Education is central to development and to the improvement of the lives of people globally. Education is important in eradicating poverty and hunger and in promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development. Increased efforts towards education accessibility, quality and affordability are central to development efforts.

Education is a significant step to achieving all other basic human rights. Education can help decrease poverty, reduce social inequalities, empower women and others marginalised, bring down discrimination and finally help individuals live life to their fullest potentials. It helps improve access to opportunities for a better life in terms of employment and business. It can also bring about peace and overall prosperity to a region. Therefore, education is one of the most important rights.

Literacy Levels

Literacy Rates
  • Gender Literacy Gap – 17% (Declined from 21.5% from census 2001).
  • Schedule Caste Literacy Rate – 66%.
  • Schedule Tribe Literacy Rate – 59%.
  • Highest Literacy Rate – Kerala 94%.
  • Lowest Literacy Rate – Bihar 62%.

Gross Enrollment Ratio at different levels

  • Primary School – 100%.
  • Higher Education3 – 27% (87% in the US, 57% in the UK and 39% in China).

Expenditure on education

  • Around 3.5% of GDP (Target – 6%).

Investment in R&D

  • 0.7% of GDP (Eco Survey 2017-18).
  • [US 2.8%, China-2.1%, Israel – 4.3%].

Education Structure in India

Education Structure in India



Accessibility & Participation

  • India is home to largest number of youth and adult illiterate in the world- 26 Crore (Age 15 yrs and above).
  • Low participation in pre-schooling care due to awareness, affordability.


  • Personal discrimination based on gender, economic prosperity: Low enrollment and high dropout from disadvantage section, children with disabilities, transgender, migrant children etc.
  • Social Discrimination based on Caste, Religion: High proportion of out of school children from SC, ST Muslim population etc.

Quality & Excellence

  • Poor learning outcome: ASER Report and National Achievement Survey (NCERT) – 50% of class V students can’t read class II books.
  • Inappropriate quality of pre-schooling: Undefined curriculum, ineffective pedagogy, untrained educators, poor infrastructure, inadequate funding leads to lack of school readiness at primary level.

Teacher & Pedagogy

  • Poor teacher quality: 23% teachers are absent in schools.
  • Lack of motivation: Too much focus on infrastructural inputs and governance (politicians, bureaucrats) and not teacher centric.
  • Lack of teachers training and dismal recruitment process – E.g. Haryana Teacher Selection scam.
  • Dilapidated student: Teacher ratio – 22 (Developed countries – 11).


  • Poor accountability of schools: Ineffective school management committee to overlook school administration.
  • Diffused responsibility: Poor centre-state coordination as Education is Concurrent subject and need effective Union-State collaboration.
  • Privatization of school education: Widening gaps of access & equity as private institutes commercializes the education.
Higher Education

Accessibility & Participation

  • Low GER (Gross Enrollment Ratio), India – only 27% (87% in the US, 57% in the UK and 39% in China) – AISHE Report.
  • GER for Schedule Caste- 21%, Schedule tribes- 15%.

Quality & Excellence

  • As per QS global ranking, Only 3 universities in world’s top 200 (China 7 universities).
  • Only 32% of accredited universities and 9% colleges are graded ‘A’ by NAAC.
  • Mismatch between education and job requirement. According to India Skills report 2018 , 46% engineers are unemployable.

Teacher & Pedagogy

  • Lack of inter-disciplinary approach: Social sciences, engineering, medical should inter-mingle to solve real social problems in holistic manner.
  • Restricted use of ICT in education delivery: EDUSAT usage still not apt and far-flung areas lagging education availability.


  • Commercialization of higher education: private institutions turning into ‘Degree Shops’ without focus on actual skills, learning outcomes.
  • Lack of funding: only 0.7% GDP spent on higher education.
  • One size fit all: Lack of autonomy and poor control to weed out under-performing institutions.


  • Less no of PhDs and meager Patent rate.
  • Investment in R&D- only 0.7% of GDP .
  • Separation of teaching from research leading to lack of synergy between teaching, research.

