could have played a crucial role in bringing to light the challenges faced by the fund starved universities. But, “It is often believed by Indians that policy issues are to be decided by the bureaucracy and the institutes have to implement that,” Dr Aggarwal said.
However, some are optimistic about RUSA. Success of RUSA is not only dependant on its own implementation but also the activities of other agencies linked to it. Accreditation from organisations like NAAC and NBA being prerequisites to apply for RUSA, it is essential for such quality assurance agencies to speed up approval process to ensure that RUSA is functional at the soonest, says Prof Lal Kishore says.
As we say, all is well that ends well, we can only hope that this policy too does not become another scheme on papers and demonstrate poor execution due to this existing communication gap. In words of Prof S K Singh, Vice Chancellor, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, Srinagar (Garhwal) said, “If the scheme is implemented with honesty, it can change the horizon of higher education of the country.”

State governments might thwart fund hope
As the ministry is singing paeans about RUSA’s ability to emerge as a game changer of the higher education sector, the universities show little confidence on release of funds in the state’s share.
Prof Narsimha Reddy, Vice Chancellor, M G University, Andhra Pradesh recalled upon state government’s failure to release its share of Rs 5 crore in the one time catch up fund. “It was decided that UGC and the state government will jointly provide Rs 10 crore to the new universities towards infrastructure development. Accordingly, the universities started to work on the budget of the proposed amount. But, though UGC released Rs 5 crore of their share, state government never did.”
RUSA initially plans to release some funds to the State governments to help universities become eligible for applying for funds. Following the accomplishment of the pre-requisites of commitments, the states will be funded based on achievements and outcomes. Performance will be gauged on the basis of access, equity and excellence. However, as rightly pointed out by Dr Chahal, “The details of evaluating these parameters have not been provided.”
Most universities are also seeing this process of applying for funds as an unnecessarily complicated process. “RUSA has complicated the funding process and the fear is that ultimately the funds might remain unutilised. Also, the process of applying for funds with UGC via the higher education council, will delay the process,” said Prof Ishar.
As per latest reports, the Central and State Governments respectively will fund universities in the ratio of 90:10 (North- Eastern States and Jammu & Kashmir), 75:25 (Other Special Category States like Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand) and 65:35 (Other States and UTs).
Most states at this point of time are faced with fund crunch. So, most vice chancellors have expressed their concerns over the probability of receiving the state’s share of funding.

Reshuffling might add to resource crunch
With the nation’s aim of improving the Gross Enrolment Ratio from 19 percent at present to 30 percent by 2020, RUSA would play a key role in establishment of new academic institutions in addition to quality enhancement of the existing ones.
As a big step towards quality improvement, RUSA guidelines limit the number of affiliated colleges per university. With such a move, a major reshuffling in the affiliation of colleges is to take place. Osmania and Pune like big universities with huge number of affiliated colleges are seeing it as a major issue.
As Prof S Satyanarayana, Vice Chancellor, Osmania University, Andhra Pradesh said, “Forming new universities is a big process in itself and then strengthening the constituents defining its constituent colleges is a different task. Faculty employment, non-teaching staff employment is also not easy. In this whole bifurcation task, the state universities and the existing universities might face lot of problems. There is a chance that revenue will go down.” Osmania University has 901 colleges and is the largest university in the country.
With nearly 96 percent of student enrolment in state universities of the country, it is indeed significantly important to fund them to ensure threshold quality is maintained. Keeping in view the same, RUSA is a much needed reform in the segment. However, as it is often told, any new policy face implementation glitches but since it is the first ever central funding initiative to institutes since independence, the policy can be a game changer despite all odds. With appropriate awareness of the same among beneficiaries and timely action by implementers, the scheme can help the nation for overall qualitative achievement of the targeted GER by 2020.

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