• If the covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of India’s healthcare system , it has also exposed the inadequacy of India’s university system.
  • India has not been able to match up to China’s rapid strides in higher education over the past two decades.

Current scenario

  • The world’s universities have been at the forefront in the battle against the novel coronavirus, Indian universities are still not on the frontlines yet. 
  • For instance, Researchers from the Peking University in China first produced evidence last month that there was not one, but two strains of the novel coronavirus.
  • Researchers at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London have built epidemiological models of the spread of the virus.
  • No comparable breakthroughs from Indian universities: studies on India have been done, by scholars based in foreign universities.

Global rankings of universities tracked by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)

  • India has struggled to raise the number of universities in the top 500 global list over the past decade.
  • However, China has more than doubled its share in the top 500 over the same period.

Country-wise count of educational institutes in world top 500 (QS rankings)


Source: QS university rankings


Comparison between Indian and Chinese higher education system:

  • Till the 1990’s: India’s university system was globally recognized as more robust than that of China.
  • Investments Increased in China: China has raced ahead with significant investments in higher education even as India has struggled to protect its elite institutions from apathy and politicking.
  • In terms of enrollments: China outpaced India by the early 2000’s, with college enrollments in China increased from 8% in early 2000s to 50% now. 

Source: Livemint

Reforms done by china

  • Diversifying source of funding:  by the mid-1980s,Chinese institutions of higher education were encouraged to diversify their financial base by seeking non-government sources of support.
  • Public investment was stepped up to ensure that the masses could access the fruits of higher education.

Issues with India higher education system:

  • Lack of access to funds: University finances in India remain badly managed and even top public universities find it difficult to access funds.
    • The latest budget’s allocation towards higher education was a mere 1.3% of the overall expenditure, the lowest since 2010-11.
  • No high quality PhD programmes and no conducive research environment: India does not create high quality PhD programmes that could provide the pipeline for top quality teachers and researchers.
  • Poor governance of public universities: Universities largely dependent on a vast army of temporary staff to run its sought-after undergraduate courses .
    • Around 34% of faculty positions in higher education institutions under the central government and 27% under state governments were vacant last year.
  • Rising Inequalities : gender parity has improved over time.however,college enrollment among scheduled caste and scheduled tribes are still lagging even as the overall gross enrollment ratio (GER) is stagnating.
    • The enrollment rates are particularly low in poorer states in the north and east. College enrollment rates are relatively higher in the south.
    • Rise of private colleges and universities: But most of them charge fees which are unaffordable for a large section of Indians even as the quality of teaching remains poor.

  • Decline in spending on education: for instance, The share of the Union budget allocated to education, approximately 40% of which goes to higher learning and research, has fallen from 4.14% in 2014-15 to 3.4% in 2019-20.


Measures taken by the government to improve higher education system

EQUIP (Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme)

  • Double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education and resolve the geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India
  • Upgrade the quality of education to global standards
  • Position at least 50 Indian institutions among the top-1000 global universities
  • Introduce governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses
  • Accreditation of all institutions as an   assurance of quality
  • Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in the Top-3 countries in the world in matters of knowledge creation
  • Double the employability of the students passing out of higher education
  • Harness education technology for expanding the reach and improving pedagogy
  • Promote India as a global study destination
  • Achieve a quantum increase in investment in higher education.
  • It is to be implemented between 2019-2024. 
  • The project will need to rely on extra-budgetary resources from the marketplace apart from the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is a joint venture of MHRD Government of India and Canara Bank for financing creation of capital assets in premier educational institutions in India as part of rising 2022 HEFA’s scope is greatly expanded to cover school education, educational institutes under Ministry of health etc.
  • HEFA is registered under Section 8 [ Not-for-profit] under the Companies Act 2013 as a Union Govt company and as Non–deposit taking NBFC (NBFC-ND-Type II) with RBI.
  • HEFA incorporated on 31st May 2017, is a joint venture of Ministry of HRD, GOI and Canara Bank with an agreed equity participation in the ratio of 90.91% and 09.09% respectively.
  • HEFA’s role is hugely expanded to cover all educational institutions under higher education, school education and institutions under the Ministry of Health.
  • Target – All the projects sanctioned by HEFA are to get completed before 2022. 
  • To develop India’s top-ranked institutions like IIT’s, IIIT’s, NIT’s, IISCs, AIIMS into Globally top ranking institutions through improvement in their academic and infrastructure quality. 

RISE (Revitalising of Infrastructure and Systems in Education )scheme

  • It aims for a total investment of Rs 1 lakh crore in the next four years.
  • To revitalise infrastructure, opening schools for Scheduled Tribe population as well as to promote programmes for teachers, in order to improve quality education for students
  • To provide low cost funds to government higher educational institutions to promote higher education.
  • Under it, all centrally-funded institutes (CFIs), including central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs and IISERs can borrow to expand infrastructure.


Institute of Eminence Scheme

Aims and objectives of the scheme

Details of the scheme

Funding/the institutes selected

Institutes of Eminence are institutions which are expected to make into the top 500 world rankings in a decade.


To provide for high quality teaching and research and for the advancement of knowledge and its dissemination through various research programmes 


The scheme was launched in 2016.

Autonomy to IoE: IoE will have complete freedom to decide the curricula, hire domestic and foreign faculty and fix a fee structure of their choice. 


IoE comprises 10 public and 10 private educational institutions which will be selected based on the recommendations of the Empowered committee. 


1. to admit foreign students up to 30% of admitted students; 

2. to recruit foreign faculty upto 25% of faculty strength; 

3. to offer online courses upto 20% of its programmes; 

4. to enter into academic collaboration with top 500 in the world ranking Institutions without permission of UGC; 

5. free to fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction; 

6. flexibility of course structure in terms of number of credit hours and years to take a degree; 

7. complete flexibility in fixing curriculum and syllabus, among others. 

Rs. 1000 cr. grant will be given only to public institutions and no funds will be given to private institutions.  


10 Public Institutions - IISc Bangalore, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, IIT Madras, IIT Kharagpur, University of Hyderabad, Banaras Hindu University, University of Delhi, Jadavpur University & Anna University.


 10 Private institutions - BITS Pilani, MAHE Karnataka, Jio Institute, Amrita Vishwavidyapeetham, Tamil Nadu, Vellore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Odisha, O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana, Bharti Institute, Satya Bharti Foundation, Mohali, Shiv Nadar University, Uttar Pradesh.