Indian universities are well prepared to compete on basis of Quality, R&D and Pedigree

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New Delhi: Education Promotion Society for India (EPSI), the National body representing wide spectrum of education sector and education service providers today held a roundtable discussion on “Indian Higher Education: Global Aspiration & Regulatory Challenges – Specially in the context of the GST Levy on Outsourced Services of Higher Education”.

The roundtable was inaugurated and presided by Dr. Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha & National Vice President, BJP. Leading educationists deliberated upon the challenges and opportunities in the context of India’s preparedness to take upon the challenges of global universities and the policy support sought from the government.

The roundtable was presided over by Dr. Sahasrabuddhe; Dr. G. Viswanathan, President, EPSI; Dr. H Chaturvedi, Alternate President, EPSI; Prof. B Srinivas, ADG (ME), Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare; and Dr. Prashant Bhalla, Treasurer, EPSI.

Inaugurating the event, Dr. Vinay P Sahasrabuddhe laid emphasis on the role of private education ecosystem and said, “We have examples of private universities set-up by prominent individuals like Dr. BR Ambedkar, Sh. Madan Mohan Malviya and Sh. Bal Gangadhar Tilak amongst others since pre-independence era. Hence, space for private enterprise (in education) was always there. We are in a position to attract world talent, but India can also perhaps be an exporter of education model”.

Setting the tone for the inaugural session, Mr. G Viswanathan said “The government must be thanked for exempting a lot of sections in the education sector but we request for extending the exemption to the higher education also.”

The EPSI members further shared their thoughts and deliberated upon the key insights to help the sector rise to the challenges of global education ecosystem:

· Half of India’s population is under 25 years of age. The new initiatives by Government like Skill India are aimed at improving employability and ensuring that the jobs that are created are filled with persons who can do justice to it, which means that the Government clearly wishes to build eligible candidates. This requires effective education. However, the GST levy on input services but not on output would ultimately increase the burden of costs on educational institutions, disabling most of them to provide quality education they wish to deliver.

· It was further deliberated that India is one of the largest higher education system in the world. As per the UGC Annual Report 2015-16, the number of universities has gone up to 753 and colleges in Higher Education sector to 41,435.

· It may be noted that over the past 10 years, central government expenditure on higher education has been fairly constant around 1-1.5% of its total expenditure. In contrast, USA spends about 3%, Canada 2.5% and Chile 2%.

· At present, India is today geared up with a slew of Indian universities that are well prepared to compete globally on the basis of their quality, R&D, and Pedigree. This is well established by the fact that Indian teachers are leading universities and departments abroad in international universities.

· Education is not for profit sector. The Indian institutions need impetus from Government for supportive regulatory regime and ensure that the cost of education is not burdened to students

Mr. Sanjay Garg, Partner, KPMG laid and said, “Education and Health sector are partially exempt from GST. Services procured by higher education sector like housekeeping, transportation amongst others are under GST. Various faculties are also liable to be brought under taxation that was not the case before GST. EPSI can approach government for this because similar services are exempted from GST in health sector as well.”

More than 100 delegates including leading Government functionaries, Chairmen, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, Directors, Academicians and Entrepreneurs attended the conference.

Prof. B Srinivas, too emphasized on the role of Government in the education sector and shared that the Government has taken note of the fact that the fees paid by students across the country is not rationalized. He further said, “The ministry is working towards considering that how the fees structure can be moderated well and that more doctors can be produced in our Country right now”.

Following the inaugural session, the plenary session was attended by Prof. (Dr) R S Bawa, Vice Chancellor, Chandigarh University; Mr. Sanjay Garg, Partner, Indirect Tax, KPMG; Mr. Satya Narayanan R, Founder & Chairman, CL Educate Ltd.; and Prof. (Dr.) Sanjay Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, Manav Rachna University.

EPSI delegation has submitted a memorandum both to Mr. Arun Jaitly and Mr. Gangwar and apprised them about serious implications of GST levy being imposed on the outsourced services like transportation, security, hostels-mess and canteen, training, medical services, shops and admission related services etc. being provided by higher education institutions in their campuses for students, faculty and staff across the country.

The EPSI’s delegation also explained to both ministers that the levy on outsourced services in many cases will be detrimental to the quality of higher education. The higher educational institutions will be forced to stop outsourcing and do it in-house that will ultimately impact their delivery of quality education as they deviate from their core focus of providing education.