Higher Education in India

Higher Education in India – An Introduction

The higher education of India will bask in its glory by the year 2030 when every fourth global citizen will be a graduate of its making. It shall also be the youngest nation in the world with 140 million people in the college going age group. The higher education of India is the powerhouse of the global knowledge hub. Currently 50% of India’s population is below 25 years of age, and by 2020 India will supersede China as the nation with the highest tertiary - age population. The future of higher education in India appears to be nearing its pinnacle of glory.

India ranks the third largest country in the world in terms of Higher education system, after United States and China. In the last two decades the Higher education system in India has undergone a phenomenal change due its attainment of widespread reach to low cost high quality university education to almost the entire populace. Expansion, equity and excellence – are the three pillars of the government’s plans for education. In the forthcoming five years every aspect of higher education is being reorganised and remodelled: quality assurance, funding, accountability, leadership and management, relationship with industry, international collaboration, and in methods of conduct of teaching and research. A remarkable initiative is the phase wise delegation of funding and authority from the domain of central to the state governments.

Higher Education in India – Demographics.

The University Grants Commission is the main governing body at the tertiary level which enforces standards, co-ordinates between centre and states and advises the government in matters of higher education of the country. It has also established twelve autonomous institutions which oversee and regulate accreditation of higher learning. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world comprising of 700+ universities, 35000+ colleges and numerous stand-alone technical/professional institutions with annual enrolment in excess of 26 million students.

Despite impressive growth, the gross enrolment ratio of India’s higher education stands at 18% which is far below the global average of 27%. China has gross enrolment ratio of 26% and Brazil has 36% (2010). The government plans to increase GER in higher education to 30% by 2030. This will require a transformational change at a pace and scale never seen before. In the process India would require another 800 universities and over 40,000 colleges in the next eight years to provide the planned additional 14 million places by the year 2020. The private sector has outpaced the state sector in tertiary education which currently occupies 64% share of the total number of institutions and 59% of tertiary enrolments. Higher education universities are currently growing at the rate of 40% per annum and their market share is worth $ 6.5 billion. By estimates even if India achieves 30% GER by 2020, 100 million students will not have places at university. India requires drastically increasing places at universities and laying more emphasis on distance learning programmes to ease this gap.

Higher Education in India – Future

Despite the growing reputation for “Frugal Innovation” mainly driven by the private sector, the eco system for innovation in Indian research institutions is weak. The number of students taking PhD’s and entering research posts is very low. 4,500, PhD’s are awarded in science and engineering whereas in China it is 30,000 and 25,000 in the U.S.

Higher Education in India requires a both quantitative and qualitative jumpstart to be entrenched in the position of the “Global Knowledge Powerhouse”.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected from secondary research we are not responsible for any errors in the same.


  • "Our frugal future: lessons from India's frugal innovation system": K.Bound and I.Thornton; NESTA (2012)
  • Ernst & Young (2010). New realities, new possibilities: the changing face of Indian higher education.
  • Ernst & Young (2011). 40 million by 2020: preparing for a new paradigm in Indian higher education.
  • Ernst & Young (2012). Higher education in India: twelfth five year plan (2012-2017) and beyond.
  • British Council (2014).Understanding India-The future of higher education and opportunities for international co-operation.

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