Reforms Required


  • Effective implementation of RTE provisions, in letter and spirit.
  • Increase spending on education to 6% (present 3.5%)
  • Implement best practices like POTA Cabin (Chattisgarh), Naresh Gangwar (Rajasthan reforms), Delhi schools turnaround, Hole in the wall experiment etc.
  • Increase engagement of civil society – Pratham, Akansha Foundation, Akshay Patra, Goonj etc.
  • Improve quality of teachers and teaching – teacher entrance test mandatory.
  • Focus more on outcomes than inputs – improve learning levels.
  • Use of technology – VSAT.
  • Implementation of TSR Subramanian report – recent step on No Detention policy is promising step.

Higher Education

  • Access: Strengthen existing public institutions and set up new ones.
  • Equity: Improve inclusion through reservation, loans, scholarships.
  • Remove entry barriers: Allow credible foreign institutions by establishing comprehensive, credible and transparent entry norms.
  • Robust regulatory framework: Revamp UGC and remove multiplicity of regulators – HECI Act 2018.
  • Empower top universities: Gopalaswami Committee to identify “Institutes of eminence” is promising step.
  • International exposure and collaboration: Forging foreign alliances, for e.g., GIAN network, VAJRA.
  • Interdisciplinary approach to develop holistic knowledge.
  • Increasing funding and research: PM Research fellowship.

Government Initiatives

‘Schooling’ SchemeDescription
Sarva Shiksha AbhiyanTo universalize elementary education
Shagun portalTo create repository of best practices in school education
Padhe Bharat Badhe BharatLaunched in 2014 to focus on reading and arithmetic skills in class I, II.
Mid-Day Meal SchemeTo enhance enrollment, retention and attendance.
Rashtriya Avishkar YojanaLaunched in 2015 to motivate research temperament among children from 6-18 years.
E-pathshalaLaunched in 2015 to digitize and disseminate e-resources like NCERT e-books.
Shaala SidhiComprehensive instrument for school evaluation for school improvement, launched in 2015.
Shala DarpanSchool management services to improve students, teacher, Parents engagement.
All School Monitoring Individual Tracking Analysis (ASMITA)Improving learning outcomes by tracking education journey of school children.
Diksha PortalTeachers training
Higher Education SchemeDescription
Rashtriya Uchhatar Siksha AbhiyanTo improve GER to 30% by 2020.
SWAYAMIndigenous designed massive open online courses (MOOCs)
Ishan Vikas and Ishan UdayScholarship and exposure to students of North-east.
Unnat BharatBuilding institutional capacity on higher education in rural India. It’ll connect IITs/NITs with local communities to address developmental challenges.
IMPRINT IndiaPan-1IT and lISc joint initiative to solve major engineering & technological challenges in 10 technology domains relevant to India.
Global Initiative for Academic Network (GIAN)To facilitate partnership between Higher education institutes of India and foreign universities. Over 350 courses being offered from foreign faculty in 38 countries.
National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF)Evaluates each higher educational institute on 5 parameters-teaching, learning outcome, research, inclusiveness, public perception.
Ucchatar Avishkar Abhiyan

Promotion of innovation in NTs to boost solutions that can be brought at commercial level.
National Academic DepositoryOnline storehouse of all academic awards – certificates, degrees, diplomas, marksheet etc.
Higher Education Financing Agency HEFAJoint venture of MHRD and Canara Bank with corpus of Rs. 2000 Crore to create quality infrastructure in institutes like NTs, IIMs etc.
National Digital LibraryUnder National Mission on Education through Information and Communication echnology (NMEICT) with objective to host national repository of existing online courses available across educational institutions.
New Delhi Declaration on EducationIn 4th BRICS meeting of education ministers in 2016 to reiterate commitment to SDG 4

Current Issues

Findings of ASER Report

Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is biennially published by the NGO Pratham, since 2005. The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is a citizen-led household survey that provides nationally representative estimates of children’s schooling status and their foundational reading and arithmetic skills. Originally it was an annual publication but after 2016, it has become a biennial report.

Note: It uses the Census as the sampling frame.

