Union government, Madhya Pradesh government and the World Bank signed a US$ 300 million credit agreement on Tuesday for the ‘MP higher education quality improvement project’.
The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA) -World Bank’s concessionary lending arm with a maturity of 25 years, including a five year grace period. Acceding to an official statement by World Bank, “The project will also help increase the overall effectiveness of the higher education system in Madhya Pradesh to improve student learning outcome in select government-run higher education institutions in the state, particularly for the disadvantaged groups.” About 3.6 million students, 10,800 academic staff and 1,400 administrators and officers in nearly 200 government colleges and universities are expected to directly benefit from the project. The main thrust of the project will be to help government colleges and universities to effectively use institutional grants in improving the quality of higher education, provide equitable access to education for all and ensure better capacity utilisation, as well as include activities aimed at making students more employable. The project will also help create centres of excellence in select colleges and university departments to prepare best practice teaching-learning and research in a particular area. The credit agreement for the project was signed by Raj Kumar, joint secretary of economic affairs on behalf of Union government, KK Singh, principal secretary, higher education, on behalf of MP government and Onno Ruhl, World Bank country director, India. Higher education in India has expanded rapidly. Enrolment has more than doubled from 8.4 million students in 2001 to 17 million students in 2011. Of these, nearly 10 per cent or 1.6 million higher education students are enrolled in university or colleges in MP.
While the state’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 19.5 in higher education is close to the national average of 21.1 per cent, in the age group 18 to 23 years, only 13 per cent of scheduled caste students and 7.5 per cent of scheduled tribe students are enrolled in higher education. There are major concerns over quality too. A recent World Bank study over 77 per cent of employers in MP said weak technical skills were the most important reason for rejecting a job applicant. A 2012 World Bank report, ‘Madhya Pradesh higher education reforms: Policy options’ has identified access, equity and low quality as core challenges for the state.