The GDP to higher education spending ratio in India is among the lowest in the world. The budget spend on research on pure sciences is so little that innovation in fields like biotechnology is a distant dream for the country. The same Indian students, when they go to foreign universities, are best performers in the fields of research and innovation. The funding for some top institutes like IITs, IIMs, NITs, and IIITs are at satisfactory level but they are not enough to put them on the map of top universities in the world. Nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, who in 2011 headed a panel set up to upgrade the quality of research and further development of IITs said that there is a huge demographic dividend in the country and if you want to leverage that demographic dividend you must create value out of the capability of the youth, that in turn can be done by intervening in higher education.
The prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IIS) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) do not get enough funds to perform high quality research. The higher education is in the concurrent list so ideally the central government, as well as the state government, should provide funds for it. But the problem is that the state governments are also not giving substantial funds to state universities and other institutions of higher education. Most of the state universities today are self-financed and there is hardly any funding for research in these institutions. The Modi government is trying to solve the funding problems as it selected two of the IITs (Bombay and Delhi) for the list of Institutes of Eminence. They are now eligible for more grants to catapult them to world rankings. Before the proposal of the Institutes of Eminence was finalized, the government had floated “Project Vishwajeet”, which was also focused on providing more grants to IITs as part of efforts to develop them into world-class institutions.
In the very beginning, there were very few institutions of higher education and research in the country. So the funding was limited to institutions like IITs and IIMs. The government’s favorable attitude towards the professional institutions which provide engineering and management degrees gets them more funding. But the funding to pure sciences research institutions and universities are very little in comparison to these institutes. The institutions of Humanities and social sciences which are very important for 21st-century soft skills are also dried up of funding. As India plans to get rid of its elitist civil services, the research in the field of public policy will be required. In the countries like the United States, there is a greater link between academic research and government policies, Indian institutions also need to scale up their research in public policy and for this, a healthy funding from the government is a necessity.
If India does not scale up its funding for pure sciences then the country will end up producing only executives not innovators. Why it is that an Indian could become CEO of Google but the country could not built a company like Google. This is due to the lack of funding to pure sciences. The institutes like IITs should also diversify their areas to disciplines like public policy and economics to serve the best interest of the country. As these institutes are not politicized so they will not be divided along political lines and produce best pragmatic researches for the benefit of the people.