Few salient features of the ASER report include:

  1. Between 2005-2014; it surveyed children in the age group of 3-16 to:
    • To figure out the enrolment status in pre-school and school.
    • To assess their basic reading and arithmetic skills.
  2. It came up with ‘ASER Beyond Basics’ in 2017 that focused on the abilities, activities, awareness, and aspirations of youth in the 14 to 18 age group across 28 districts in the country.
  3. In 2019, ‘ASER Early Years’ surveyed young children between the ages of 4 and 18 and reported on their school enrolment status along with their abilities on the range of important development indicators.
  4. ASER 2020 is called the ASER 2020 Wave 1 Report that tried to reflect upon the learning losses, higher dropout rates, aggravating equity gaps in education etc. due to the COVID-19 crisis.

ASER Report 2021

ASER 2021 retains the phone survey format. More than 3000 volunteers across the country spoke to parents and teachers, aiming to understand how children in the age group of 5-16 have studied at home since the onset of the pandemic and the challenges that schools and households now face as schools reopen. ASER Report (Rural) 2021 was released on 17th November 2021. 

Overview of ASER 2021
  • The ASER 2021 survey was designed to be conducted at a time when schools had reopened in some states but not in others.
  • One part of the survey thus focused on questions similar to ASER 2020, allowing comparison of last year’s findings with data from this year for those children whose schools had not reopened.
  • A second part of the survey focused on children whose school had reopened, asking questions about children’s attendance and COVID prevention measures being followed by schools, among others.
  • ASER 2021 survey data to explore the following areas:
    • Children’s enrollment
    • Paid tuition classes
    • Smartphones
    • Learning support at home
    • Access to and availability of learning materials
    • Additional areas such as engagement with learning activities, and challenges of remote learning
    • School survey
Key Highlights of ASER 2021
  • School Enrollment Patterns
    • At an all-India level, there has been a clear shift from private to government schools. For children in
      the age group of 6-14, enrollment in private schools has decreased from 32.5% in 2018 to 24.4% in
    • No change in children aged 6-14 not enrolled in school.
    • More older children in school than ever before.
    • There is a fair amount of variation in enrollment at the state level. The national increase in government school enrollment is driven by large northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana and southern states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, in many north-eastern states, government school enrollment has fallen during this period, and the proportion of children not enrolled in school has increased.
    • The enrollment of children in government schools has increased notably over the last two years. Government schools and teachers need to be equipped to deal with this influx.
  • Tuition
    • Big increase in children taking tuition.
    • Increase in tuition-taking highest among the less advantaged.
    • Fewer children whose schools have reopened are taking tuition.
    • The proportion of children attending private tuition classes has shot up since 2018 during an extended period of school closures and uncertainty. This might lead to a bigger learning gap between students who can and cannot afford paid tuition.
    • The incidence of tuition has increased across all states except Kerala.
  • Access to Smartphones
    • Smartphone ownership has almost doubled since 2018.
    • Household economic status makes a difference in smartphone availability.
    • Although over two-thirds of all enrolled children have a smartphone at home (67.6%), over a quarter of these have no access to it (26.1%).
  • Learning support at Home
    • Learning support at home has decreased over the last year.
    • School reopening is driving decreasing support.
  • Access to Learning Materials
    • Almost all children have textbooks.
    • Slight increase in additional materials received.

ASER Report 2020

On 28th October 2020, the 15th annual ASER was published. The ASER survey 2020 is the first-ever phone-based education survey. ASER 2020 surveys the provision of and access to distance education mechanisms in rural India during COVID-19 time when schools are closed.

Objectives of ASER Report 2020

The NGO, Pratham focuses to meet the following objectives through its nationwide survey on rural education:

  1. To evaluate the challenges of remote learning during school closures in a coronavirus pandemic-led environment.
  2. To report on the resources available to the parents to support the children’s learning at home.
  3. To report on the schools’ contribution in making learning materials and activities accessible to the families and children.
  4. To evaluate management and engagement of children with the learning materials being provided to them.
Key Findings of ASER 2020 Survey (Wave 1 Report)

The school enrolment percentage is mentioned below:

