Higher education in India

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Institute Main Building of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT KGP) in the city of Kharagpur (West Bengal)
IIM Calcutta's Auditorium
The Auditorium at Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, in the city of Kolkata (West Bengal).

India's higher education system is the third largest in the world, next to the United States and China.[1] The main governing body at the tertiary level is the University Grants Commission, which enforces its standards, advises the government, and helps coordinate between the centre and the state.[2] Accreditation for higher learning is overseen by 12 autonomous institutions established by the University Grants Commission (UGC) .[3]

As per the latest 2011 Census, about 8.15% (68 millions) of Indians are graduates, with Union Territories of Chandigarh and Delhi topping the list with 24.65% and 22.56% of their population being graduates respectively.[4] Indian higher education system has expanded at a fast pace by adding nearly 20,000 colleges and more than 8 million students in a decade from 2000-01 to 2010-11.[5] As of 2016, India has 799 universities, with a break up of 44 central universities, 540 state universities, 122 deemed universities, 90 private universities, 5 institutions established and functioning under the State Act, and 75 Institutes of National Importance which include AIIMS, IIT's and NIT's among others.[6][2][7][8][9][10][11] Other institutions include 39,071 colleges as Government Degree Colleges and Private Degree Colleges, including 1800 exclusive women's colleges, functioning under these universities and institutions as reported by the UGC in 2016.[6] Colleges may be Autonomous, i.e. empowered to examine their own degrees, up to PhD level in some cases, or non-autonomous, in which case their examinations are under the supervision of the university to which they are affiliated; in either case, however, degrees are awarded in the name of the university rather than the college.

The emphasis in the tertiary level of education lies on science and technology.[12] Indian educational institutions by 2004 consisted of a large number of technology institutes.[13] Distance learning and open education is also a feature of the Indian higher education system, and is looked after by the Distance Education Council.[13] Indira Gandhi National Open University is the largest university in the world by number of students, having approximately 3.5 million students across the globe.[14][15][16]

Some institutions of India, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institute of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), University of Mumbai and Jawaharlal Nehru University have been globally acclaimed for their standard of education.[13][17][18][19] The IITs enroll about 8000 students annually and the alumni have contributed to both the growth of the private sector and the public sectors of India. However, India still lacks internationally behind universities such as Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford.[20]

Indian higher education is in need of radical reforms. A focus on enforcing higher standards of transparency,[21] strengthening of the vocational and doctoral education pipeline, and professionalization of the sector through stronger institutional responsibility would help in reprioritizing efforts and working around the complexities.[22] The rise of IT sector and engineering education in India has boxed students into linear path without giving them a chance to explore and discover their passions. Concerted and collaborative efforts are needed in broaden student choices through liberal arts education.[23]


Universities in India have evolved in divergent streams with each stream monitored by an apex body, indirectly controlled by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and funded jointly by the state governments. There are Most universities are administered by the States, however, there are 18 important universities called Central Universities, which are maintained by the Union Government. The increased funding of the central universities give them an advantage over their state competitors.

The University Grants Commission estimated that in 2013-14, an estimated 22849 PhDs and 20425 MPhil degrees were awarded. Over half of these were in the fields of Science, Engineering/Technology, Medicine and Agriculture. As of 2014-15, over 178,000 students were enrolled in research programs.[24]

Apart from the several hundred state universities, there is a network of research institutions that provide opportunities for advanced learning and research leading up to a PhD in branches of science, technology and agriculture. Several have won international recognition.

25 of these institutions come under the umbrella of the CSIR - Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and over 60 fall under the ICAR - Indian Council of Agricultural Research. In addition, the DAE - Department of Atomic Energy, and other ministries support various research laboratories.

The National Institute of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs), Indian Institutes of Technology are among the most prestigious institutions within the technology sciences. Indian Institute of Science is the premier research institute in the field of science and engineering.There are several thousand colleges (affiliated to different universities) that provide undergraduate science, agriculture, commerce and humanities courses in India. Amongst these, the best also offer post graduate courses while some also offer facilities for research and PhD studies.

