In the pursuit of transforming India into a developed nation by 2047, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised the crucial role of the budget in steering the country towards this ambitious goal. At the forefront of this transformative journey lies two directions: a concentrated focus on human development, particularly in the realms of education and health, and a strategic emphasis on research and development (R&D), coupled with advancements in higher education.

Janat Shah, former director of IIM-Udaipur, while speaking to Fortune India, expresses concern over the alarming gaps in learning outcomes, as highlighted in the recent ASER report, focusing on the 14-18 age group. Since India is poised to become the third-largest economy within the next three to five years, Shah calls for a concerted effort to establish 10-15 globally recognised management institutions by 2047, each playing a pivotal role in global dialogues on high-quality research and teaching methodologies. The New Education Policy (NEP), although aligning with these aspirations, awaits a "detailed roadmap" for effective implementation, he says.

Experts at Deloitte call for a fast-track process for the application and grant of patents for educational institutions. "With reduced timelines for the application process and its grant, it will lead to higher research and development in the country," says Kamlesh Vyas, partner, Deloitte India.

He says minimum area requirements to set up higher educational institutions should be done away with and a lease-based model (as opposed to ownership of land) should be introduced. "This could help reduce capital requirements for new institutions, considering the constraints posed by the paucity of funds in the higher education ecosystem. It would allow prioritising funds allocation towards improving infrastructure, hiring quality faculty, enhancing student experience, and launching new-age industry-relevant programmes."

Ananya Sachdev, founder of Uni Discovery, says despite a population of 1.5 billion, dedication to education currently stands at 2.9% of the budget. In comparison, China allocates 4%, and the United States 6%. Sachdev sees a favourable prospect to enhance our higher education system to international standards through increased investment in research, fostering innovation domestically. “Simultaneously, recognising the importance of nurturing world-class universities, the government has the potential to increase budget allocations. While the budget for these institutions experienced a reduction from ₹1,700 crore to ₹1,500 crore on March 9, 2023, there lies a positive chance to reconsider and reinforce support for their continued excellence,” Sachdev adds.

In the ed-tech startup space, Salone Sehgal, founding general partner at Lumikai, says the budget allocations for AI research and development are going to be important going forward to foster AI-driven innovation and education in the nation. "Allocating a budget for early-stage research will empower founders to disrupt sectors like healthcare, fintech and education."  

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