Higher Education System - The government decided to fee hikes at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has spurred deeper questions about the quality of university education.


  • India's higher education system is the third-largest in the world, next to the United States and China.
  • The institutional framework of higher education in India consists of Universities and Colleges.
  • The education system of India falls broadly under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • The Department of Higher Education is responsible for overseeing the growth of the higher education sector.
  • The main governing body at the tertiary level is the University Grants Commission (UGC), which enforces its standards, advises the government, and helps coordinate between the centre and the state.

Issues related to the higher education system-

  • Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average.
  • A Deloitte gathering of 63 Deans of top-tier institutions revealed that 80% of those listed lack of quality faculty as their biggest concern.
  • The number of institutions has surged in India since the 2000s, while the number of students doing PhD has remained constant.
  • The latest ‘India Skills Report’ suggests that only 47% of Indian graduates are employable
  • Indian R&D expenditure at 0.62% of GDP is one of the lowest in emerging economies.
  • Indian universities rank low in both research and teaching. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, at rank 155, was our highest in the Scimago Institutions Rankings (SIR) for research while six Chinese institutes figured in the top 50.
  • This crisis will affect innovation and human capital which is the two pillars of labour productivity and GDP growth.

Government’s initiative to tackle these issues-

  • The government released a Draft National Education Policy (DNEP) in June 2019, which proposed ambitious reforms.
  • The DNEP aims to double education spending to 6% of GDP and close the research-teaching divide in higher education.
  • An ‘Institutions of Eminence’ programme started in 2018 that gave increased funding to some research universities.

Significance of the higher education system-

  • The workers of tomorrow need to transition to the formal, non-agricultural sector, armed with higher education credentials.
  • An increase in research could lead to more innovation in the economy, which might, in turn, drive up labour productivity.
  • Higher education has a potential two-fold effect on productivity.

Way Forward-

  • The government needs to recognize the systemic anger at play and ensure that higher education’s role in innovation and human capital is not ignored. 
  • The DNEP is a great first step, but the reforms must be pushed through and must lead to legislation that will fund research-based universities.

Also readTimes Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020

Higher Education In India