Institutes of Eminence hampered by delays in promised funds
The IoE scheme, aimed at creating 20 world-class higher education institutions, was launched by the then Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) in September 2017.
Thus far, only 12 IoEs have been officially declared, four of which are private institutions. All IoEs have the freedom to decide their own fee structure and courses, hire and admit foreign faculty and foreign students up to a certain limit, and have the freedom to set up academic and research collaborations with foreign institutions.
Although both public and private universities are eligible for IoE status, only public institutions are entitled to receive the funding attached to the award: INR10 billion (US$123 million) each, over a five-year period.
The eight public sector institutions that have secured the IoE tag after scrutiny by an Empowered Expert Committee include Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University, the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur and the University of Hyderabad.
Anna University in Tamil Nadu and Jadavpur University in West Bengal have also been selected as Institutes of Eminence, but their status is yet to be made official.
In the private category, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani in Goa, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, OP Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University have been granted IoE status.
Ministry of Education data
The eight public institutions were expected to receive a combined INR80 billion or about US$982 million over five years. But, according to Ministry of Education data, they had only received a combined total of INR13 billion or about US$160 million up to February 2021 – more than three years after being designated IoEs in 2018.
In a recent reply to a query filed in October 2021 under the Right to Information Act, the ministry said the funds are released in a “phased manner based on the institutions’ requirements”. Requirements are set out in each institution’s 15-year strategic plans.
Due to the slow release of funds, the progress of planned infrastructure expansion projects at many IoEs has been hampered as funding support during the first two years only covered fellowships and recruitment.
Development of state-of-art laboratories and enhancement of research facilities as envisaged for IoEs, including at IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi, could not kick off as anticipated due to a lack of funds.
IIT Delhi, which is also an Institute of National Importance, was declared an IoE in 2018 but received only INR5.97 billion (US$73 million) in IoE funds. According to the institute’s former director, V Ramgopal Rao, the institute requires an annual budget of INR20 billion to reach the next level.
Delhi University is also facing a financial crunch due to slow payments. It is considering hiking fees and seeking funds from private entities, members of the Delhi University Executive Council told University World News.
While IITs have endowment funds, universities like Delhi University and Banaras Hindu University mainly depend on government support.
Big plans, no follow-up
Dr Pushkar, director of the International Centre in Goa and a former academic at BITS Pilani, said government delays in releasing funds for different projects are quite common around the world and India was no exception.
“The government often makes big plans and does not follow them up. Secondly, the Indian government is spending less and less on the public higher education system, and, thirdly, there is a larger pattern of withholding money meant for public schemes, which the government is following in this case also,” Pushkar told University World News.
Former vice-chancellor of the University of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Roop Rekha Verma, said the situation of IoEs resembles other government schemes.
“They have announced it and left it for the institutes to arrange funds for themselves,” she told University World News.
Verma said higher education should be a priority for the government. “Only then will we be able to make our institutes on par with global standards,” she added.