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

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Private Higher Education in India

An important feature of the very high rate of growth of higher education experienced in India, particularly since the beginning of the 1990s, is the alarming growth of private higher education. The size of the private sector is about twice that of the public sector in terms of the number of institutions and student enrolments. This has several cnsequences, some of which are already being felt. Apart from refuting several claimed advantages of private higher education, this article draws attention to the dangersinvolved in a high degree of dependence on the private sector for the development of higher education in a country like India.

This article was presented at the 28th Dr Ramanatham Memorial Lecture 2013, organised by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights on 14 September 2013, New Delhi.

The theme of private higher education is not only an unavoidable issue while debating on the current state of higher education in India, but also – and more importantly – is an extremely important theme when conferring on knowledge, equity and democratic rights, as private education impinges on all three aspects significantly. Drawing on my earlier research, a few important aspects relating to private higher education in India are highlighted here.

If one looks at public policies in higher education in India during the past quarter century, one necessarily feels that there has been confusion all over, in some sense. At the beginning of the 1990s, widespread laissez-faireism could be noted with respect to higher education policies. In fact, there was no policy on private higher education, because we were perhaps confused about whether it would be good or bad to go for private education on a large scale. This laissez-faireism, that is, non-intervention by the state and the absence of any policy, which had been the characteristic feature of the couple of decades beginning with the 1990s (Tilak 2004), helped in the rapid growth of private higher education and the emergence of large-scale markets in higher education. This period was followed by clear pro-private approaches.

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