Technical education has grown rapidly in recent years. Of 27.3 million students enrolled in undergraduate studies, about 4.5 million are in engineering fields.[6] With recent capacity additions, it now appears that the nation has the capability to graduate over 500,000 engineers (with 4-yr undergraduate degrees) annually, and there is also a corresponding increase in the graduation of computer scientists (roughly 50,000 with post-graduate degree). In addition, the nation graduates over 1.2 million scientists. Furthermore, each year, the nation is enrolling at least 350,000 in its engineering diploma programs (with plans to increase this by about 50,000). Thus, India's annual enrollment of scientists, engineers and technicians now exceeds 2 million.

Across the country, tertiary enrollment rates have increased at a compound annual growth rate of 3.5% in the 5 years preceding 2016. Current enrollment stands at 34.58 million, over 15% more than the 29.2 million enrolled in 2011.[6]

International league tables produced in 2006 by the London-based Times Higher Education Supplement(THES) confirmed Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)'s place among the world's top 200 universities.[25] Likewise, THES 2006 ranked JNU's School of Social Sciences[26] at the 57th position among the world's top 100 institutes for social sciences. In 2017, THES ranked the Indian Institute of Science as the eighth best "small university" in the world. A small university was defined as one with less than 5000 students. In 2015, the institute also became the first Indian institute to make it to the top hundred in the THES list of engineering institutes. It was ranked 99.[27]

The Anna University ,which is of the affiliated type is a member of the Association of Indian Universities, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and Partner of UNESCO International Center for Engineering Education (UICEE). UGC have accredited Anna University with Five Star Status in 2002 which is the highest rating. With proven capabilities both in academic and research areas, Anna University was able to receive this honour for a period of five years for excellence in Technical Education.

The University of Calcutta was the first multi-disciplinary university of modern India. According to The Times Higher Education Supplement's survey of the world's top arts and humanities universities, dated November 10, 2005, this university, ranked 39, was the only Indian university to make it to the top 50 list in that year. Other research institutes are the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Asiatic Society, and the Indian Statistical Institute.

The National Law School of India University is highly regarded, with some of its students being awarded Rhodes Scholarships to Oxford University, and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences is consistently rated the top medical school in the country.[28] Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are the top management institutes in India.[29]

The private sector is strong in Indian higher education. This has been partly as a result of the decision by the Government to divert spending to the goal of universalisation of elementary education. Within a decade different state assemblies has passed bills for private universities, including Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Amity University, Xavier Labour Relations Institute, O. P. Jindal Global University and many more.

India is also the leading source of international students around the world. More than 200,000 Indian students are studying abroad. They are likely to be enrolled in master's programs with engineering focus which provide them opportunities to enhance career potential.[30]


Indian law requires that universities be accredited unless created through an act of Parliament. Without accreditation, the government notes, "These fake institutions have no legal entity to call themselves as University/Vishwvidyalaya and to award ‘degree’ which are not treated as valid for academic/employment purposes."[31] The University Grants Commission Act 1956 explains,

"the right of conferring or granting degrees shall be exercised only by a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act carlo bon tempo, or a State Act, or an Institution deemed to be University or an institution specially empowered by an Act of the Parliament to confer or grant degrees. Thus, any institution which has not been created by an enactment of Parliament or a State Legislature or has not been granted the status of a Deemed to be University, is not entitled to award a degree."[31]

Accreditation for higher learning is overseen by autonomous institutions established by the University Grants Commission:[32]

The issue of assessing and assuring quality of Indian higher education is a challenge. Instead of aiming for 'world-class' universities[33] through rankings, policy framework must improve the processes enable accountability through data collection and reporting on parameters of institutional quality.[34] The government should leverage this tool to improve quality of the overall system.

Graduation market[edit]

This is a chart of[35] India as per Census 2001.

Degree Holders
Total 37,670,147
Post-graduate degree other than technical degree 6,949,707
Graduate degree other than technical degree 25,666,044
Engineering and technology 2,588,405
Teaching 1,547,671
Medicine 768,964****
Agriculture and dairying 100,126
Veterinary 99,999
Other 22,588

Rashtriya Uchattar Shiksha Abhiyan[edit]

A total of 316 state public universities and 13,024 colleges will be covered under the Rashtriya Uchattar Shiksha Abhiyan, a plan to manage funding for higher education.[36] This is scheme to develop state university by central govt funding(65%)


