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What ails higher education in India? Why can’t it serve the growing demand?

Higher education in India: Indian students moving abroad for higher education have clocked the highest number recently. With a 68% increase in comparison with the data of 2021, the Ministry of Education submitted the data in response to a question raised in the country’s Parliament in February this year. This sharp rise is indicated despite India having the highest number of students enrolled in higher education courses. The rising number of students moving abroad, speaks volumes about the standard of higher education in the country. Despite the Government pushing for more Centres of Excellence (CoE), to be introduced in leading colleges and universities, and allocating the maximum amount of funds in this year’s Union Budget, students continue to rush abroad for studies. Is there a missing link in the whole equation?

As per the data given in the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE), released by the education ministry, in January, there were around 4.14 crore students enrolled in higher education courses in the time range of 2020-21. The number recorded in 2019-20 was 3.85 crore, and the total enrollment has increased by 21% in comparison with data from 2014-15 when the total number of students in higher education was around 72 lakhs.

Several reports suggest the budgetary allocation for higher education in India has not grown at par with the growth in enrollment. Also, the state of higher education in the country has also pushed students to pursue higher education in foreign countries.

Status of higher education in India

According to the paper Status of Higher Education in India: Challenges, Issues and Opportunities, published in The International Journal of Psychology, in March 2022, the status of higher education in India is not at par with global standards. There are several challenges faced by the faculties of Indian academic institutions, in order to maintain their job and also deliver quality education. The paper gives reference to the ranking of 400 top universities across the globe, published by the QS World University Rankings in 2019, wherein only seven Indian universities were ranked in the list. Of the seven, six were the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), and the seventh was the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. Quality of teaching is identified as the one major aspect facilitating this gap in the paper.

The authors begin their argument with the research fund allocation to the faculty, which is very limited. Although the teaching staff in universities is pressurized to publish research papers to justify their position in the institute, they are not provided with enough research funds. Premier institutes like IIT, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and Central universities are allocated the maximum funds.

The authors of the above paper also raise a very valid point in conjunction with the head of higher institutes in India. A Vice-Chancellor is normally the head of a higher education institute in India and this position is allotted as per the person’s academic qualification and commitment to imparting education. However, in India, the position is held by a person who is politically well-connected.

Why do Indian students choose to study abroad?

The overall deliverables of higher education in India are also contributing to brain-drain as young and intelligent students continue to move abroad for higher education. Determinants of study abroad decisions among Indian students: a PLS approach, published in the International Journal of Management in Education, highlights some key points as to why Indian students chose foreign universities and colleges over their domestic counterparts. The authors argue that the reputation of the university is one of the topmost factors that attract students, followed by the quality of professors, international recognition, facilities and overall academic quality. Another very important factor given by the paper is the image of the country where the institute is located. Factors that contribute to a country’s image include safety, stability, cultural environment and natural beauty etc.

Another very important factor that influences Indian students’ decision to study, as given by the above paper is social media. Students tend to make their decision based on posts shared by their friends and relatives over social media. Such researches are a great medium for policymakers to take into consideration influencing factors that motivate students to choose an institute for higher education.

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