Higher education in India

By Priya Chetty on June 8, 2015

Indian higher educationHigher education or University education shapes people to be qualified and responsible citizens by knowledge and professional training in their ‘relevant field’  of interest. Higher education enables citizens to participate in the capacity-building of a society, helping them to: understand, interpret, preserve, enhance, promote and disseminate national and regional, international and historic culture. Higher education helps an individual to develop a critical thinking towards the happenings in the society, as well as develops analytic capability to understand the existence and their role in the society.

Indian education system

India’s higher education system stands in third in the world, in terms of number students following the USA and China. (Singh, 2011). The University Grants Commission (UGC) is the apex body governing the universities in India. It enforces its standards by advising the government and helps in coordinating between the state and the Centre. Presently, there are 665 universities in India, out of which:

  • 42 are central universities.
  • 49 deemed universities (government/government aided).
  • 201 private universities.
  • 61 institutes of national importance and others includes state-run public universities, institute under state legislature act, etc. (MHRD, 2015).

Most of these universities have affiliating colleges under their arm, which imparts undergraduate courses in different subjects. The private run institutions too, provide various professional courses. There is provision of distance learning (also known as correspondence learning), for those who are not able to enroll themselves in the mainstream courses. Also, there are institutions which provide globalized standards of technical education, such as the IITs. Most of these institutions are not able to place themselves with other East Asian educational establishments among the top 100 of the world.

There are various reasons why some of the institutions of India are not able to deliver quality education with high standards. There is a big gap in the ratio of universities as compared to students pursuing higher education in India. As per the UGC, the country needs 1500 more educational establishments for higher studies in order to compete in the global market (Singh, 2011, p. 59). To add to the problems there has been a steady rise in the number of unaided and unrecognized private institutes. According to FICCI  (2011) reports, between 2001 and 2006 unaided private institutes rose to 63% with a rise from 33% in enrolments to 52%, in 2001. While public funded institutions’ growth has stagnated since.

J. D. Singh has argued, the present education system does not serve the purpose for which it was started (Singh, 2011). The quality of education has deteriorated with the incoming of profit-oriented private institutions, politicization of the education sector by implementing quota system. This resulted in increase in unemployment, due to lack of qualified and skilled professionals. Joshi & Ahir (2013) also pointed out other factors such as, inequity in terms of gender, geography, ethnicity and economic status (Gross Enrollment Ratio of male is 17.1% to that of 12.7% of female) and poor financing on capacity-building by State/Provincial governments. This contributes to the ill condition of the higher education system in India.

Impact of this deterioration in the Indian higher education system

There are also top-tier institutions in India which impart highest level or quality education. Despite their presence, many students migrate to other countries in search of better job opportunities. As per the UGC (2012), about 86% students enroll for undergraduate courses out of which only 12% pursue post-graduation and a meagre sum of only 1% go for doctoral research (Joshi & Ahir, 2013).

This scenario is disappointing for a nation thriving to become a ‘knowledge economy’. Thus, it can be seen that, India has complexities regarding regulations of government policies, access, financing, equity, efficiency, quality, and maintenance of globalized standards. The Government of India is trying its best to develop the educational system by passing policies and acts from time to time but there is lack of implementation owing to confusion regarding the exact body who are supposed to implement.

What is needed?

Amidst these complexities, India needs an educational system which can adopt to the changing needs of its society, economy and the world by implementing an educational system that is modern and liberal in its outlook. Dr. Manmohan Singh has opined, “the time has come to create a second wave of institution building and of excellence in the fields of education, research and capability building’ (Singh, 2011).


  • FICCI. (2011). Private Sector participation in Indian Higher Education. Kolkata.
  • Joshi, K. M., & Ahir, K. V. (2013). Indian Higher Education. Intellectual Economics, 7(1(15)), 42–53.
  • MHRD. (2015). University And Higher Education | Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development. Government of India. New Delhi.
  • Singh, J. D. (2011). Higher Education in India – Issues, Challenges and Suggestions. Paripekshya, 18(1), 57–78.

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).



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