Budget proposes reforms in UGC; greater autonomy for top institutions

Presenting the General Budget 2017-18 in Parliament on Wedneday, finance minister Arun jaitley proposed major reforms in the education sector, including a revamp of the University Grants Commission(UGC), the top policy making body in higher education.

Besides, the budget proposes to give greater administrative and academic autonomy to good quality institutions.

The finance minister said that the colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status. A revised framework will be put in place for outcome based accreditation and credit based programmes. 

Jaitley said the government proposed to establish a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions. This would free CBSE, AICTE and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more on academics.

Besides, Jaitley said, the government proposes to extend the number of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras from current 60 to cover more than 600 districts across the country. He said 100 India International Skills Centres will be established across the country.

These centres would offer advanced training and also courses in foreign languages. This will help those who seek job opportunities outside the country.

The finance minister also announced plans to launch a programme, SANKALP (Skill Acquistion and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion Programme), at a cost of Rs4,000 crore during the 2017-18 fiscal. SANKALP will provide market relevant training to 35 million youth.

Jaitley said the government proposes to launch the next phase of Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) programme in the next financial year 2017-18, at a cost of Rs2,200 crore.

The finance minister said STRIVE will focus on improving the quality and market relevance of vocational training provided in it is and strengthen the apprenticeship programmes through industry cluster approach

The finance minister also proposed that a special scheme for creating employment in leather and footwear industries will also be implemented. This will be on the line of already launched a special scheme for creating employment in the textile sector.

Jaitley also proposed to set up five Special Tourism Zones, anchored on SPVs in partnership with the states. The finance minister said this is because tourism is a big employment generator and has a multiplier impact on the economy. The minister also announced the launching of Incredible India 2.0 campaign across the world.