Stakeholders in the higher education sphere expressed apprehension that the large amount of funds needed for the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act will eat into allocations for higher education. The concern was revealed by G. Vishwanathan, president of the Education Promotion Society of India (EPSI), at a press conference held here on Wednesday to announce the establishment of the EPSI's Bangalore chapter on July 28.

EPSI, an autonomous agency consisting of educationists from the private sector, held a discussion with chancellors, vice-chancellors and principals of nearly 45 universities and colleges on Wednesday.

“The Union Government wants to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education from the present 15 per cent to 30 per cent in 2020. This means that there should be 26 million students compared with the 14.6 million students who are enrolled in higher education at present. According to a private survey, this will require an investment of Rs. 10 lakh crore. The government is already in a tight situation, as it will be spending Rs. 70,000 crore every year on RTE. The Government can spend Rs. 3 lakh crore for the next 10 years. So, higher education will end up having lesser resources,” explained H. Chaturvedi, alternate president of EPSI.

‘Draconian' Bills

After having written to them, EPSI members are gearing up to meet Union Ministers to ask them to reconsider certain sections of three Bills — the Educational Tribunals Bill 2010, National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010, and Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Educational Institutions Bill 2010.

Terming them “draconian” as they were introduced without consultation with the private players, Mr. Vishwanathan said that certain clauses erode the autonomy of institutions. “The Educational Tribunal Bill prevents students, teachers and institutions from moving court, while the Prohibition of Unfair Practices Bill levies a penalty of Rs. 1 crore and three years imprisonment,” he added.

About the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, according to which institutions should get accreditation within six months from the time they are started, Mr. Chaturvedi suggested that an independent industry body should conduct the accreditation.

“The National Board of Accreditation (NBA) and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) have covered 12 and 15 per cent of colleges/universities so far. It is going to be a gigantic task to cover all the colleges,” he added.

Cutting red tape

The society is also pushing for easing of education loan procedures. Apart from the reduction of interest rates to 5 per cent from the existing 11 to 13 per cent, they also want the repayment period to be increased to 20 to 25 years (from 5-7 years), and the embargo period to five years after passing out of the course, as opposed to now where they start repaying loans right after they pass out or get a job.