A credit agreement of US$300mn has been signed between the central government, Madhya Pradesh government and the World Bank towards “MP higher education quality improvement project.”
The International Development Association (IDA)-World Bank’s concessionary lending arm is providing the credit with a maturity of 25 years including a five year grace period. According to an official statement released by the 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 group.” Talking about the numbers it has been estimated that some 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 primary agenda of the project is to help government colleges and universities make an effective use of the institutional grants in improving the quality of higher education, provide equitable access to education for all and ensure better capacity utilization along with including activities aimed at making the students more employable. Centres of excellence in select colleges and university departments would be created to prepare best practice teaching-learning and research in a particular area. The signatories in the credit agreement were Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary of economic affairs on behalf of the 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 seen an exponential rise. Going by the enrolment numbers alone from about 84 million students in 2001 it has risen to 17 million students in 2011. Out of these approximately 10% or 1.6 million higher education students are enrolled in colleges and universities in MP. Another issue that needs to be addressed is that while MP’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 19.5 in higher education is quite close to the national average of 21.1% in the age group of 18 to 23 years only 13% of scheduled caste students and 7.5% of the scheduled tribe students are enrolled in the higher education. The quality of education is also one of the major concerns. In a recent study by the World Bank nearly 77% of employers cited weak technical skills as the reason for rejecting a job applicant. According to” Madhya Pradesh higher education reforms: policy options”, a 2012 World Bank report, the access, equity and low quality has been identified as the core challenges for the state.