Age GroupPercentage of Children Enrolled in Schools
6-14 (All)65.8% children enrolled in government schools.28.8 percent of children enrolled in private schools.O.8 percent children enrolled with Madrasas and EGS.
7-16 (All)65.5 percent children enrolled in government school28.6 percent children enrolled in private school0.7 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
7-10 (All)64.3 percent children enrolled in government school30.5 percent children enrolled in private school0.8 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
7-10 (Boys)60.9 percent children enrolled in government school33.6 percent children enrolled in private school0.8 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
7-10 (Girls)68.1 percent children enrolled in government school27 percent children enrolled in private school0.8 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
11-14 (All)68 percent children enrolled in government school27.4 percent children enrolled in private school0.7 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
11-14 (Boys)64.5 percent children enrolled in government school30.9 percent children enrolled in private school0.7 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
11-14 (Girls)71.9 percent children enrolled in government school23.5 percent children enrolled in private school0.7 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
15-16 (All)62.1 percent children enrolled in government school27.3 percent children enrolled in private school0.6 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
15-16 (Boys)60.8 percent children enrolled in government school29.7 percent children enrolled in private school0.8 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
15-16 (Girls)63.6 percent children enrolled in government school24.8 percent children enrolled in private school0.5 percent children enrolled in Madrasas and EGS.
  1. significant shift from enrollment in private schools to government schools:
    • Compared to 2018, more than 60 percent of children are enrolled in government schools.
  2. Scenario of Girls Enrolment in Schools in 2020:
    • Age Group 7-10: 4.1 percent of girls are not currently enrolled in any type of school.
    • Age Group 11-14: 3.9 percent of girls are out of school.
    • Age group 15-16: 11.1 percent of girls are out of school.
    • The percentage of girls’ enrolment in government schools has risen from 70 percent in 2018 to 73 percent in 2020.
    • The percentage of girls’ enrolment in private schools has decreased by 3 percent from 30 percent in 2018 to 27 percent in 2020.
  3. Scenario of Boys Enrolment in Schools in 2020:
    • Age Group 7-10 – 4.7 percent of boys are not currently enrolled in any type of schools.
    • Age Group 11-14 – 3.9 percent of boys are out of school.
    • Age group 15-16 – 8.8 percent of boys are out of school.
    • The highest spike in ‘out of school’ percentage is seen in the boys of age group 6-10. The percentage of boys not currently enrolled has increased from 1.8 percent in 2018 to 5.3 percent in 2020.
  4. Parents’ educational qualifications:
    • 53.1 percent of mothers and 70.8 percent of fathers have completed more than 5 years of schooling.
    • 31.3 percent of mothers and 16.6 percent of fathers had no schooling.
  5. Accessibility to textbooks: Children in government schools have higher access to textbooks than children from private schools.
    • 84.1 percent of currently enrolled students in government schools have textbooks while 72.2 percent of students have textbooks in private schools.
  6. Children having smartphones at home – Enormous increase in the proportion of children having smartphones
    • The percentage of children enrolled in government schools and having smartphones has increased 29.6 percent in 2018 to 56.4 percent in 2020.
    • Similarly, the percentage of children enrolled in private schools and having smartphones too has increased from 49.9 percent in 2018 to 74.2 percent.
  7. Learning support for children at home
    • Younger children (Std I-II) get maximum learning support at home. 81.5 percent of children studying in class 1 and 11 receive help from family members.
  8. Access to learning materials at home – 83.9 percent of enrolled children received learning materials through WhatsApp.
    • One-third of all enrolled children get some form of learning materials during the reference week.

Suggestions in Context with ASER Report

  • Hybrid Learning: As children do a variety of different activities at home, effective ways of hybrid learning need to be developed which combine traditional teaching-learning with newer ways of “reaching-learning”.
  • Fluid Situation: When schools reopen, it will be important to continue to monitor who goes back to school as well as to understand whether there is a learning loss as compared to previous years.
  • Assessment of Digital Modes and Content: In order to improve digital content and delivery for the future, an in-depth assessment of what works, how well it works, who it reaches, and who it excludes is needed. Read about Digital Education in India on the linked page.
  • Building on and Strengthening Family Support: Parents’ increasing levels of education can be integrated into planning for learning improvement, as advocated by National Education Policy, 2020. Reaching parents at the right level is essential to understand how they can help their children and older siblings also play an important role.
  • Liasoning the Digital Divide: Children from families who had low education and also did not have resources like smartphones had less access to learning opportunities. However, even among such households, there is evidence of effort with family members trying to help and schools trying to reach them. These children will need even more help than others when schools reopen.

Subramanian Panel Report

The T.S.R. Subramanian committee, entrusted with preparing a new education policy for India submitted the report to the government.

