Budget 2024-25 Sees UGC Allocation Halved, Gains For Central Varsities

Budget 2024-25 Sees UGC Allocation Halved, Gains For Central Varsities

The expenditure on UGC is pegged at Rs 2,500 crore, a far cry from Rs 5,360 crore earmarked for the agency in 2023-24 (BE; budget estimate) and Rs5,092 crore it spent in 2022-23.

Musab QaziUpdated: Friday, February 02, 2024, 11:12 AM IST
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Budget 2024-25 Sees UGC Allocation Halved, Gains For Central Varsities | Twitter | ANI

The Centre has halved the allocation to the University Grants Commission (UGC), the country’s top regulatory and funding body for colleges and universities.

The expenditure on UGC is pegged at Rs 2,500 crore, a far cry from Rs 5,360 crore earmarked for the agency in 2023-24 (BE; budget estimate) and Rs5,092 crore it spent in 2022-23. The budget cut stands in contrast to an almost 8% increase in the overall planned expenditure on the higher education department from Rs44,095 crore in 2023-24 (BE) to Rs47,620 crore this year, though the department’s outlay shows a significant drop of 16.81% when compared with the revised estimate of Rs57,244 crore.

UGC's slow merge with other apex higher education authorities

The staggering dip comes in the backdrop of the government seeking to merge UGC with other apex higher education authorities, such as the National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) under the umbrella of a single body – the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The funding for the UGC is the lowest in four years.

In his statement on the budget, UGC chairman Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar didn’t address the unprecedented slashing of UGC funds. He, however, said that the financing of higher education in the country is being “realigned” through the creation of the National Research Foundation (NRF) last year.

Financing higher education “realigned” through creation of NRF

“Recognising the importance of dedicated research funding, the NRF will now receive an average of Rs10,000 crore annually, ensuring robust support for research endeavours in the university system. In this context, a realignment of the financing within the higher education ecosystem is taking place, with resources strategically distributed across various schemes based on specific needs and goals,” he said.

The government this year has allocated Rs2,000 crore for NRF, which is the same as the allocation in 2023-24 (BE), even as the revised estimates peg the expenditure on the agency at a mere Rs258.6 crore.

The biggest beneficiaries of the hike in higher education budget are the central universities, with a 38.16% jump in their grants amounting to Rs4,399 crore. Other premier institutes including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and the Indian Institutes of Science (IISC) also saw their funding increase from 5% to 13%. The Centre’s ambitious scheme to create 20 world-class institutions received Rs1,800 crore, an increase from the last fiscal’s Rs1,500 crore outlay.

Govt slashes budget for IIMs

However, the government continued to slash the support for the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), as it pushes them to be more financially self-reliant. After cutting down the IIMs’ funding by half last year from Rs600 crore (2022-23 RE) to Rs300 crore, it further shrunk it by 29.26% to Rs212.21 crore. The drop comes after the Parliament last year passed the IIM Amendment Bill, giving the government more say in the administrative affairs of the institutes.

Debashis Chatterjee, Director of IIM Kozhikode, said that the government can’t expect IIMs to generate more revenue while also curtailing their autonomy. "We are expected to be more entrepreneurial, but we can’t do that with the increased government regulation. IIMs will have to be more creative in raising funds, as they can't raise the fees beyond a point," he said.

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