Special Correspondent

Every State to have a Central varsity

NEW DELHI: To improve access to higher education, every State will have a Central university and every district a degree college, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday. The endeavour would be a major thrust area of the 11th Five-Year Plan. At a meeting on higher education chaired by Dr. Singh, the Planning Commission and the University Grants Commission (UGC) were asked to prepare a strategy for the large-scale expansion of the university system.

Expressing concern that India was lagging behind in higher education, the Prime Minister stressed the need to improve the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in the sector by increasing the number of universities.

At present, there were 20 Central universities. While 16 States did not have a single Central university, some such as Delhi had four. In the 350 districts, where enrolment was below national average, it would be brought up to the national average. The degree colleges would have to be set up by the States, but the Centre would assist them through the UGC.

According to Dr. Singh, each central university should become a symbol of excellence, a model of efficiency and an example in terms of academic standards and university governance worthy of emulation by State universities.

The meeting was attended by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and UGC Chairman Sukhdeo Thorat. Earlier, Prof. Thorat made a presentation on higher education.

Rs. 54,000 crore sought

The UGC sought Rs.54,000 crore for expansion of higher education. A back-of-the-envelope calculation pegged the expenditure on setting up a full-fledged Central university at Rs.1,000 crore over two five-year plans. And Rs.25 crore would be needed to set up one degree college.

Improving access to higher education to increase GER currently in the vicinity of 9.5 per cent had been recommended by several committees, including the Central Advisory Board of Education on higher education, the National Knowledge Commission and the HRD Ministry.