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Food for thought: Diversifying funding sources of Universities
Tuesday, 20 November 2018 00:02

Indian universities in the private sector need to look for diverse sources of funding rather than depending solely on tuition fees if they want to improve education quality, a higher education panel has concluded.

The panel was discussing trends in the private higher education sector at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Higher Education Summit 2012, which began on 5 November in New Delhi.

This argument is key, since private institutions have been the major contributors to increasing capacity in higher education over the past two decades.

According to government data, the enrolment share of private providers increased from 32.9% in 2001 to 51.5% in 2006.
However, most of the growth happened in industry-oriented subjects such as engineering, management, computer science and pharmacy. Private institutions today contribute 80% of enrolments in professional programmes. The skewed growth has meant that the arts and basic sciences have been ignored.
Secondly, undergraduate teaching courses, where investment required is less and employment is immediate, have been preferred, with postgraduate research taking a back seat.
Private institutions have relied solely on student fees and have thus offered only courses that are in demand, require minimum infrastructure and have easily available faculty.

Philanthropic versus for-profit institutions
Nikhil Sinha, vice-chancellor of Shiv Nadar University (SNU) in Noida, said that setting up more institutions through philanthropy would give neglected subjects a boost.
He added that SNU, which is supported by the Shiv Nadar Foundation, could give humanities and technical subjects alike a level playing field because SNU was not dependent on market forces for funding.
According to Sinha, philanthropic institutions such as Azim Premji University, SNU and others are different from for-profit universities because they are driven by very much the same background ideology and funding mechanisms as some of the great institutions of the West such as Stanford, Yale, Duke and Carnegie Mellon.
“The entire capital costs of the university [SNU] and a part of the operational expenditure is funded by philanthropic efforts,” said Sinha, adding that student fees form a small percentage of expenditure.
“We all bemoan the fact that no Indian university figures in the top 200 institutions of the world. If you look at the list, there is not a single university in that list that is fully funded by student fees,” Sinha said.
“They are all either supported by their governments – most of them are public institutions – or from philanthropy.”
Notably, according to the 11th Plan report of the Planning Commission, in the 1950s 12% of higher education spending came from philanthropy. This fell to 3% in the 1990s.

Questions of access
Ashok Saxena, vice-chancellor of the two-year-old Galgotia University in Greater Noida, said there was a risk of student revenues dominating the culture of private institutions.
“We have to be creative in trying to develop philanthropic support to assist students who do not have the ability to pay and also for developing extra experiences for students. If you want to send students abroad for a semester or even to present a paper, it is wrong to expect the entire budget to come from student fees,” Saxena said.
Rajan Saxena, vice-chancellor of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in Mumbai, advocated cross-subsidisation to ensure that students who could not afford fees were not left out of the private higher education sector.
He said that Narsee Monjee used the surplus from fee-paying students to cross-subsidise the fees of students who could not afford higher education.
Lack of access to government and competitive research funds by private institutions in India has also meant that they have been limited in expanding their scope of study. Research is rarely pursued, as it is funding intensive.
Ramesh Kanwar, vice-chancellor of Lovely Professional University, said institutions in the private sector have to lobby for government funding. He said research grants given by the government should be competitive and the best institutions, whether private or public, should get those grants.
At present, the Indian government is the biggest funder of research projects in both science and the arts. But getting grants is almost impossible for private institutions.
Ashok Thakur, secretary (higher education) in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, admitted that funding agencies such as the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education were reluctant to fund private higher education institutions irrespective of quality.
“We do seem to be biased against private players in terms of providing funds. But we have made a beginning in the ministry. For the first time a percentage of funds under the TEQUIP scheme, around 20% to 25%, will go to private institutions,” Thakur announced.

Experts said that in order to push a research-oriented focus, enhance interdisciplinary studies with special emphasis on the arts and basic sciences, and ensure equitable access, private universities needed to move away from dependence on tuition fees.

Source : (University World News)