The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 marks a watershed moment for India’s education sector. As it completes one year, the policy has already set the pace for transformative reforms in higher education in the country.
NEP 2020 has a laudable goal of taking the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, which is the ratio of enrolment in higher education to the population in the eligible age group (18-23 years), from about 26 per cent today to 50 per cent by 2030. This would mean expanding the base of higher education institutions in India. In terms of size, we are the third largest in the world. There are more than 900 universities, around 39,000 colleges and about 11,600 standalone institutions in the country. To achieve a 50 per cent GER, India needs to create over 800 new universities and 40,000 colleges. As the government is committed to increase its spending on education to over six per cent of the GDP—from about 3 per cent at present, the expansion is well within reach.
NEP tries to set things right in many areas such as research funding. The policy envisages setting up of a National Research Foundation, as a nodal agency in granting funds for research projects of higher education institutions. The Foundation is expected to have a budget of Rs 20,000 crore per year for research funding. It will make funding decisions based purely on the strength of the research proposal of an institution—irrespective of whether the proposal has come from a public sector or a private sector institution.
Another area of reform concerns the affiliation of colleges. NEP is clearly...