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Why Indian Higher Education needs reform? | Analysis by EASTfacts Media


Status of Higher education of India 2021

The system of higher education in India is the second-largest in the world after China. As per the AISHE 2019-20 report, around 3.85 crore students are enrolled in higher education in India. This is roughly equal to the entire population of Canada! The system has been growing rapidly since the 1990s. And if the vision of higher education of (National Education Policy) 2020 holds, it will be even faster in the future. 

There are more than 1000 universities in India. Though still not the best, the quality of higher education in India has been improving. In THE's (Times Higher Education's) rankings, India is the third most represented country in all Asia in higher education. Only behind Japan and China. 18 Indian universities have entered the top 200 & 1 ( IISc Bangalore) top 100.

Surely, we have come a long way since independence, now let us look at the path ahead.

Problems of higher education in India

The small reach of the higher education system:

The gross enrolment ratio (GER) i.e. the ratio of students in 18 to 23 age enrolled in higher education to the total number of students in that age group, was only at around 27.1% in 19-20 this is far below than that of developed countries.

Also Read: The Story of Indian Educational Schemes and Way forward

China has achieved a GER of 54.4% in 2020. NEP 2020 aims to achieve this 50% goal by 2035. Then there is the obvious gap between rural and urban areas with rural area students having far fewer opportunities. One surprise, however, is the gender gap, which is at an all-time low. The Gender Parity Index is 1.01% implying there is now a disparity in favor of females, which is…. quite healthy and pretty amazing.

EER (Eligibility Enrolment ratio) i.e. the ratio of students in higher education to the total population of students who have qualified class 12th and are in the 18-23 age group. This was proposed by the UGC Vice Chairman in a study recently. This can take the enrolment ratio from 27% to around 65%, which is at par with developed countries. This shows that we need to put more effort into the primary education system in India.

Meagre funding by the government:

Another challenge is poor remuneration by the government. We spend around 3.6% of our GDP on education while developed countries spend around 5 to 6%.

Though the NEP 2020 aims to bring this number to 6%, we should remember that the 1968 NPE policy also said the same thing.

Quality of higher education in India:

Besides increasing the reach of our higher education system, we also must increase the quality of higher education. Higher education must prepare the students for the professional life ahead. At present, the education it imparts, barely contributes, if at all, to the employability of students.

There is a need to shift the focus from theoretical to practical knowledge aligned with the requirements of the economy. The skills required for a job have nothing in common with what is taught in programmes. We must also put a lot of effort into vocational education too, which is still in a quite primitive stage in India. This is also the only way to solve the unemployment crisis in graduates in India. 

Also Read about Reservation in India


A big problem is the unionization of students and faculty in institutes. This leads to power politics and the wastage of funds on appeasing factions. This is not to say that these groups should not represent themselves at all. But the way things currently are, it is not healthy. This needs to change if we want to improve our education system.

These problems over the years have compounded. The result is that around 7.5 Lac Indian students (ICEF) are studying abroad. More than half of these students are highly meritorious. To put in perspective the losses we are incurring, consider this. The contribution of Indian students to the U.S. economy is around US $ 7.6 billion. This is equal to the entire budget allocated to education by the central government. These students are the cream of the talent pool of India.

Over their lifetimes, they add a humongous value to their host countries. Whatever value they add to foreign countries strengthens our competitors. Our loss is their gain. If we wish to become a developed country, we must solve this problem of brain drain.

All in all, it can be said that in Higher education we have come a long way and there's still a long way ahead.

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