ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Degrees of Disparity

The division that has emerged in the structure of higher education services bodes ill for India's youth.

The controversy over the proposed derecognition of 44 “deemed universities” is a timely reminder of the fact that Indian higher education has changed dramatically during the last decade. What happened in school education three decades ago is now happening in higher education, but at an accelerated pace and with additional complications. These changes make it imperative to rethink the roles of the state and market, as well as address questions of access, equity and quality.

During the first decade of the 21st century, the private sector in higher education outpaced the state sector for the first time. According to the Eleventh Plan (v II, p 23), the Tenth Plan period (2002-07) saw the private sector’s share of higher education institutions rise from 42.6% to 63.2%, while its share of total enrolments increased from 32.9% to 51.5%. However, private higher educational institutions are heavily concentrated in professional fields like medicine, engineering, management and teacher training. Available estimates suggest that the proportion of private institutions is around three-quarters or more in medicine and engineering, and around two-thirds in management and teacher education. Official statistics suggest that a major restructuring of higher education is underway. Between 2000 and 2006, enrolment in undergraduate and doctoral programmes across all (nonprofessional) faculties has been falling at an average annual rate of 1% and 3%, respectively, and enrolment in medicine, engineering and teacher training has been rising at 19%, 54% and 21%, respectively. While the post-2006 expansion of central institutions mandated by the 93rd Amendment needs to be taken account of, it is indisputable that most of the 12% average annual growth in total higher education enrolment is due to the expansion of technical/professional fields, the bulk of it in private institutions.

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