Indian higher education

Twenty-first-century challenges 1

Authored by: Philip G. Altbach

Routledge Handbook of Education in India

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138091610
eBook ISBN: 9781315107929
Adobe ISBN:


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The saga of Indian higher education since the 1960s is complex, variegated, and reflects the country’s development over time. The country’s education development has, for much of this period, lagged behind economic and social development. Like India itself, higher education realities are contradictory. India, in 2015, has the world’s second-largest higher education system in terms of student numbers, having recently overtaken the United States in enrolments, with 20 million students enrolled in post-secondary education, attending more than 35,500 colleges and 574 universities. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s post-secondary institutions are located in India – many of the colleges are uneconomically small. Approximately 20 per cent of the 18–22-year-old age cohort is in post-secondary education – with a goal of enrolling 25 per cent by 2017 and 32 per cent by 2022 – an extremely ambitious target (Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan 2013). Dropout rates are high, with many of those who enter the system failing to complete a degree. Quality is generally poor – although there are significant islands of excellence, the system overall is a sea of mediocrity – and none of India’s universities score well on any of the international higher education rankings (Altbach 2006).

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