Few tears shed for privatiser

January 20, 1995

Indian education minister Arjun Singh, who started the process of privatisation of higher education, has quit, creating a political crisis for the ruling Congress party.

Few tears are being shed for him in education circles because during his three years heading the ministry of human resource development he spent much of his time trying to dislodge prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.

Higher education, under him, faced a serious economic crisis following sharp cutbacks in funding. A committee appointed by Mr Singh advised gradual withdrawal of the state subsidy and said universities should generate "internal" resources through fee increases, endowments and collaboration with industry.

Several universities, particularly the institutes of technology and medical colleges, have already raised their fees, provoking sharp reactions from students.

Upendra Baxi, vice chancellor of Delhi University, recently resigned in protest at reduced state funding. Education for foreign students has become more expensive, and there is a move to set up colleges specially for foreign students. The fees they charge would be several times more than what domestic students pay even in exclusive institutions. A committee of several vice chancellors and independent experts is examining the proposal.

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