Recommendations of the Report

  • No detention policy in schools should be applicable till Class V and exams be held from Class VI onwards. Prior to this, the Vasudev Devnani committee also recommended the same. As of now, under the Right to Education, all children are ensured promotion each year up to Class VIII. Recently, bill was passed on the lines of Subramanian Panel recommendations.
  • Set up an all-India cadre of Indian Education Service (IES) on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
  • The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time.
  • There should be minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed. courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers. The Centre and states should jointly lay down norms and standards for TET.
  • Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
  • Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right and a programme for it implemented immediately.
  • On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents. A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
  • The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. This is necessary as levels of malnutrition and anaemia continue to be high among adolescents.
  • Drastic overhaul of regulators such as the UGC and AICTE.
  • Allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India under a strict regulatory framework.
  • Compulsory quality audit of all higher education institutions, both private and public, in three years.
  • Colleges and universities should consider derecognizing student political groups which are based on caste and religion.
  • Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university.

Detention Policy v/s No Detention Policy

  • The No detention policy, up to class 8th, is being implemented under the Right to Education Act, 2009 (section 16) as a part of continuous and comprehensive Evaluation (CCE).
    • It ensures up till class 8th, no child is held back irrespective of his/her grades.
  • The Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018:
    • The Parliament has passed the bill to amend the Right to Education Act, 2009 to abolish the no-detention policy in schools. States are now empowered to hold back students if they perform poorly from Class V-VI11 or states can also continue with No Detention Policy, if they choose to.
Provisions of the Bill
  • There shall be a regular examination in the fifth class and in the eighth class at the end of every academic year.
  • If a child fails in the examination, he shall be given an opportunity for re-examination within a period of two months from the date of declaration of the result.
  • The State Government may allow schools to hold back a child in the fifth class or in the eighth class or in both classes if he fails in the re-examination.
  • The State Government may also decide not to hold back a child in any class until the completion of elementary education.
  • No child shall be expelled from a school till the completion of elementary Education.
Arguments in Favour of No Detention Policy (NDP)
  • Detention leads to increased dropouts, especially among Socially & Economically Backward Class students who cannot afford to repeat another year or take private tuitions.
  • It continuously evaluates the student throughout the year rather than assessing their performance through one or two tests.
  • NDP develops a learning environment free from anxiety, fear and stress.
  • It helps a child learn and grow at their own pace.
  • No evidence that detention of students by a year or more improves learning.
Arguments in Favour of Detention Policy
  • “No fail” clause has led children and parents to develop a lackadaisical attitude towards study.
  • “Automatic promotion” poses a challenge to ensure minimum learning level.
    • ASER survey has found that every second class V student in rural area can’t read text of Class II.
    • National Achievement Survey (NAS) observed that performance of students, on an average has gone down in 2015 as compared to 2012.
  • Blindly promoting students sets them up for failure later when they face standardized tests in higher classes.
  • Lack of awareness regarding implementation of Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system.
  • Many experts have questioned the efficacy of NDP and several states want to repeal this clause.
Core Problem
  • The real problem lies in following policy of ‘No Detention’ without a Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation (CCE) system, which is key for teachers to track each student’s progress and tailor lessons to students capabilities.
  • Lack of clarity on objective criteria for conducting CCE, along with poor teacher’s training and dismal teacher-pupil ratio has put no detention policy in the unwanted red zone.
Way Ahead
  • There is need to strengthen CCE and adequately measure learning progress and provide remedial classes for those who need them.
  • Experiment with different methods of student assessment, taking cue from international best practices.
  • Strengthen other inputs like infrastructure, awareness building, curriculum, use of technology to improve learning outcomes.
  • TSR Subramanian committee recommendations may be considered that favors restricting ‘No detention’ till 5th class. Thereafter, detention policy may be continued subject to ‘remedial coaching’ and at least 2 extra chance to pass. This maintains the golden balance between No detention/CCE and need of child to prepare for standardized test in future.
Recent Step taken by Government
  • Codification of learning outcomes
    • The Government has amended central rules of RTE Act, 2009 and made it compulsory for all state governments to codify expected levels of learning for students in class I to VIII.
    • It requires states to prepare class-wise, subjectwise learning outcomes for all elementary classes evaluation (CCE), to achieve the defined learning outcomes. It links CCE with learning outcomes.
    • This will help to organize additional instructions for children who have learning gaps.
    • It will also enable sharing the progress of the child with parents and identify the overall performance of a school with regard to learning and teacher effectiveness.

