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

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Transformation of the University Space

Rapid Growth of Private Universities

Over the last two decades India has witnessed a rapid rise in the number of private universities. Various state governments have encouraged and justified this growth in order to increase enrolment in higher education, and private capital has welcomed this state encouragement. However, the implications of this move on access to higher education and the variety of other challenges that it presents are debated. Based on higher education enrolment data from the All India Survey on Higher Education, this paper attempts to study the social and academic character of universities to understand the consequences of the rapid growth of private universities for the university space as a whole.

The National Knowledge Commission (NKC), appointed by the Planning Commission of India, in its 2008 report titled “Towards a Knowledge Society: Three Years of the National Knowledge Commission,” emphasised the need for private investment in education for radically enhancing ­enrolment. in higher education. This recommendation came in the context of a premise that government financing was ­insufficient for supporting the scale at which educational ­opportunity needed to expand at the time (NKC 2008). In ­India, private investment at the level of universities has either led to the establishment of institutions deemed to be universities (deemed universities, hereafter) approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India, and private universities approved by different state governments. Between the second half of the 1990s—the period during which the ­initial private universities were established—and 2008, the number of deemed universities in India increased from 33 to 116 (UGC 2018). A majority of these new institutions were set up with private capital (GoI 2014).

This spectacular growth in the number of deemed universities suddenly decelerated after 2009 as a result of a decision of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to withdraw recognition of 44 deemed universities and to put an equally large number of institutions under the scanner, based on an assessment of their quality of education and management patterns (NDTV 2010). A few years prior, in 2005, the ­Supreme Court had quashed the credibility of different provisions of the Chhattisgarh Private Universities (Establishment and Operation) Act, 2005, and had upheld the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulations, 2003 (CED 2005; UGC 2003). By bringing better clarity regarding the legal framework for setting up and operating state private universities, this verdict encouraged both state governments and private capital to work on the establishment of state private universities. With the future of deemed universities unclear, private capital began gravitating towards state private universities. As a result, between 2006 and 2018 the number of state private universities swelled from 19 to 290, of which 223 were established after 2009 (UGC 2018).

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Updated On : 6th Oct, 2020

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