India’s higher education system continues to grow rapidly but is in need of significant reform, a Brookings India report has said.
There are now 35.7 million students enrolled in programmes at India’s universities and colleges.
India’s higher education system is one of the largest in the world and the country has close to 52,000 institutions and a rapidly growing enrolment with four times as many enrolments this year compared to 2001, according to a November 2019 Brookings India report entitled Reviving Higher Education in India.
The gross enrolment ration (GER) in India was 26.3% as of 2016. Despite being more than double the GER from a decade before (11.5% in 2006), it remains short of the target of 32.2% by 2022 set by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Over three quarters of a million Indians opted to study abroad last year
One factor that is limiting this growth is that demand for study abroad is incredibly strong. In 2018, just over 750,000 Indians went abroad to study in 2018, making India the world’s second-largest source country after China for international students.
Despite tens of thousands of higher education institutions on their doorstep, Indians continue to opt to study overseas.
The Brookings India report suggests that “low employability of graduates, poor quality of teaching, weak governance, insufficient funding, and complex regulatory norms” are issues facing the sector.
Further, the report notes that the much-expanded higher education sector is still no match for demand, particularly when it comes to postgraduate level study and access to quality higher education is a persistent issue.
If the country is to achieve its goal of enabling a critical proportion of its citizens to access quality higher education in the country, then serious reforms are required, the report says.
A higher education system is considered universal when the GER is above 50%.
India should ‘look to China’ to compare education models
The report cites China as a contrast to India in its expansion of higher education.
China’s higher education system has also seen significant expansion, however the way that it accomplished this feat is different, having a greater overall impact on educational and economic development.
China’s gross enrolment rate has increased at a far more rapid pace than India’s since 2001 according to date from UNESCO.
The reasons that the report states for this difference is that the Chinese government vastly increased its investment in higher education system, while India when about its expansion by reducing funding and inviting private investors in a bid to expand capacity.
As a result, India’s HE system is fragmented, with thousands of often poorly regulated providers and relatively few students per institution.
The report notes: “Indian HEIs, on average, have about 690 students. Chinese HEIs, on the other hand, have 16,000 students per HEI. Experiences from China and developed countries suggest that bigger HEIs with a high student count are easier to manage.”
The report recommends that smaller Indian HEIs cluster to gain this benefit.
Hari is the Managing Editor of Global Education Times. Hari has clocked nearly a decade working as a communications professional with a focus on the education sector. He has also had stints in journalism and advertising in a career which has seen him live, study, and work, in three countries.
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