Foreign Universities in India

In this millennium, the world is witnessing a borderless society. Global competition and cultural transformation have become the order of the day. Free flow of information is opening up new vistas in the field of conventional and professional education. With only 22 Indian institutions in the top 1,000 world universities (QS World University Rankings 2022), opening FDI in higher education is latest buzzword for transforming India’s higher education.


  • Stops Brain Drain: The good opportunities to the Indian students will be present in their own Country.
  • More Research Work: Encourages some research funds available with these universities to flow into India. Researchers can publish their findings in top Journals like “Nature” & “Science”.
  • Better Opportunities: Each year about 90,000-1,00,000 students go to US only for higher studies in lieu of better infrastructures, facilities, and better faculties and therefore, the students can get better opportunities back home.
  • No Effect on Indian culture and ethos: Students can get quality foreign education while preserving their cultural moorings. Negative acculturation is prevented.
  • Economical: Same quality of higher education will be offered at domestic level. Currency exchange rate vulnerability and huge travelling cost will be saved.
  • More Convenient: Accessibility, affordability and availability of higher education will improve. Current GER of 25% is expected to increase. Also, It will help in sharing information and building networks.
  • Will Raise the Indian Education Standard: Local institutions will face a tough competition, and thus feel pressurized to raise the quality standards under a sense of challenge and commitment. Further, in the context of General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Indian students will have skills and qualifications which are transferable across the globe. It will also develop a long term vision and share it widely.
  • Employment: Foreign universities campus will increase teaching staff, administration, logistic employment opportunities.
  • Racism: Race antagonism faced by Indian students in USA, Australia and Europe could be prevented.


  • May miss the International Exposure: Institutes like INSEAD in France and IMD in Switzerland have become global meeting places. For instance, the 90-plus class of IMD Lausanne comprises students from over 60 countries. Cross-cultural interaction will be missed.
  • Vested Interests of Foreign Universities: They might not have an attached objective of fulfilling social agenda of the welfare state. It is guided by profit and market. This would result in commoditization of education.
  • Not a Panacea: Most foreign institutes invest in technical courses which market needs rather than in quality education and research which is important for creating and developing human resource. It has also been observed that only 2nd and 3rd tier universities are interested in setting up their campuses in the country.
  • Lack Economic Benefits: Indian remittances from foreign students, skilled professionals might be reduced.
  • Masses may be Misguided: It might be possible that in the absence of government regulation of foreign universities the new trend may be posing problems with respect to quality for the end users. It may increase the risk and uncertainty for the holder of qualification as the recognition of degrees is found to be absent.
  • Lack of Regulatory Bodies: India lacks a legal framework to allow foreign educational institutions to set up campuses and award degrees. At present, only universities set up by Parliament or a state legislature, and those declared deemed universities by the government, can award degrees.
  • No Assurance of Quality/ No Job Security: The holder of a foreign degree earned in India may find it difficult to achieve job security, thereby increasing the uncertainty of a professional career. There is at present no system of quality assurance and accreditation of cross-border education operating in India.

