Indian Higher Education Scenario

In India, until the beginning of the 21st century, the number of people enrolled in higher education was significantly low compared to developed and developing nations. The strategy until then was to increase state intervention by subsidising the sector. The inability of the state to invest „6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education‟ was considered to be a major hurdle in expanding the sector. Arguably, higher education was considered as a merit good capable of producing inter-generational externalities. This continued to be a justification for state involvement in the sector. Institutions of national importance which were continually funded by the state and remained the most prestigious were highlighted as success stories. However, the limited number of seats in these institutions and inability of the state to replicate this success at other state owned higher educational institutions became obvious. Private investment in higher education provided an alternative to the state at this point.





India’s Higher Education System faces Challenges on Three Fronts:

  1. Expansion: India’s GER of16% was much below the world average of 27%, as well as that of other emerging countries such as China (26%) and Brazil (36%) in 2010.
  2. Excellence: Faculty Shortage: There is 40% and 35% shortage of faculty in state and central universities, respectively. Accredited Institutions: 62% of universities and 90% of colleges were average or below average in 2010, on the basis of their NAAC accreditation. Low Citation Impact: India’s relative citation impact is half the world average.
  3. Equity: There is wide disparity in the GER of Higher Education across states and the Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR) in urban and rural areas, and gender- and community-wise. Inter-State Disparity: 47.9% in Delhi v/s. 9% in Assam. Urban-Rural Divide: 30% in urban areas v/s. 11.1% in rural areas. Differences across Communities: 14.8% for OBCs, 11.6% for SCs, 7.7% for STs and 9.6% for Muslims.  Gender Disparity: 15.2% for females v/s. 19% for males.





India’s HE system can be projected to be more transparent and inclusive by the end of Twelfth Plan period, provided the Government is able to create an enabling regulatory environment and put in place healthy implementation, monitoring and quality assurance mechanisms. The Ernst & Young LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 in India suggests the following strategies to be adopted: ∙ Merit-based Student Financing: This should ensure admissions to meritorious students independent of financial background ∙ Internationalisation of Education: This would entail aligning different aspects of education (curriculum, faculty, etc) to international standards ∙ Enabling a Research Environment: This would involve creating adequate means of research funding and practical application of research ∙ High Quality Faculty: The need of the hour is to create a conducive environment and provide incentives to attract and retain high quality faculty ∙


With 700 universities and more than 35,000 affiliated colleges enrolling more than 20 million students, Indian higher education is a large and complex system. The structure of degree-granting institutions is cumbersome primarily due to “affiliation” and funding sources. More than 85% of students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs with majority enrolling in three-year B.A., B.Com. or B.Sc. degrees. One-sixth of all Indian students are enrolled in Engineering/Technology degrees.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) is an important element of the nation’s education initiative. In order for Vocational Education to play its part effectively in the changing national context and for India to enjoy the fruits of the demographic dividend, there is an urgent need to redefine the critical elements of imparting vocational education and training to make them flexible, contemporary, relevant, inclusive and creative. The Government is well aware of the important role of Vocational education and has already taken a number of important initiatives in this area.112

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