Higher Education in India and Issues

Higher Education in India and Issues

This article deals with ‘ Higher Education in India and Issues – for UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Society’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here .


Since 27% of India’s population is in the 15-29 age bracket, India needs to invest in higher education to improve its quantity and quality to reap the demographic dividend. The Indian government has been doing this, corroborated by the increase in number of India’s premier educational institutions

  2014 2022
Medical College 387 648
IITs 16 23
IIMs 13 20
Universities 723 1113

The number of students enrolling in higher educational institutions has also increased, corroborated by the following data (for FY 2021).

Higher Education in India and Issues

Issues with Higher Education in India

  • Accessibility: The cost of education is high. As a result, the gross enrolment ratio for higher education is just 27% in India (compared to 47% in Brazil and 30% in China)
  • Lack of research funding in a higher educational institution is meagre by global standards.  
  • Lack of faculty: Pupil to teacher ratio in the country, which currently stands at 30:1, needs to improve compared to the USA (12.5:1) and China (19.5:1)   
  • Employability of pass-outs is a significant issue. The skills imparted to the graduates need to be updated.        
  • Low Autonomy: Higher Education System is regulated by many bodies, thus reducing the autonomy of Universities.
  • Locational Disparities: There is regional disparity in college density (number of colleges per lakh eligible population) which varies from 7 in Bihar to 59 in Telangana 
  • Quality: Quality of higher education is also an issue; only 3 Indian institutions feature in the top 200 world rankings of QS world university ranking. 
  • Islands of excellence: The government has developed islands of river excellence in the form of IITs and IISc and allocates the majority of funds to these institutions. At the same time, state universities and colleges remain underfunded. 

Schemes to improve Higher Education in India

1. Rashtriya Uchhattar Siksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

  • It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme launched in 2013.
  • RUSA aims to provide strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions so that they can improve their infrastructure.

2. Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

  • HEFA has been set up with a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore to augment research and related infrastructure.

3. National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)

  • NIRF is the National Ranking of Institutions started by the Government of India in 2016. Like Times and QS Ranking of International Universities, the Indian government has developed NIRF to rank Indian institutions based on parameters well suited for Indian conditions. 
  • All education institutions are assessed on five parameters: 
    1. Teaching learning and resources
    2. Graduation outcomes
    3. Research and professional practices
    4. Outreach and inclusivity, 
    5. Perception
  • The latest such report was released in 2022 (NIRF 2022 Ranking), and IIT Madras was ranked the best institution (overall), followed by IISc Bangalore.

4. Revitalization Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)  

  • Purpose: For investments in centrally funded institutions like IITs, Central Universities and other such institutes 
  • Funding will be provided through HEFA

5. Uchchtar Siksha Kosh

  • Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh is a non-lapsable fund for the promotion and up gradation of higher education.

6. Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN)

  • Under GIAN Initiative, faculty from 38 countries like Russia, Japan etc., will deliver courses in Indian institutions like IIT, IIM etc.
  • Others can access on MOOCs platform  

7. Impacting Research Innovation & Technology (IMPRINT)

  • It is a joint initiative of IIT and IISc to develop a research roadmap to solve major technological and engineering challenges. 

8. Unnat Bharat Abhiyan

  • Unnat Bharat Abhiyan aims to enable higher educational institutions to work with the people of rural India in identifying development challenges and evolving appropriate solutions for accelerating sustainable growth.

9. Guidelines for Pursuing Two Academic Programs Simultaneously

  • Guidelines issued by UGC under which students can pursue two academic programs simultaneously.
  • The guidelines are in line with the National Educational Policy of 2020, which aims to promote creative combinations of multidisciplinary studies 

10. Interest Subsidy on Education Loans

  • Under this scheme, 
    • No interest is charged from the student in the moratorium period (i.e. during the course period + one year after completion)
    • No Collateral or Third Party Guarantee is required.
  • Eligibility: Students belonging to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) with combined parental income lesser than Rs. 4.5 lakh annually.

Institutions of Eminence

  • In 2018, the Government constituted a panel headed by N Gopalaswami to identify the top 20 best higher education institutions (10 public and 10 private). The aim was to promote the development of world-class educational institutions. 
  • These Institutions of Eminence include
Institutions of Eminence


  • UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2017 will govern all such institutions. These regulations will override all other UGC regulations.  
  • Institutions of Eminence will enjoy administrative and financial autonomy in a wide range of matters, including faculty and staff salaries, student fees, course offerings etc. 
  • Institutions of Eminence will get financial assistance up to Rs. 1000 Crore over the period of five years to enhance their research and academic capabilities. 
  • The status of Institutions of Eminence would bring a greater reputation, attracting greater funding and increased collaborations with world-class universities. 

Features of such institutions

  • Preferably multidisciplinary and have both teaching and research focus 
  • Apart from the regular courses, it should also offer various interdisciplinary courses.
  • The institution has a good mix of domestic and foreign students.  
  • Transparent merit-based selection in admissions
  • The faculty-student ratio should not be less than 1:10 after three years of declaration.
  • It should have student amenities comparable with that of globally reputed institutions.  
  • The institution should have a reasonably large owned campus with adequate space for expansion.