India has one of the world's largest higher education systems, ranking second in terms of higher education networks. In India, the word "higher education" refers to the tertiary level education that is provided after 12 years of schooling (10 years of primary education and 2 years of secondary education). The Indian higher education system has expanded significantly, with over 1,000 universities and 42,000+ colleges offering top-notch education. The Indian higher education system is the world's third largest, providing education and training in almost every discipline. From 3.85 crore in 2019–20, the total number of students enrolled in higher education has climbed to about 4.14 crore in 2020–21. The number of students enrolled has increased significantly by almost 72 lakh (21%) from 2014–15. The top 6 States according to the number of students registered are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. Moreover, the total number of graduates has increased from 94 lakh in 2019–20 to 95.4 lakh in 2020–21. The various infrastructure facilities that are accessible in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in 2020–21 are Libraries (97%), Laboratories (88), Computer Centres (91%, 86% in 2019-20), Skill Development Centres (61%, 58% in 2019-20), and Connection to National Knowledge Network (56%, from 34% in 2019-20). An average of 59 universities were added per year from 2014–15 through 2020–21. During 2007-08 and 2014-15, this number was around 50. Over the next ten years, India will have the highest proportion of young people in the entire world. Our capacity to provide high-quality educational opportunities to our youngsters will determine the destiny of the country. India's public expenditure in the education sector has been 3% of GDP, with the government aiming to boost it to 6%. In order to retain Indian talent and foster economic development in the nation, the government of India is inviting foreign universities to establish campuses in India.
The Landscape of Indian Higher Education
The higher education (HE) ecosystem is a driving force in the development of intellectual and social capital in the country as it fosters knowledge, capability, and expertise and nurtures the values essential for a growing economy.
Approximately 79.06% of all students are enrolled in undergraduate-level courses, while 11.5% are enrolled in postgraduate-level courses. At the undergraduate level, enrolment is highest in the arts (33.5%), followed by science (15.5%), commerce (13.9%), and engineering & technology (11.9%). Most of the postgraduate students are enrolled in social science (20.56%), followed by science (14.83%). Moreover, approximately 79.06% of all students are enrolled in undergraduate-level courses, while 11.5% are enrolled in postgraduate-level courses. At the undergraduate level, enrolment is highest in the arts (33.5%), followed by science (15.5%), commerce (13.9%), and engineering & technology (11.9%). The majority of postgraduate students are enrolled in social science (20.56%), followed by science (14.83%). The top 8 States in terms of the highest number of colleges are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat. There are 17 universities (14 of which are state public) and 4,375 colleges that are solely for women. There are 15,51,070 faculty/teachers in total. 61.4% colleges and 43% universities are situated in rural areas. At the undergraduate level, enrolment is highest in the arts (33.5%), followed by science (15.5%), commerce (13.9%), and engineering & technology (11.9%). The majority of postgraduate students are enrolled in social science (20.56%), followed by science (14.83%). Additionally, approximately 79.06% of all students are enrolled in undergraduate-level courses, while 11.5% are enrolled in postgraduate-level courses.
After the pandemic hit in 2020, it paralysed the conventional learning methods including in-person instruction, fundamentally changing the higher education industry. Furthermore, broader trends in the education industry have accelerated, such as shifting student choices, increased need for digital skills, the rise of the educational technology (EdTech) sector, and a widening digital gap.
Types of HEIs
They are established by an Act of Parliament. The Union Government provides funding for the establishment and its operations.
They are established by a State Assembly Act. The state government largely funds and manages the state universities.
They are established by a State Assembly Act. It consists of specialist institutions as well as multidisciplinary research universities.
These are high-performing institutes that the Central Government has deemed to be of equivalent standing as universities on the advice of the Union Grants Commission (UGC).
Institutes of National Importance (INI)
These are famous Indian colleges that are noted for producing highly skilled persons. These are supported by the Government of India and include all IITs, NITs, and AIIMs institutes.
Types of courses
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. It is a broad phrase referring to all of the courses that provide knowledge in these fields. The goal of STEM courses involves integrated learning and focuses on the actual application of the subjects rather than teaching the four disciplines individually. Successful STEM education includes both theoretical and experimental and research-based learning in addition to classroom instruction. The same is made possible by the well-equipped laboratories of Indian academic institutions, which aid in instilling innovative, competent, and problem-solving abilities in the students.
Non- STEM Courses
Non-STEM courses are offered in disciplines such as Commerce, Arts, Business Management, Humanities, and Social Affairs. Indian colleges are well equipped to deliver instruction in various fields, where students can obtain competence in the subject of their choice. Non-STEM disciplines, such as humanities, open up a wide range of job prospects where the skills, knowledge, and deeper understanding can be applied. Similarly, degrees in education, accountancy, marketing, English, journalism, language studies, and other fields have a wide range of opportunities. Career opportunities in non-STEM degrees include counsellors, education administrators, teachers, clinical psychologists, art or creative directors, and so on.