Way Ahead

  • Intensive consultation with all stakeholders should be undertaken before granting permission to foreign universities.
  • The government should ensure that surplus revenue generated in India by a foreign education provider shall be invested for the growth and development of the educational institutions established by it in India.
  • Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulations of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010 should be duly deliberated.
QS World University Rankings 2022
  • Indian Institutions:
    • Overall, there are 22 Indian institutions in the top 1,000 list compared to 21 in the 2021 Rankings, with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur and Madras making major strides in rankings.
    • Jawaharlal Nehru University has entered the top 1,000 of the rankings for the first time, as its new undergraduate engineering programme now makes it eligible for the rating.
    • IIT Bombay maintained its position as the top Indian institution for the fourth consecutive year, although it fell five places in the global rankings to the joint 177th position.
    • IIT Delhi (185 rank) overtook the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (186 rank), giving India three institutions in the world’s top 200.
      • IISc was also declared the world’s top research university by the indicator of most citations per faculty member, when adjusted for faculty size.
  • India’s Performance:
    • Indian universities have improved their performance on academic reputation metric and research impact, but continue to struggle on the teaching capacity metric.
      • No Indian university ranks among the top 250 for faculty-student ratio.
      • Poor performance on teaching capacity is not because of any drop in hiring, but rather an increased student intake mandated by the government to implement reservations for economically weaker sections.
  • Concerns:
    • No Objective Methodology:
      • The rankings do not accurately reflect the quality of education in India, as they are largely dependent on international perception factors.
      • Half of the score comes from reputation indicators which are based on perception, rather than any objective methodology.
    • Manipulation:
      • It is being blamed that this year’s improvement in scores was simply a manipulation of numbers by the rankings agency, driven by commercial pressures.
  • Related Indian Initiatives:
    • Institutions of Eminence (IoE) Scheme:
      • It is a government’s scheme to provide the regulatory architecture for setting up or upgrading of 20 Institutions (10 from public sector and 10 from the private sector) as world-class teaching and research institutions called ‘Institutions of Eminence’.
    • National Education Policy, 2020:
      • It aims to introduce several changes in the Indian education system – from the school to college level and make India a global knowledge superpower.
    • Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT):
      • It is a first-of-its-kind Pan-IIT and IISc joint initiative to develop a new education policy and a roadmap for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges that India must address and champion to enable, empower and embolden the nation for inclusive growth and self-reliance.
    • Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY):
      • It was announced with a view to promote innovation of a higher order that directly impacts the needs of the Industry and thereby improves the competitive edge of Indian manufacturing.

UGC vs Higher Education Commission of India

Various committees like National Knowledge Commission, Yashpal Committee, Hari Gautam Committee, TSR Subramanian committee etc. have rooted for an apex national level independent regulatory authority for higher education that will subsume all regulatory functions of multiplicity of regulators present currently i.e. UGC, MCI, AICTE.

Recently, government announced that it will dissolve UGC and replace it with a new Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) by repealing the UGC Act 1956. The proposed higher education commission of India would focus solely on academic matters and monetary grants would be under purview of the HRD ministry.

UGC vs. HECI – Comparison
UGC vs. HECI - Comparison
HECI Constitution
  • Composition: HECI will comprise Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and 12 other Members.
  • Appointment & removal – by Central Government.
  • Eligibility: They shall be scholars, being persons of eminence and standing in the field of academics and research, with proven capacity for institution building and governance.
  • Term: 5 years or 70 years of age.
  • Restriction on further employment: 2 year cooling off period for Chairman, Vice-Chairman and members, for further employment in any public or private HEIs.
Need of HECI- Failure of UGC
  • Concentration of power in single entity: UGC regulates:
    • 1. Entry; 2. Accreditation; 3. Grant of funds; and 4. Fee or affirmative action.
  • lnconsistent, non-transparent entry norms: Irregularities, corruption and rent-seeking nature in according entry license and accreditation which constrains the supply of good institutions, which impacts quality of higher education.
  • Misplaced regulation: Its policies also suffer from two diametrically opposite issues under-regulation and over-regulation. While it lets smaller substandard institutions slip by as deemed universities, it is also criticized for instigating witch-hunting against reputed deemed universities.
  • Quality Vs Quantity: The number of higher education institutions has multiplied 40 times over, and student enrolment has increased a hundred-fold. However, the UGC has remained mute spectator to the decaying quality of education in many of these institutions.
  • There was a need for reforming the regulatory systems that provide for more autonomy and facilitate holistic growth of the education system which provides greater opportunities to the Indian students at more affordable cost.
  • Recent steps like increase in teaching hours of the faculty and its subsequent withdrawal, the implementation of the choice-based credit semester system in Delhi University, and the decision to discontinue UGC non-NET scholarship for MPhil and PhD students and its abandonment after protests, shows poor decision making.
  • The existing regulatory structure as reflected by the mandate given to University Grants Commission required redefinition based on the changing priorities of higher education.
  • The current commission remains preoccupied with disbursing funds to institutes and is unable to concentrate on other key areas such as mentoring institutes, focusing on research to be undertaken and other quality measures required in the sector .
  • Thus, for promoting uniform development of quality of education in higher educational institutions, there is a need for creation of a body that lays down uniform standards, and ensures maintenance of the same through systematic monitoring and promotion.

