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Quota: Panel sets ball on the roll
Sreelatha Menon and Utpal Bhaskar in New Delhi
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June 15, 2006 03:06 IST

The Planning Commission has recommended expansion in higher education to accommodate reservation for Other Backward Classes and to address the shortage of seats for non-OBC, non-SC/ST students in quality institutions.

It has sought a substantial increase in resources to fulfill this requirement.

Referring to the need for expansion in higher education, it says in its approach paper for the 11th Five-Year Plan that, "The government has assured that there will be sufficient expansion in the total number of seats to avoid any reduction in seats available for non-OBC, non-SC/ST students. This expansion is long overdue."

Sympathising with the plight of students of the general category, who have been complaining about shortage of seats in higher education, the commission says the recent decision to extend reservation for OBCs in central educational institutions has highlighted the issue of inadequate capacity for non-OBC, non-SC/ST students in quality institutions.

"The 11th Plan should aim for expansion over the medium term which would allow expansion even for the general category," it says, adding that the Plan "must address this challenge on a priority basis in a manner which ensures that general quality will not be compromised."

The paper envisages a total revamp of institutions like the IITs to accommodate updated syllabi, better facilities and to attract faculty, besides incorporating provisions to bridge the gap in standards of students from different backgrounds.

"The Plan should address simultaneously issues of increasing enrollment in universities and colleges especially the high-end institutions like the IITs and IIMs, the problems of varying standards, outdated syllabi, inadequate facilities and most of all, the need to create an environment that will attract top class faculty.

This will require a complete revamp of existing systems in many respects,'' it adds.

Making a case for increased allocation to the sector, it says annual plans will have to provide rising levels of budgetary support.

It also recommends increase in fees as a supplementary measure to cope with the situation. It makes an assurance of a wider merit-cum-means-based loan and scholarship programme through the banking system and other agencies.

However, the commission cautions the government on expansion in higher education without giving sufficient attention to school education.

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