Plan panel asks PSUs to set up education hubs under CSR

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village boy with indian flagNEW DELHI: In a move to boost higher education in the country, the Planning Commission has mooted the idea of public sector units (PSUs) setting up higher education hubs as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The move will help the government in achieving its target of increasing the gross enrollment ratio (GER) to 20% by 2017 and 25% by 2022.

“We are exploring the idea and PSUs are keen to support such activities of the government. They are on board as they recognise that investing in higher education is not only CSR but also for their future,” said a Planning Commission official. PSUs spend almost Rs 1,400 crore as part of their CSR.

As per the commission, health and education received less than projected in the eleventh plan and hence, allocations for these sectors will have to be increased in the 12th plan. “Health, education and skill development together in the Centre’s plan will have to be raised by at least 1.2 percentage point of GDP… Use of PPP must be encouraged,” it says.

In the 12th plan period, the commission is targeting an additional enrollment of 10 million in higher education, equivalent to 3 million additional seats for each age cohort entering the higher education system. This would significantly increase the GER bringing it broadly in line with the global average.

About 18% of all government education spending or about 1.12% of GDP is spent on higher education today. According to the commission, this should be raised to 25% and 1.5% respectively. An increase of 0.38% of GDP means an additional allocation of about R25,000 crore to higher education for the centre and the states taken together. “It is tough to set up an education hub and modalities related to the revenue model, returns on investment and land are to be worked out,” the Planning Commission official added.

However, the industry is apprehensive of this move and wants PSUs to budget this exercise in their human resource (HR) grants for better outcomes and accountability. “If the programme becomes a part of CSR, then it will only be a one-time aid. We want PSUs to include it in their HR policy so that they become stakeholders and are more involved,” said a CII official who is deliberating the matter with the government. The capital cost of setting up an institute is R50 crore which is the initial cost but the operational cost including salaries is greater.

Incidentally, the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) is unaware of this idea though it supports the setting up of more institutes. “We welcome any move to increase GER but creating an ecosystem for education involves investment and land,” said the ministry official.

(Financial Express)

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