IN an announcement last week by India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the Indian government disclosed that they will be increasing the country’s higher education budget to almost US$5 billion. This amounts to almost half of India’s US$11.8 billion overall education budget.

The recipients are the Indian Institutes of Technology, the National Institutes of Technology, and the Indian Institutes of Management. They will all receive additional funding in an attempt to increase the number of Indian universities that qualify for ‘world-class’ status.

With this enormous increase in funding, the Indian government is signalling what some view as a bias towards universities that deal with applied research such as those at the technology institutes.

Unlike the technology institutes, the seven Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research are seeing their funding drop dramatically, from US$116 million in 2016 to US$96 million for the new budget.

The budget has several strings attached, with some academics cautioning that the increased funding will come at a price to the quality of the institutions. In addition to the funding, the government is also adding 5,000 seats for postgraduate studies in medicine, which Professor Rajiv Lochan, a member of Punjab State Higher Education Council, says will hamper the way that the universities are run.

For the institutes of technology, the Indian government is demanding that the number of students enrolled increase by 100% or more in the next five years.

Currently, all of the universities have a history of strong face-to-face relationships between students and faculty, and an increase in the student body will likely negatively affect those relationships.

The budget also calls for greater autonomy for universities, including reforms to the University Grants Commission, the body that oversees higher education. In return for an increase in their accreditation or ranking, the Indian government has promised those institutions that they will see greater administrative autonomy in their every day work.

Jaitley announced that the budget increases will increase accessibility to SWAYAM, the online education portal run by the government, which will now be broadcast and streamed to 350 dedicated Direct-to-Home channels.