The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), under the Rashtriya Ucchater Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), will expand the scope of the “reform tracker” to enable development in higher educational institutions in 115 “aspirational districts” in the country. The “reform tracker” has recognised 11 best performing universities that have utilised RUSA funds most efficiently.

The Niti Aayog has recognised 115 districts in the country where the rate of development is lower than the national average and has categorised these districts as “aspirational districts”, instead of calling them backward districts. Since the tracker acts as a report card for the state governments and state higher education institutions, MHRD also plans to make the report public once the states finalise how to further “fine-tune” the “reform tracker”.

Upgrading the “reform tracker”, the MHRD plans to use it to recognise best performing and least performing higher education institutions in a catchment area in order to facilitate a mentor-mentee relationship for institutions that are at the base of the pyramid.

Last week, the MHRD had announced to continue RUSA and launched the second phase of the scheme with a multiplied budget. RUSA has been granted a four-fold boost—from Rs 2,400 crore for four years (2013-14 and 2016-17) to Rs 7,100 crore for two years (2017-18 and 2019-20). As a consequence of an increased budget, the MHRD intends to strengthen the functioning of its “fund tracker” and “reform tracker”. While the “fund tracker” tracks the money till the last vendor, the “reform tracker” acts like a report card, revealing where and how efficiently the fund was used.

These trackers were introduced in April 2017 under RUSA. Among other new interventions introduced under the second phase of RUSA is establishment of the National Higher Education Resource Centre (NHERC) for research, policy advocacy, capacity building and providing well-informed policy and evidence based research inputs. An online virtual platform of infrastructure and equipment will also be created so that institutions can share these resources. The scheme also intends to encourage states and institutions to undertake projects in a public-private partnership mode. These states would be encouraged to create mechanisms for easy private investment in the sector.

Parth J. Shah, founder president of the Centre for Civil Society, said, “RUSA has huge potential. The government has multiplied its budget four-fold. However, since the scheme was launched, we have not come across any quarterly or annual report given by the government that has measured its effectiveness on the ground. We have heard from state governments about bringing in reforms under RUSA, but there has not been any confirmation yet.”

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