Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

National Education Policy and current status of education


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- National Education Policy

The article contrasts the targets set in the National Education Polity with the present state of education in the country.

Key recommendations

  • Redesigning the school curriculum to accommodate early childhood care and education.
  • Ensuring universal access to education.
  • Increasing gross enrolment in higher education to 50% by 2035.
  • Improving research in higher education institutes by setting up a Research Foundation.

Let’s take stock of the current situation on the above-suggested parameters.

1) Universal Access to Education

  • Despite the Right to Education Act-2009 retaining children remains a challenge for the schooling system.
  • As of 2015-16, Gross Enrolment Ratio was 56.2% at senior secondary level as compared to 99.2% at primary level.
  • Data for all groups indicates a decline in GER as we move from primary to senior secondary for all groups.
  • This decline is particularly high in case of Scheduled Tribes.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends strengthening of existing schemes and policies which are targeted for such socio-economically disadvantaged groups.
  • Further, it recommends setting up special education zones in areas with a significant proportion of such disadvantaged groups.
  • A gender inclusion fund should also be setup to assist female and transgender students in getting access to education.

2) GER to 50% in higher education

  • The NEP aims to increase the GER in higher education to 50% by 2035.  
  • As of 2018-19, the GER in higher education in the country stood at 26.3%.
  • The annual growth rate of GER in higher education in the last few years has been around 2%.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends increasing capacity of existing higher education institutes by restructuring and expanding existing institutes.
  • It recommends that all institutes should aim to be large multidisciplinary institutes, and there should be one such institution in or near every district by 2030.
  • Further, institutions should have the option to run open distance learning and online programmes to improve access to higher education.

3) Restructuring of Higher Education Institutes

  • The NEP notes that the higher education ecosystem in the country is severely fragmented.
  • At present, there is complex nomenclature of higher education institutes (HEIs) in the country such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university’, ‘unitary university’.
  • These shall be replaced simply by ‘university’.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • The NEP recommends that all HEIs should be restructured into three categories:
  • 1)  research universities focusing equally on research and teaching.
  • 2)  teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching.
  • 3) degree-granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.
  •  All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy – academic, administrative, and financial.

4) National research foundation to boost research

  • The NEP states that investment on research and innovation in India, at only 0.69% of GDP, lags behind several other countries.
  • The total investment on R&D in India as a proportion of GDP has been stagnant at around 0.7% of GDP.
  • Of which 58% of expenditure was by government, and the remaining 42% was by private industry.

NEP 2020 recommendation

  • To boost research, the NEP recommends setting up an independent National Research Foundation (NRF).
  • The Foundation will act as a liaison between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry.
  • Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, will continue to fund independent projects.
  • The Foundation will collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.

5) Digital Education

  • The NEP states that alternative modes of quality education should be developed when in-person education is not possible.
  • But let’s look into the accessibility of such mode.
  • As of 2017-18, only 4.4% of rural households have access to a computer (excludes smartphones).
  • Nearly 15% have access to internet facility.  Amongst urban households, 42% have access to the internet.

NEP 2020 recommendations

  • Several interventions are recommended-
  • (i) developing two-way audio and video interfaces for holding online classes.
  • (ii) use of other channels such as television, radio, mass media in multiple languages to ensure the reach of digital content where digital infrastructure is lacking.

6) Increasing public spending on education to 6% of GDP

  • Public spending of 6% of GDP was first made by the National Policy on Education 1968 and reiterated by the 1986 Policy.
  • NEP 2020 reaffirms the recommendation of increasing public spending on education to 6% of GDP.
  •  In 2017-18, the public spending on education-includes spending by centre and states-was budgeted at 4.43% of GDP.
  •  In 2020-21, states in India have allocated 15.7% of their budgeted expenditure towards education.
  • States such as Delhi, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra have allocated more than 18% of their expenditure on Education for the year 2020-21.
  • On the other hand, Telangana (7.4%), Andhra Pradesh (12.1%) and Punjab (12.3%) lack in spending on education, as compared to the average of states.

Consider the question “Examine the provision with regard to increasing research in the country in the National Education Policy 2020.”


The National Education Policy is an ambitious document with the potential to transform. What is required is the zeal to implement and assess the progress by analysing the outcomes.



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