India’s higher education enrolment has been rising rapidly, recently surpassing that of the United States. Current enrolments of up to 26 million people now exceed the population of Australia. With a significantly larger youth population than China (374 million people under age of 15 years against 262 million in China), India’s higher education enrolment is destined to surpass that of China in the next few years.
A closer look however at the nature of this growth, its quality, and relevance, reveals the unpleasant underbelly of the country’s higher education system. Much of the recent growth has been fuelled by the tuition-based private provision of uneven quality. The bulk of the enrolment is the state universities and colleges that are grossly underfunded and badly managed with much political interference, even in purely academic matters. At the national level, several legislations that aim to provide a new regulatory framework for higher education are stuck in the Parliament. Faced with an uncertain future, the existing regulatory bodies are demotivated and on the verge of collapse.
In the context of the above grim realities; India’s twelfth plan for higher education has been formulated. The plan recognises these limitations and limitations of financial resources in the face of competing demands. It has a bouquet of creative proposals to address several of the challenges faced by India’s higher education. India’s large and young population is its most valuable asset and the country’s economic future and the well-being of its citizens solely rests on educating its youth so that they contribute to its growth and productivity. The presentation The Next 5 years of Higher Education in India will provide a preview of these proposals with a view to solicit guidance and support for implementation.
Pawan Agarwal is the Emerging Leader Fellow at the Australia India Institute. He is a senior civil servant from India and currently Adviser, Higher Education and Culture in the Planning Commission, where he steered formulation of India’s Twelfth Plan for higher education and culture. He earlier worked as Director in the Ministry of HRD and Financial Advisor at the University Grants Commission.
Earlier, he fostered several initiatives and innovations in higher education at the national level, such as the Indian National Digital Library for Science and Technology, the National Programme for Technology Enhanced Learning, and the Aii Indian Engineering Entrance Examination. He was Fulbright New Century Scholar at Harvard University and Emory University, visiting scholar and fellow at ICRIER, New Delhi and at the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne.
He has conducted studies for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Inter-American Development Bank, the South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutions, the Observatory for the Borderless Education, and the Indian Council for International Economic Research. He has published on a range of higher education issues in India and comparative perspectives in the South Asian context. His book Indian Higher Education: Envisioning the Future (2009) is an authoritative and well-regarded book on India’s higher education system.