23 March 2017: The All India Survey on Higher Education 2015-16 threw some interesting facts regarding the growth, enrolment, distribution and trends in higher education in the year 2015-16. It noted that there has been a continuous increment in student enrolment at various levels. It projected 34.60 Million student enrolment across all levels through regular mode of education in various private and public institutions for higher studies. In 5 years, the number grew from 29.18 Million to 34.60 Million.
Interestingly when the distribution of enrolment among various categories was taken into account, it was observed that the percentage of General students enrolled showed a slight decline whereas there were marginal increments in the ST/SC/OBC categories.
However, it explained, ‘Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher education in India is 24.5%, which is calculated for 18-23 years of age group. GER for male population is 25.4% and for females, it is 23.5%. For Scheduled Castes, it is 19.9% and for Scheduled Tribes, it is 14.2% as compared to the national GER of 24.5%.’
There has been growth in almost all levels except for Certificate courses.
Student enrolment in PhD, MPhil and integrated PhD levels too show a similar trend.
Yet, it observed ‘About 79.3% of the students are enrolled in Undergraduate level programme. 1,26,451 students are enrolled in PhD that is less than 0.4% of the total student enrolment.’ It further stated, ‘24,171 students were awarded PhD level degree during 2015 with 14,887 males and 9,284 females.’
And later, ‘At PhD level, maximum numbers of students out-turn is in Science stream followed by Social Science. On the other hand at PG level maximum students out-turn is observed in Social Science and Management stream comes at number two.’
One can, with certain reservation, advance a few conclusions. With change in perceptions, increase in number of institutions for higher education (mostly private), improvements in mode of living and dispensable income, more and more number of youngsters are opting for higher education. Whether this enables, them to acquire employable skills, promote quality learning and ensure job opportunities is an altogether different matter. The increment is to a large extent fueled by the increase in the number of students from marginalized and oppressed categories. Here again, there are factors that must be taken into consideration such as- in which disciplines, levels, public/private institutions, institutions in urban/rural areas is the concentration of students from marginalized and oppressed sections more; further the quality of these institutions and gender parity of students who took admissions are relevant factors. Again, it will not be erroneous to conclude that this positive trend is more likely due to affirmative discrimination policies of the Government- reservations, deprivation points, financial help, and such others. And this has been again largely done through public run institutions. In fact, there are data that show female enrolment to be below the average mark in private institutions and highest in state run higher education institutions.
And finally, though there were 1,26,451 students enrolled in PhD, it amounts to less than 0.4 % of the total student enrolment in 754 universities that took part in the survey. Earlier, the survey reported, ‘The highest number of students is enrolled in Arts/
Humanities/ Social Sciences courses. The total number of students enrolled in this are
109.4 lakh out of which 47.1 % are males and 52.9% are females. Science is second major
stream with 43.8 Lakh out of which 52.9% are male and 47.1% are female. Engineering
and Technology is third major stream with 42.5 lakh students enrolled. The share of
male students enrolled in Engineering is 72%. Female participation in this sector is
As we go further, the ratio is inverted: ‘The percentage of students opting for PhD after their PG is also calculated to see the trend. In Agriculture and Allied courses 22% of the students are opting for PhD after their Post-Graduation followed by Engineering and Technology courses where 11.7% of the students are opting for PhD after their PG. It is followed by Science in which 6.5% of the students are opting for PhD and in Medical science there are 4% of the students. Social Science has 2.3% of students opting for PhD after the PG course in the same field.’
True, one can again cite a number of factors to explain the trend: more number of Engineering colleges, growing number of private institutions for the sciences whereas most institutions for research in arts and social sciences are public institutes whose number have remained mostly stagnant, higher allocation of public grants, social perceptions, to name a few.
One would thus expect, public institutions for higher studies and research in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to facilitate higher intake of students, ensure that reservations are implemented, promote research in these disciplines, and increase public spending. Even though every university has its own unique features and specialties. What is required are proactive steps to bridge differences in the quality of academic curriculum and research between mediocre institutions and more esteemed universities. And as earlier pointed out by many eminent scholars, JNU’s model could have been effectively used for the same.
The recent developments through the blind implementation of UGC notifications, to drastically reduce the number of seats from 1,234 to 102 in MPhil/PhD with no admissions in some of the most sought after Centres; removal of deprivation points and admissions based on 100% marks for viva for the same, is to undo all the positive changes that were secured after much efforts. And as the administration prepares to limit intake, there have been virtually no efforts to fill vacancies in teaching posts, expand the university infrastructure, diversify and address the existing loopholes and discrepancies in the admission policy.
The campus it seems will verily turn into an island for a select coterie.
[Figures and data are from All India Survey on Higher Education 2015-16.]
Shikha is in PhD (Provisional) and works for The Informer.