Budget 2020 Highlights for Students: Online courses by 100 top colleges, FDI, NEP and more

Top 100 educational institutions will start providing full-fledged degree courses online while the doors for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) were also opened as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made these announcements in the Union budget on Saturday.

India will also start conducting an Ind-SAT test to screen Asian and African students who will become eligible for scholarships.

In her budget speech, the Finance Minister sought to meet the expectations of the “aspirational India” by focussing on the employability of young graduates.

“By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world. Not only do they need literacy but they need both job and life skills. Dialogues have been held with State Education Ministries, Members of Parliament and other stake-holders about Education policy. Over 2 lakh suggestions were also received. The New Education Policy (NEP) will be announced soon,” Sitharaman said.

Significantly, one of the key elements of the draft NEP being discussed by the HRD ministry is allowing foreign varsities to come and teach in India.

In the budget Sitharaman paved way for greater inflow of foreign funds.

“It is felt that our education system needs greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers, innovate and build better labs. Therefore steps would be taken to enable sourcing External Commercial Borrowings and FDI so as to able to deliver higher quality education,” she said.

Sitharaman also said that students in the general stream, vis-à-vis services or technology streams, need their employability improved.

About 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship embedded degree or diploma courses by March 2021, she added. The government also proposes to start a programme whereby urban local bodies would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year, she said.

To provide quality education to students of deprived sections, it is proposed to start degree level full-fledged online education programme. This shall be offered only by institutions who are ranked within top 100 in the National Institutional Ranking framework. Initially, only a few such institutions would be asked to offer such programmes, Sitharaman said.

While some universities already provide online degree programmes, the announcement will boost digital learning which is key to enhancing India’s higher education reach. Sitharaman also pointed out that more girls were enrolled in higher education now than boys.

Another key announcement was that under the “Study in India” programme, an IND-SAT test was announced for Asian and African countries. It shall be used to benchmark candidates who receive scholarships.

Sharing details, Sitharaman said the government proposes to provide about Rs 99,300 crore for education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crores for skill development.

Asked about the budget announcements, Secretary HRD Amit Khare said a scheme was being prepared to attract FDI in line with the declaration.

When contacted, IIT Delhi Director Prof V Ramagopal Rao welcomed the move to encourage online programmes. Rao said though he felt the undergraduate courses would continue to be taught the same way in IITs, he envisaged there would be others like MBA or MAs which his institution would consider delivering in the online mode in the coming time.

Dheeraj Sharma, director of IIM Rohtak said his institute has a large number of programs that are purely online and others offered through blended mode. “This is a welcome move and will facilitate degree granting to new applicants and new students to specific programs that are offered online and blended learning mode in various top ranking institutions,” he said.