• RUSA, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan was launched in 2013 to fund higher educations in state institutes.
  • The scheme seeks to break the monotony of premier institutions and provides funding opportunities to state institutes.
  • Currently, it has an allocation of 1300 crore.
  • Within a few years of its onset, a dynamic change has been witnessed in higher education with better GER, teacher-student ratio and other indicators.
  • RUSA has greatly benefitted by giving autonomy to colleges and forming university clusters.
  • Now, the future lies in its impartial implementation.

RUSA or the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan is a life-changing scheme which seeks to provide strategic funding to State higher educational institutions. The 2013 launched scheme finds itself in a new position where it’s viability will depend on it’s impartial implementation.

Recently, the Union Cabinet has decided to give it due importance augurs well for the system of higher education in India. That the government is backing the scheme speaks volumes about the robustness and relevance of the scheme.

Ground realities

India is estimated to have over 800 universities (over 40,000 colleges are affiliated to them). About 94% of students of higher education study in 369 State universities. In spite of a nine-fold increase in Budget allocation, State institutions have been left to fend for themselves with funding mainly directed towards starting more Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management and Central universities. 3 major concerns are responsible for the current situation.

  • Stressing on the premier institutes alone
  • Dwindling state government investments
  • UGC’s system of direct fund release to the State institutions.

In order to address these critical concerns, the MHRD  had launched RUSA in 2013. The scheme is largely based on the conditional release of funds linked to reforms in the key areas of governance, learning-teaching outcomes, reaching out to the unreached and infrastructure support. Unlike other schemes which are foisted on State governments in a one-size-fits all manner, under RUSA, States and institutions have to give an undertaking expressing their willingness to the idea of reform and agreeing to meet the States’ share of the cost.

Dynamic Scheme

RUSA is a process-driven scheme. Its design and conceptualisation were finalised through extensive consultations with all key stakeholders, especially State governments. Preparatory grants were released to States to have the required systems, processes, and the technical support in place. Despite being voluntary, all States except a Union Territory (Lakshadweep) are a part of RUSA. All the State Higher Education Perspective Plans for five/10 years have been prepared after extensive stakeholder consultations. RUSA began with a modest allocation of ₹500 crore, but over time has seen its resource allocation being increased.

For the current year, ₹1,300 crore has been provided. Since funding is conditional to performance, it is critical to have a robust monitoring and evaluation system in place. In this regard, geo-tagging, introduction of a public financial management system, a fund tracker and reform tracker system and regular video conferences have proved effective tools, since 2015.

Reform forms the core

Governance reform is central to the scheme. State Higher Education Councils (SHECs) which have eminent academics, industrialists and other experts have been created, playing a major role, from an academic and professional point of view, in the formulation of medium- and long-term State perspective plans. In order to avoid arbitrariness, a State, for example, has to also give its commitment to creating a search-cum-select committee in the selection of vice-chancellors. Mitigating the bane of the affiliation system is also a major objective.

This is achieved through a reduction in the number of colleges affiliated per university by creating cluster universities and promoting autonomous colleges. An important precondition is the filling up of faculty positions and lifting the ban on recruitment (as in some States).

To improve learning-teaching outcomes, there is an effort towards improving pedagogy by capacity-building of faculty, selecting teachers in a transparent manner, adopting accreditation as a mandatory quality-assurance framework, implementing a semester system, and involving academics of repute and distinction in decision-making processes.

 Visible change

IIT  Bombay’s independent performance review of the scheme concluded that the funding linked to reforms had a visible impact on higher education. When RUSA began, the gross enrolment ratio (GER) was 19.4%, faculty vacancies were at a shockingly high level of 60%, and a large number of universities were bloated with a teacher-student ratio of 1:24. Today, the GER is 25.2%, faculty vacancies are down to 35%, the ban on faculty recruitment by States has been lifted, and and the teacher-student ratio is now 1:20.

Several universities in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been right-sized, and critical governance reforms such as the formation of the SHEC and merit-based appointments of vice-chancellors in Odisha, Goa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu are visible. There has been an improvement in the number of institutions accredited and their scores. In 2012, 106 State universities and 4,684 colleges were accredited. By 2017, an additional 145 State universities and 5,445 Colleges were accredited.

So, the path shows that RUSA is performing well and in fact changing the higher education system of the country. What remains to be seen is how well it performs in the coming years. It’s a litmus which depends on its impartial implementation.

Source: The Hindu