Opportunities and Trends
It is crucial to change the educational system (especially higher education) and adapt it to the demands of the constantly changing workplace given how competitive the global market is becoming and the Indian higher education system is stepping up.
Anticipating job market trends and identifying learning opportunities
Jobs from ten years ago are suddenly becoming obsolete as automation grows. And the jobs that exist today will inevitably change or be entirely replaced by better options. As a result, it becomes imperative to predict industry trends and identify the talents required for them. The Indian higher education system is aiming to provide a hybrid learning environment that combines classroom and online education, better preparing students to learn more on the job and on-site.
Creating an engaging and updated curriculum
The higher education sector in India is reinventing conventional educational practices by encouraging and promoting classroom digitization along with online learning. With the introduction of tech-enabled learning techniques like smart boards, gaming interventions, and podcasts, curriculums are updated while simultaneously improving accessibility, engagement, and immersion. India is now recognised as the world's ed-tech powerhouse, and digital learning solutions are an essential component of the Indian education ecosystem. Presently, an increasing number of students prefer academic freedom, learning at their own speed, and quick acquisition of skills using on-demand learning materials.
Demand for digital skills and non-conventional courses
The Indian higher education system has the resources to facilitate the development of digital skill sets, which are essential for being well-prepared for a competitive global market. From the fundamental understanding of productivity applications such as Microsoft Office and Google Workspace to complicated programming, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data processing, students can adapt and prosper in a professional setting.
Improving overall GER
Education accessibility in any country is often measured in terms of the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). GER assesses educational access by calculating the ratio of people in all age groups enrolled in various programmes to the total population aged 18 to 23 years. Since independence, India has shown massive progress in higher education covering a journey from only 25 universities and 700 colleges in 1947 to over 1000 universities and 40,000 colleges in 2022. Indian higher education institutions must continue to promote higher education by offering scholarships, ease of access, quality, and industry-accepted education to attract students, resulting in more enrolments.
High proportion of seats reserved in central universities
In Indian central universities, 49.5% of seats are reserved for historically underprivileged communities. The majority of central institutions, however, are unable to fill every seat. While it is critical to provide quality education to all students, regardless of their backgrounds, reserved seats that are vacant should be made available to all students.
Focus on quantity over quality
Notwithstanding the fact that the number of HEIs in India has more than doubled since independence, 600 (out of 1,043) universities and 25K (out of 40K+) colleges are not accredited.
High student-teacher ratio in Indian higher education
In Indian universities and colleges, the current student-teacher ratio is 28:11. In other major economies, like China and South Korea, have a higher student-teacher ratio of 18:22.
Lack of professional development opportunities
Soft-skill development is lacking in both public and private HEIs. Due to a lack of industry collaboration, there is a scarcity of industry expertise and understanding of industry requirements.
Limited supply of skilled faculty
As of 2020, central universities in states such as Haryana, Gujarat, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir, and Bihar were operating with only 52% of the faculty strength that had been sanctioned.
Limited international student inflow and students moving abroad for higher education
While just 49K foreign students came to India in 2020, more than 500K Indian students travelled overseas to pursue higher education. The majority of overseas students in India come from nations like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Sudan.
Recent Government Initiatives
National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 calls for a variety of initiatives, including fostering research/teaching collaborations and faculty/student exchange with high-quality international higher educational institutions (HEI) and signing of relevant mutually advantageous MOUs with foreign nations; and establishing International Student Office at each HEI to welcome and support students from other countries.
IFSCA (International Financial Services Centres Authority) GIFT City (Gujarat International Financial Tech) has permitted top global universities with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) 500 rankings to establish offline centres in GIFT City, Gujarat, in selected disciplines.
Twinning, Joint, and Dual Degree Programs are available by collaboration between Indian and foreign universities under University Grant Commission (UGC) Regulation.
Foreign universities will be able to operate physical campuses in India under upcoming regulations from UGC (Setting up and Operating Campuses of Foreign Higher Educational Institutions in India) Draft Regulations, 2023 (ongoing Public Consultation). These regulations will give foreign universities the freedom to determine their own admissions criteria and tuition rates.
The Program for Promotion of Academic and Research Cooperation welcomes talented international academics to help the Indian education system become more competitive.
The Global Initiative of Academic Networks seeks to boost the presence of reputable foreign faculty in Indian academic institutions and to further welcome the best minds from around the world to teach there.
The Leadership for Academicians Program makes it easier to form alliances with foreign universities to train Indian academics.
The first step in achieving India's HEI targets by 2047 is to restructure higher education institutions (HEI) architecture for a resilient and student-centric ecosystem. The average Indian no longer wants to be confined by old time-bound degrees, and the new regulations must close this gap. In order to give students, the freedom to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule, HEI must make skill development a central component of the curriculum. India has been working on a structure that might serve as a gateway for overseas students seeking higher education in the country. Simultaneously, India is also attempting to open avenues for Indian students and scholars to gain foreign exposure. For the next two decades, India's focus will be on expanding education infrastructure and implementing more favourable rules, which might transform India into one of the world's most favoured higher education destinations.