Centre’s spending on research, fellowships shows massive decline in past 5 years

Ministry of education did not spend between 7% and 85% of budget allocated to research schemes

Centre’s spending on research, fellowships shows massive decline in past 5 years UGC research and fellowship schemes like IMPRESS, STRIDE SPARC etc did not receive funds from the ministry of education (Photo: Shutterstock)
R. Radhika | Feb 3, 2022 - 2:18 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: The union government’s spending on research in higher educational institutions in the past five years has witnessed a massive decline, according to data presented in Parliament on Wednesday.

The data submitted by the ministry of education show that grants under minor and major research project schemes run by the University Grants Commission have declined from Rs 42.7 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 38 lakh in 2020-21.

Similarly, expenditure on research schemes like IMPRESS was only a fraction of an already small budget allocation. In 2018-19, out of a budget of Rs 25 crore, only Rs 3.75 crore were spent while only Rs 18.75 crore was spent from a budget allocation of Rs 75 crore in 2019-20.

In Union Budget 2022, the scheme’s funds have been further cut with just Rs 17.26 crore, down from Rs 25 crore in 2021-22 budget. The actual expenditure last year was merely Rs 12 crore.

Also Read| ‘The kind of funding we get is dismal, affects research’: IIT Hyderabad director

In the case of IMPRINT, the utilisation percentage is relatively better. In 2019-20, the scheme was allocated Rs 53 crore, of which Rs 47.2 crore was utilised; in 2018-19, Rs 46.30 crore of Rs 50 crore allocated was utilised while in 2017-18, Rs 75.71 crore of Rs 85 crore was spent.

Scheme

(In Rs Cr)

2018-19

2019-20

2020-21

IMPRESS

Budget estimate

25

75

25

Actual Expenditure

3.75

18.75

12

Difference

85.2 %

75 %

52%

IMPRINT

Budget estimate

50

53

0

Actual Expenditure

46.3

47.2

0

Difference

7%

11%

0


UGC schemes like Scheme for Trans-disciplinary Research for India's Developing Economy (STRIDE), Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC) and Scheme for Transformational and Advanced Research in Sciences (STARS) have also gone belly-up due to lack of funding from the Centre. For one component, UGC issued grants from its own funds.

Minister of state for education, Subhash Sarkar further informed that UGC has released grants amounting to Rs 3,195.67 crore to universities and colleges under various schemes relating to research projects during the last three years.

Also Read| Union Budget 2022: Centre released only 38% of SSA budget till October

UGC, Fellowship spending

Responding to a query, Sarkar’s reply in Parliament further shows consistent under-utilisation of funds under various research and fellowship programmes during the tenure of the BJP government. Expenditure on Dr S.Radhakrishnan Post Doctoral Fellowship in Humanities also gradually decreased from Rs 26.12 crore in 2017-18, to Rs 18.63 crore in the next year. This spending further declined to Rs 10.56 crore and finally Rs 7.14 crore in 2020-21.

Dr S. Radhakrishnan Post Doctoral Fellowship in Humanities: Beneficiaries, spending (2016-21)

Financial Year

Number of Beneficiaries

Expenditure (In Rs Crore)

2016-17

434

24.73

2017-18

581

26.12

2018-19

454

18.63

2019-20

285

10.56

2020-21

200

7.14


In the case of Post-Doctoral Fellowship for SC students, the expenditure shows a downward trend from 2019-20 when Rs 18.99 crore were spent; a huge decrease from the previous year’s Rs 37.56 crore. In 2020-21 the centre spent only Rs 10 crore on the fellowship scheme for SC students. Similarly, Post-Doctoral Fellowship for women also shows a decline of at least Rs 10 crore each subsequent year since 2018-19.

Also Read| Union Budget 2022: Several scholarship, fellowships schemes for marginalised students face cuts

Among other fellowships disbursed by the UGC, Maulana Azad National Fellowship for minority students shows consistently lowering expenditure rate. In 2016-17, the centre spent Rs 125.34 crore for 4,141 beneficiaries. Next year, despite the number of beneficiaries growing to 4,939, spending dropped to Rs 91 crore. The spending saw a slight improvement in 2019-20 with Rs 110.30 crore but it again dropped in 2020-21 to Rs 97.10 crore. This scheme provides five-year fellowships in the form of financial assistance to students from six notified minority communities to pursue MPhil and PhD. These communities include Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh.

Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority Students Beneficiaries, spending (2016-21)

Financial Year

Beneficiaries

Expenditure (in Rs crore)

2016-17

4,141

125.34

2017-18

4,939

97.36

2018-19

2,537

91.13

2019-20

2,582

110.3

2020-21

2,348

97.1


Also Read| Union Budget 2022: Post-matric scholarship for SC students under-funded for years

This year, the funds for Maulana Azad Education Foundation were also cut down from the last allocation of Rs 70 crore to 1 lakh this year. The foundation, as per the ministry, is a “voluntary, non-political, non-profit making, social service organisation established to promote education among the educationally backward minorities”. As per the Union Budget 2022 document, the foundation runs with the interest earned on the investment of its corpus fund.


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