The University of Mumbai was ranked 41 among the Top 50 Engineering Schools of the world by America's news broadcasting firm Business Insider in 2012 and was the only university in the list from the five emerging BRICS nations viz Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.[37] It was ranked at 62 in the QS BRICS University rankings for 2013[18] and was India's 3rd best Multi Disciplinary University in the QS University ranking of Indian Universities after University of Calcutta and Delhi University.[19] Three Indian universities were listed in the Times Higher Education list of the world’s top 200 universities — Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, and Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2005 and 2006.[38] Six Indian Institutes of Technology and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science - Pilani were listed among the top 20 science and technology schools in Asia by Asiaweek.[39] The Indian School of Business situated in Hyderabad was ranked number 12 in global MBA rankings by the Financial Times of London in 2010[40] while the All India Institute of Medical Sciences has been recognised as a global leader in medical research and treatment.[41] The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings published in 2013 ranked IIT Delhi at number 222 with a 49.4% score, IIT Bombay at 233, and IIT Kanpur at 295. No Indian universities appear in the top 200 worldwide except IISC Bangalore which is ranked at 147.[42]

There is no domestic ranking system for India. However, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has developed, after wide consultations, 50 indicators, assimilated into seven criteria, as Quality Benchmarks for accreditation of Universities. The Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET), an Inter University Centre (IUC) under the UGC, has reported that there are 150 areas in which research has been undertaken in 37 Central Universities.


Driven by market opportunities and entrepreneurial zeal, many institutions are taking advantage of the lax regulatory environment to offer 'degrees' not approved by Indian authorities, and many institutions are functioning as pseudo non-profit organisations, developing sophisticated financial methods to siphon off the 'profits'.[43][44] Regulatory authorities like UGC and AICTE have been trying to extirpate private universities that run courses with no affiliation or recognition. Students from rural and semi urban background often fall prey to these institutes and colleges.[45] One of the fundamental weaknesses of the system is lack of transparency and recommendations have been made to mandate high standards of data disclosures by institutions on performance.[46] Other problem was on the excessive obsession of having Indian universities among top global College and university rankings, at times originating from government's inconsistent priorities, indicating a showcasing mentality of Indian higher education in the world stage while pathetic ignorance towards primary and secondary educations continued.[47] The argument has been that the whole model of ignoring primary and secondary education, while focusing on ranking of a few universities and institutes, is not a sustainable model for the nation.[48]

Student Advisory[edit]

