FM gave no final decision on foreign varsities in Budget: Kerala Minister

Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu on Wednesday made it clear that the LDF Government has taken no final decision to welcome foreign and private universities in the state and the Finance Minister just indicated about exploring it’s possibilities in the recent budget.

In the budget for the fiscal 2024-25 presented on Monday, Finance Minister K N Balagopal indicated about utilising such possibilities with utmost care protecting the interests of students, she told reporters here.

There is a situation prevailing in the country in which the policy approaches of the Centre are being imposed upon states, she said.

“As far as the Finance Minister is concerned, he spoke about the financial aspects of such possibilities while presenting the budget. He announced that such possibilities will be explored…not that a final decision has been taken (in this regard),” Bindu said.

When foreign universities are permitted in the state’s higher education sector, several aspects, including whether they have any commercial interests or whether students are exploited, have to be examined.

“We can do anything after ensuring all these things,” the Minister added.

The budget for the fiscal 2024-25 presented by Finance Minister Balagopal on Monday indicated a clear policy diversion from the proclaimed anti-privatisation stand of the Left government when it pitched for tapping the possibilities of private investments in many key sectors, including education.

Opportunities for establishing foreign university campuses will be examined and “steps will be taken to establish private universities as well”, the FM had said.

The Higher Education Minister’s reaction came a day after Left student outfits including the SFI and AISF took strong exception to the budget proposal on foreign and private universities and expressed their great concern with regard to their arrival.

SFI state president K Anushree on Tuesday said its members would hold discussions with the government and convey their concerns.

She said if private universities come into being in the state, the government should be able to regulate their operations.

The government’s move to bring foreign universities to the state also is being opposed by the SFI.

“We have great concerns with regard to the arrival of foreign universities. We cannot accept it at any cost. We would like to hold a discussion with the government about all these future concerns in the wake of the present budget,” the leader had added.

When reporters asked about SFI’s reaction, Minister Bindu said as a students’ outfit, it is their responsibility to inform the government about their concerns and obtain an assurance from the authorities in this regard.

She also declined to give a clear answer as to whether the Higher Education department was informed in advance about the remarks on foreign and private universities made by the FM in the budget.

“I am not interested in giving any explanation about the policy related issues,” she said.

Criticising the media, she also asked why they were showing so much interest and concern in the issue.

On Tuesday, the Minister had said there were several private educational institutions that have developed into centres of excellence and it would be good if more students can make use of their excellent infrastructure facilities and academic atmosphere.

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