Higher Education in India: An Analysis


The recent American investor Steve Woziniak’s opinion has highlighted the issues affecting Indian higher education system

Structure of Higher Education System in India

Fast Facts: Higher Education in India

According to AIHES 2016-17,

  1. Total no of universities: 864 as compared to 799 in 2015-16
  2. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER): 25.2 as compared to 24.5% in 2015-16. (Calculated for 18-23 years of age group)
  3. State with Highest GER: Tamil Nadu (46.9%)
  4. State with Lowest GER: Bihar (14.9%)
  5. Pupil Teacher Ratio: 21
  6. College Density (No. Of colleges per lakh population): 28
  7. Only 1.7% Colleges run Ph.D. programme and 33% Colleges run Post Graduate Level programmes
  8. 277 universities are privately managed
  9. NIRF Rankings: IISc Bangalore ranked first, IIT Madras best engineering college

Critical Issues in Indian Higher Education


  • GER of higher education in India is much behind that of USA (85.8%) and China (43.39%)
  • Lack of capacity to absorb the increasing numbers of students coming out of secondary education into the college system

Issues related to Inclusiveness and Equal Access

  • Variation in GER between male -female, between SC, ST, OBC and other, between religious groups, economic groups, rural-urban divide
  • Inter-caste/ tribes disparities prominent. For Scheduled Castes, GER is 19.9% and for Scheduled Tribes, it is 14.2% as compared to the national GER of 24.5%
  • Muslims have the lowest rate of enrolment in higher education. According to AISHE 2015-16, Muslims accounted 4.4% of students enrolled in higher education although they comprise of more than 14% of India’s population
  • Caste-based discrimination in universities leading to suicides. Example: Rohit Vemula case


  • Inadequate funding in higher education
  • Budget for both IITs and UGC reduced in budget 2018-19
  • According to Economic Survey, only 0.6-0.7% of GDP has been spend on research in India in the last two decades. Most of the funding has come from government rather than private sector
  • This is very low as compared to 2.4% of USA, China-2.1%, Japan-3.58% and South korea-4.29%


  • Only 3 universities feature in to 200 of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2018
  • Major reasons for poor quality:
  1. Faculty:
  • Vacant faculty positions,
  • Inadequate teacher training
  • High student teacher ratios
  • Overload (teaching as well as clerical)
  • Political interference in selections, appointments of vice chancellors and faculty
  1. Curriculum:
  • Outdated, irrelevant curriculum
  • Theoretical in nature; low scope for creativity
  • Gap between industry requirements and curriculum- low employability of graduates
  1. Inadequate physical Infrastructure and facilities


  • Poor fund allocation in research
  • Low levels of PhD enrolment
  • Few opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research
  • Low levels of industry engagement
  • Low quality of research work
  • Trends in quality of publications increasing slowly; India lags much behind USA and China


  • High control and low on support and facilitation
  • UGC has been accused of biased granting of funds
  • Undermining independence of autonomous universities
  • UGC’s flawed method of determining recruitment and career advancement of faculty: Academic Performance Indicator (API).

Private colleges and Deemed Universities:

  • Arbitrary nature of fees; “capitation fees”
  • Admissions manipulated- Management quotas
  • Ill equipped to organize courses
  • De facto management—the trustees of the sponsoring societies or trusts

Government Initiatives

  1. Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE):
  • Aim: Increase investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions
  • The RISE initiative will be funded by a restructured Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
  • Total investment of ₹1, 00,000 crore in next four years.
  1. Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) Scheme:
  • Aim: to enhance the quality of technical research
  • Scholarship to 1,000 best BTech students each year from premier institutions to do PhD in IITs and IISc
  1. IMPRINT India:
  • Joint initiative of IITs and IISc to address major and science and technology challenges in India
  • Aims to boost original scientific and technological research in 10 fields: (1) Health care technology, (2) Energy security, (3) Rural urban housing design, (4) Nano technology, (5) Water/river system, (6) Advanced materials, (7) Computer science and ICT, (8) Manufacturing technology, (9) Advanced security and (10) Environment/climate change
  1. Global Initiative for Academics Network (GIAN):
  • Aim: To facilitate the partnership between Higher Education Institutions of India and other foreign universities
  1. Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM): E-education platform
  2. Saksham scholarship scheme: Scholarship provided to disabled by AICTE to pursue technical education
  3. Unnat Bharat Abhiyan: Higher educational institutions to provide solutions for transforming rural India.
  4. Ucchtar Aavishkar Abhiyaan: To promote industry-specific need-based research
  5. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF): Ranking of higher educational institutions: universities, engineering, management and pharmacy.
  6. Swayam Prabha: telecasting educational programmes in higher education domain
  7. Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP)
Best practice:


· China has been funding nine of its top universities (called C9) to make them climb the global rankings.

· Tsinghua University, part of the C9, has a global rank of 25 and is placed sixth in Asia.

Way Forward:

  1. Adequate investment in education sector. Gap in investment to be filled by private sector
  2. Setting up/expansion of existing educational institutions; Full capacity utilization of existing institutions
  3. Providing necessary physical infrastructure; involvement of private sector in providing quality physical infrastructure
  4. Dilutions of selections standards for teachers to be checked; proper training for teachers
  5. According to Educationist P.Balakrishnan, API should be revamped to include only quality research and teaching. UGC should remove experience-related considerations for career advancement as it stagnates the best years of a faculty.
  6. Revamping curriculum- making curriculum industry-oriented, updated and practical
  7. Revamping traditional evaluation system. More focus on critical thinking, analytical reasoning,

problem-solving rather than memorizing and writing skills. Also, proper feedback to be provided to the examinee

  1. Innovations in classroom teaching- use of ICT, introduction of credit based system for classroom participation instead of compulsory attendance
  2. International collaboration to boost research and innovation
  3. UGC should act as a facilitator rather than a regulator. More autonomy to universities to be provided
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