While fee regulatory agencies fix a fee that cover expenses incurred by an institution along with a basic surplus,[49][50][51] many institutions has been charging a fee[52] that makes the venture profiteering. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the regulatory body for technical education in India, has called "upon the students, parents and the general public not to pay any capitation fee or any other fee other than that mentioned in the Prospectus of the Institutions for consideration of admission.".[53] AICTE also mentions that the fee charged from students, including for programs such as PGDM, has to be approved by the fee regulatory committee of the state, and the institute should mention the fee in its website.[54] As per AICTE norms, the business schools are not meant to charge a fee higher than what is mentioned in the prospectus. Educational regulatory agencies, at the national level[55] and also at the regional level,[56] has mandated that an institution should include the fee in the prospectus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "India Country Summary of Higher Education" (PDF). World Bank. 
  2. ^ a b India 2009: A Reference Annual (53rd edition), 237
  3. ^ "''Higher Education'', National Informatics Centre, Government of India". Education.nic.in. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Rukmini S. (2015-08-04). "Only 8.15% of Indians are graduates, Census data show". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  5. ^ "Latest Statistics on Indian Higher Education". DrEducation.com. 2012-07-17. Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Statistics - Ministry of Human Resource Development" (PDF). mhrd.gov.in. 
  7. ^ "Central Universities". ugc.ac.in. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  8. ^ "List of State Universities" (PDF). 27 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  9. ^ ":::Deemed University - University Grants Commission :::". ugc.ac.in. 23 June 2008. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  10. ^ ":::Private Universities - University Grants Commission :::". ugc.ac.in. 1 August 2011. Archived from the original on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "The Institutes of National Importance" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2009. 
  12. ^ Blackwell, 95–96
  13. ^ a b c Blackwell, 96
  14. ^ National Network of Education (2008-10-06). "‘Mobile Study Centres have increased student participation’ - IGNOU VC, Universities News - By". Indiaedunews.net. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  15. ^ "» Ignou :: Education, Careers & Professional News". News.education4india.com. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  16. ^ "Profile of IGNOU - Preamble". Ignou.ac.in. Retrieved 2011-05-03. 
  17. ^ Matt Lynley (9 July 2012). "The World's Best Engineering Schools". Business Insider. 
  18. ^ a b "QS University Rankings: BRICS 2013". Top Universities. 
  19. ^ a b "Top Universities in India". Top Universities. 
  20. ^ India doesn't figure in world top-100 universities, Press Trust of India via timesofindia.com, 2010-09-12
  21. ^ "Reforming higher education with transparency - University World News". www.universityworldnews.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  22. ^ Choudaha, Rahul. "Three Solutions for Reforming Indian Higher Education ~ DrEducation: Global Higher Education Research". www.dreducation.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  23. ^ Choudaha, Rahul. "Why India should go beyond engineering and diversify with liberal arts education? ~ DrEducation: Global Higher Education Research". www.dreducation.com. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  24. ^ http://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/2465555_Annual-Report-2014-15.pdf
  25. ^ THES, "The World's Top 200 Universities", The Times Higher Education Supplement, 6 October 2006. http://www.thes.co.uk/ (Subscription is necessary to get access to much of THES content)
  26. ^ THES, "Top 100 in Social Sciences", The Times Higher Education Supplement, 27 October 2006.
  27. ^ "IISc becomes first Indian university to be ranked among top 10 in world - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  28. ^ "outlookindia.com - more than just the news magazine from India". http://www.outlookindia.com/.  External link in |work= (help)[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "outlookindia.com - more than just the news magazine from India". http://www.outlookindia.com/. Archived from the original on 25 September 2008.  External link in |work= (help)
  30. ^ Choudaha, Rahul; Hu, Di (2016-01-18). "Three ways Indian students maximize the career potential in the US higher education". interEDGE.org. DrEducation. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  31. ^ a b "Central Universities". Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. 
  32. ^ Higher Education Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  33. ^ Choudaha, Rahul. "Why does India lack world-class universities? ~ DrEducation: Global Higher Education Research". DrEducation. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  34. ^ Dietrich, Erich; Choudaha, Rahul. "Rankings should be used to increase quality for all - University World News". University World News. Retrieved 2016-06-28. 
  35. ^ "Census of India Website : Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner". Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. 
  36. ^ "Govt launches Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan for bouldering Higher Education". Retrieved 7 October 2013. 
  37. ^ Matt Lynley (9 July 2012). "The World's Best Engineering Schools". Business Insider. 
  38. ^ "Times Higher Education". Times Higher Education. 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  39. ^ "Asia's Best Science and Technology Schools". Cgi.cnn.com. 2000-06-22. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  40. ^ "MBA global Top 100 rankings - FT". ft.com. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  41. ^ "Medical Meccas: An Oasis for India's Poorest | Newsweek Health for Life | Newsweek.com". Newsweek.com. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  42. ^ "A study in apathy". 11 September 2013. Archived from the original on 16 September 2013. 
  43. ^ "A crisis of confidence in higher education?". universityworldnews.com. 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2011-08-23. 
  44. ^ The Encyclopædia Britannica
  45. ^ Fake and Cheat Universities in India, Think Ahead.
  46. ^ "Transparency for a Change in Higher Education". DrEducation.com. 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  47. ^ Goswami, Ranjit (8 February 2014). "India’s obsession with university rankings". East Asia Forum. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
  48. ^ Goswami, Ranjit (14 February 2014). "An unsustainable education model". University World News. Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
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  50. ^ http://www.afrcmp.org/index.php/2015-11-25-08-40-18. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  51. ^ http://ojee.nic.in/publicinfo/Handler/FileHandler.ashx?i=File&ii=98&iii=Y. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  52. ^ http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/others/thinkingan-mba-knowreal-costs_882184.html. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  53. ^ http://www.aicte-india.org/downloads/notice_prohibition_capitation_fee.pdf
  54. ^ (PDF) http://www.aicte-india.org/downloads/ApprovalProcessHandbook2016-17.pdf. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  55. ^ (PDF) http://www.ugc.ac.in/pdfnews/1842250_deemedregulation2014.PDF. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  56. ^ (PDF) http://asckerala.org/sites/default/files/MBA%20DIRECTIVES%20ISSUED%20TO%20ALL%20SELF-FINANICNG%20MANAGEMENT%20INSTITUTUES%20ON%2011.05.2015.pdf. Retrieved 17 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)