Q) India's higher education system is the world's third-largest in terms of students, but when it comes to World Rankings most Indian Universities have consistently performed poorly due to a myriad of issues. Critically analyze.

Why this question:

QS world University Rankings have been recently released. 

Key demand of the question:

The issues plaguing the  Indian higher education sector and measures to combat them.


Critically analyse - The key to tackling this question is providing ample evidence to support the claims. Ensure that the analysis is balanced by shedding light on, and presenting a critique of, and alternative perspectives. Present extensive evidence taken from a varying range of sources.


Give a brief overview of the higher education sector in India. Use statistics like the total number of universities, colleges, etc.


In the first part, highlight the challenges that the higher education sector has been facing.

In the next part, highlight the measures needed to transform this sector. 


Conclude with the significance of higher education in an individual's life and the larger implications of an efficient higher education system in India. 

Model Answer 

According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) by the MHRD the number of universities in India has grown from 903 in 2017-18 to 993 in 2018-19 and total HEIs (higher educational institutions) grew from 49,964 to 51,649 in the same period. On the other hand according to the latest QS World Ranking for Universities in the world, only 12 Indian universities have featured in the top 100. Though this is far better from the previous ranking (in 2020, only 3 Indian universities featured in top 200) there still is a lot of scope for improvement. 

Reasons for low Ranking of Indian Universities 

  1. Lack of competent faculty- Faculty vacancies at government institutions are at 50% on average. The Pupil-to-teacher ratio in the country is 30:1, while in the USA it is 12.5:1, China 19.5:1 and Brazil 19:1. 
  2. Outdated Curriculum- most universities have outdated, irrelevant curriculum that is dominantly theoretical in nature and has a low scope for creativity. There is a wide gap between industry requirements and universities’ curriculum. This results in low employability of university graduates or even postgraduates. 
  3. Accreditation- According to the data by the NAAC, as of June 2010, not even 25% of the total higher education institutions in the country were accredited. And among those accredited, only 30% of the universities and 45% of the colleges were found to be ranked at 'A' level.
  4. Lack of Research- Indian universities separate research and teaching activities, depriving students of exposure to cutting-edge ideas. The gross expenditure on R&D has consistently been low in the country. 
  5. Infrastructure- both the public and the private sector universities are poor in infrastructure when compared to the global standards. Due to the budget deficit, corruption and lobbying by the vested interest group (Education Mafias), public sector universities in India lack the necessary infrastructure.
  6. Lack of equity- There is no equity in the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) among different sections of society. GER for males (26.3%), females (25.4%), SC (21.8%) and ST (15.9%). In addition to this, there are persistent regional variations too.
  7. Regulatory issues- due to the increase in a number of affiliated colleges and students, the burden of administrative functions of universities has significantly increased and the core focus on academics and research is diluted.

Measures to Reform Higher Education in India 

  1. Implementation of the National Education Policy 2020 to create world class universities in India 
  2. Enhancing the regulatory and governance reforms in universities. 
  3. Building a culture of research and innovation in universities that is integrated with the learning process. 
  4. Increasing the monetary incentives to attract world class faculty for universities. 
  5. Improving the infrastructure of the universities as per the global standards. 
  6. Collaboration with foreign universities. 
  7. Include vocational subjects in mainstream universities to allow for greater acceptance and utility for vocational learning.
  8. Making accreditation by NAAC compulsory for all universities in India. 
  9. Broaden the scope of Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) and Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to provide access to quality education beyond geographical boundaries.

The rankings are an affirmation of faith in the premier Indian higher educational institutions. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), now the Ministry of Education has been taking several steps to improve the global rankings and the quality of Higher Education in India and this has been reflected in the QS World University Rankings of 2021, but still there is a long way to go to ensure the complete development of every individual in India.