The number of universities and colleges in India has risen strongly, more than tripling since the early 1990s. In 2013, there were around 700 universities and 35,500 colleges in India (colleges are affiliated to universities and deliver undergraduate programs of study).
India has the world’s second-largest university student population (after China) with 25.9 million students enrolled.
Higher education has witnessed particularly high growth in the last decade, with student enrollment tripling from 8.4 million in 2000-01 to its current size. The private sector has played an instrumental role in this growth, with private institutions now accounting for 64 per cent of the total number of institutions and 59 per cent of enrollment in the country, as compared to 43 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, a decade ago.
Education, Training and Research Policy
India’s focus is on expansion, equity and excellence. The Government of India sets overarching policy through ‘five year plans’, which are developed, executed and monitored by the Planning Commission
India's 12th Five Year Plan 2012-2017 builds on the 11th Plan’s focus on increasing enrollment volume with a greater focus on ensuring quality and equity in growth and the need to improve learning outcomes (employ ability). The Indian Government wants to encourage stronger ties between academia and industry and build research capability in universities. There is also a push to raising teacher training standards and the development of a higher education internationalisation strategy to encourage joint research, mobility (faculty and students), credit transfer and qualifications recognition arrangements, and online learning delivery.
Community Colleges will be created to provide modular, credit-based courses with flexible entry and exit. The regulatory framework will be reformed to encourage serious private philanthropy and the potential entry of private providers, which is currently prohibited. While expanding enrollment capacity to 10 million extra students, India will focus on maintaining the quality of education, diversifying the opportunities on offer, and reforming governance to enable individual institutions to develop distinctive strengths. The additional students will include 1 million in open and distance education, with an overall increase in India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio from 17.9 to an eventual 30 per cent in 2020-21.
Responsibility for Education, Training and Research is shared across a number of agencies. The Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) supports federally-funded universities through the University Grants Commission, although this is mostly directed to capital works and administration rather than research. MHRD has two departments, namely, School Education and Adult Literacy and Higher Education.
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