Budget’s online education proposal to boost edtech sector

BENGALURU: India will start issuing online degrees at top 100 educational institutes, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced during her Budget speech. This step could boost educational technology startups including Eruditus, Coursera and upGrad.

Sitharaman said that in order to provide quality education to students of deprived section of the society as well as those who do not have access to higher education, she proposes to start degree level full-fledged online education programmes. The step, according to experts, is aimed at increasing India’s low gross enrolment ratio (GER) – a percentage of students in higher education of the total eligible population in the 18-23 age group. It stood at only 26.3% in 2018-19 in India, according to the latest government data.

“It is a big announcement and has been a long time coming. To even reach China’s GER of 35%, we need to add at least 15 million new seats every year. That’s the size of opportunity for edtech companies with this policy move,” said Ashwin Damera, Co-founder of Eruditus, an edtech company.

Eruditus, partners with top colleges in the US and Europe such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), London School of Economics, and others to create training courses targeted at professionals and executives. It also works with six educational institutes in India, including IIT Bombay and IIM Calcutta.

Ronnie Screwvala, co-founder and chairman at upGrad, said the company will be ramping up its business three times in light on the new government policy. “It is a huge business opportunity. It will also change the mindsets of universities, students and employers and provide online education a legitimacy. It’s a massive breakthrough for the industry,” said Screwvala.

upGrad provides programmes in the areas of Data Science, Technology, Management and MBA to college students, working-class and enterprises. India’s edtech industry provides online courses for right from primary school to test prep for college. It also provides courses from foreign and Indian universities.

“The proposal to introduce online only degrees at top 100 educational institutions is a promising start. However, the infrastructure will be critical to ensure the seamless delivery of quality content,” said Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera.

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