University students (representational image) | Bloomberg
University students | Representational image | Bloomberg
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New Delhi: The Modi government is looking at the possibility of increasing the number of seats in Indian institutions to accommodate students who had planned to go abroad for higher studies but could not because of the Covid-19 pandemic, ThePrint has learnt.

The government has set up a committee called “Stay in India and Study in India” — comprising members from regulators All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and University Grants Commission (UGC) — that has been tasked with the responsibility of working out the modalities of this plan in consultation with colleges and universities across the country.

Headed by UGC Chairman D.P. Singh, the committee has been asked to fulfil its mandate “as soon as possible”. 

AICTE Chairman Anil Sahasrabudhe, who is a member of the “Stay in India and Study in India” committee, confirmed the development. “The government has formed a committee to look at various issues that have come up in higher education because of Covid-19. One of the issues is students not being able to go abroad because of the pandemic,” he said.

“The committee will deliberate on the issue and explore the possibility of increasing the number of seats in Indian institutions in order to accommodate students who could not go abroad.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has scuppered a lot of students’ plans to study abroad. ThePrint had reported earlier this week that Indian institutions are seeing a spurt in the number of applications as students who had been eyeing foreign education are now recalibrating their plans

Sahasrabudhe said increasing the number of seats is one of four proposals the committee is exploring to ease the impact of the pandemic on students. The other points include permitting the use of laboratories at premier institutes for research scholars who had to return to India in the midst of their course on account of the pandemic. 

According to Sahasrabudhe, to this end, the government will look at facilities at top institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the  Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), and the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs), among others.

Students, he said, will be able to utilise the labs at the chosen institutions for as long as they are in India.

The committee will hold discussions with different colleges and universities as they have to be brought on-board for any kind of changes, like infrastructure upgrades. It will also see if the institutes need additional funds in order to accommodate more researchers and students.

Also Read: Harvard Hyderabad, Princeton Mumbai – the future of US higher education could be in India

Outreach to foreign students

Another important task for the committee is addressing the grievances of foreign students who want to seek admission in Indian institutes but have developed hesitation on account of the pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions, said Sahasrabudhe. 

The panel has been tasked with urging the students to enrol anyway on the promise that online study options will be available to those who can’t travel to India. 

“Online classes will be a stop-gap measure till restrictions on travel, and social distancing continue. Thereafter, they can and should come and enjoy Indian environment,” said Sahasrabudhe.

The committee, he added, will also look at making study options smoother for Indian students who are currently enrolled in institutions here.

Also Read: Coronavirus has forced 51% non-STEM Indian students to drop plan to study abroad: QS report


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