Way Forward

  • It is argued that UGC has not only been unable to fulfill its mandate but also has not been able to deal with emerging diverse complexities. There have been suggestions ranging from scrapping of UGC to its gradual phasing out, to retaining UGC in this leaner form with limited functions. Recent HECI Bill is promising step and any final call must be taken after due deliberation and any solution so arrived at must serve to remove maladies of the old system.

Introduction of Research at UG Level

Of India’s 1.3 billion population, there were only 216 researchers per million populations in 2015 (UNESCO
2018 Report). India’s investment in research is a measly 0.7 percent of GDP. There are some 161,412 students enrolled in PhD programmes in 2018. This comprises less than 0.5 percent of the total student enrollment in higher education in the country – which constitutes students enrolled in universities, colleges and standalone institutes pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

  • Though steps like Rashtriya Uchhtar Shiksha Abhiyan or the National Higher Education Mission, National Institutional Ranking Framework, ‘Institutes of Eminence (loE)’, ‘Prime Ministers Research Fellowship’ etc. have been launched to improve state of research, but still there is long way to go.
  • In Indian education system, problem of students “reproducing” textbooks in examinations without applying critical thinking—and such culture is carried all the way to higher education. Therefore, it is essential that students be inducted in the culture of research as early as is pedagogically possible, preferably at Undergraduate level.
  • Concept of Undergraduate Research – The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) defines “undergraduate research” (UR) as “an inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”
  • Undergraduate students support collaborative research by either pursuing their own research ideas or joining established research projects. Common ways of UR are:
    • Undergraduate Research Experiences (URE) – Students are selected to assist a mentor in their research in a laboratory, working over a few semesters
    • Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) – a class-based programme presided over by a researcher or a graduate student and consists of lectures, grades and assignments.

For Student:

  • Enhanced student learning, writing skills, research ability along with Increased retention, and also boosts confidence of the participants in their respective fields.
  • Higher critical thinking prowess, creativity, problem solving skills, intellectual independence.
  • Students can gain remarkably by learning from their mentor’s experiences and understand research methodology.

For Institute:

  • Undergraduate research can serve as a way to initiate dialogue between departments and enhance relations between faculty and students.
  • Ensuring effective mentorships.
  • Greater inclination among undergraduates to pursue graduate studies and eventually research-intensive careers.
  • It can address issues like lack of quality and quantity of publications produced, faculty vacancies, the absence of scholarly instincts in students, and outdated syllabi.
  • Undergraduate research can also help in the overall upliftment of delivery of classroom education.


  • These models may not be able to capture the complexities and diversity of the Indian education system.
  • UG research needs to be embedded in programmes in such a way that it complements the current system of teaching, rather than disturbs it.
  • Blind aping of west might be unproductive, rather need to be customized as per Indian education scenario.
  • Scarcity of financial and infrastructure resources with the government-run universities.

Way Ahead

  • It is time for this segregation of research and teaching institutes to fade out and make way for the blending of high-quality research in specialised institutes, and university teaching. The same has also been recommended by the 2009 Yashpal Committee Report.
  • To maintain the multidisciplinary nature of this programme, UGC’s choice-based credit system needs to be intertwined with the UG research programme, so as to allow mobility of students within disciplines, campuses and external organisations.
  • Bodies like UGC should initiate conferences where UG researchers can present their papers before their peers, so that it becomes a trial ground for them for larger, national or international conferences.


  • India is attempting to enhance its global footprint through programmes such as ‘Institutes of Eminence’ (loE) and ‘Study in India’ as well as by preparing a New Education Policy. It is crucial at this time, therefore, to focus on the quality of undergraduate education. India has a rich demographic dividend that, if harnessed successfully, can contribute to the country’s economic growth.
  • In India, to control the dwindling number of researchers and tackle the problem of substandard research output, it is imperative for both central and state governments to experiment with a concept that has proven results in many other places across the world.
  • Introducing UG research in institutes could not only enhance the quality of students and faculty in the system, but also can help India generate relevant scholarly research that will contribute to the country and beyond.

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