Currently, 403 private universities and 126 deemed (private) universities licensed by the Central government are on the 1,027-strong list of Indian universities approved by the Delhi-based University Grants Commission. According to some estimates, more than 70 percent of India’s youth in higher education are in private HEIs, writes Dilip Thakore
Contrary to popular belief, privately-promoted higher education institutions (HEIs) — undergrad colleges and universities — have made a substantial contribution to post-independence India’s nation-building effort. Although with India having foolishly adopted the Soviet-inspired “socialistic pattern of development” and central planning immediately after attaining political independence from British rule, it became fashionable to vilify private education providers as capitalist exploiters, despite official discouragement, there’s been a steady growth in the number of private HEIs. For the simple reason that neither the Central nor state governments have sufficiently invested in education.
Way back in 1967, the high-powered Kothari Commission recommended that the government (Centre plus states) should invest “at least” 6 percent of GDP in public education, but that target has never been attained. For the past 75 years, government investment in public education has averaged 3.25-3.5 percent per annum.
A direct consequence of taking the populist socialist road to perdition has been that the country’s population has tripled to over 1 billion, because central planners were unaware that universal education is the best contraceptive. The original sin of under-investment in public education was compounded by conspicuous failure to supervise the quality of education dispensed in government schools and higher education institutions. As repeatedly highlighted in the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) of the Pratham Education Foundation, over 55 percent of class V children in government rural primaries can’t read class II textbooks.
In higher education, 85 percent of the country’s arts, science and commerce graduates — especially of HEIs promoted by state governments — are not sufficiently qualified for induction into Indian and foreign multinationals, according to Aspiring Minds, a Delhi-based human resources recruitment company.
Currently, 403 private universities (the majority licensed by state governments) and 126 deemed (private) universities licensed by the Central government are on the 1,027-strong list of Indian universities approved by the Delhi-based University Grants Commission (UGC). According to some estimates, more than 70 percent of India’s youth in higher education are in private HEIs.
Therefore since the EWIHER were introduced in 2013, your editors have been rating and ranking private and government/public universities separately on the reasoning that they tend to have totally different institutional cultures, tuition fee and accountability structures. In particular, with tuition fees frozen for decades in government HEIs, the modest tuition and other fees levied by private universities — albeit very modest by international standards — have drawn continuous criticism from academics and media pundits who foolishly expect and demand that all education institutions must be run as charities, a chorus sanctified by the Supreme Court and the upper judiciary. Nevertheless despite harassment and red-tape, the number of private universities has steadily increased and they have made a significant contribution to the steady growth of the Indian economy and emergence of the country’s contemporary 250-300 million middle class.
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