How Market-Driven Forces Are Reshaping The Higher Education Sector In India

Students will also be given multiple exit options during their graduation programme, allowing them to exit the course each year with a specific degree (Representational image).

Students will also be given multiple exit options during their graduation programme, allowing them to exit the course each year with a specific degree (Representational image).

Students will also be given multiple exit options during their graduation program, allowing them to exit the course with a specific degree each year

The size and scope of India’s higher education system is unmatched. Over a thousand universities, 42,000 colleges and nearly 12,000 stand-alone institutions make it one of the largest higher education regions in the world. All India Higher Education Survey Report (AISHE 2019-20). Yet despite these staggering numbers, India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of 27 per cent is well below the global average of 38 per cent. Lack of adequate infrastructure and funds, outdated curriculum and decades of neglect have contributed to this situation.

Recent years have seen governments actively taking steps to address these long-standing issues. The education sector has been at the center of several budgets in the past, with the Center allocating Rs 1.12 lakh crore for education this year – the highest ever and an increase of 8 per cent over 2022. Along with this, many policy changes and regulations have been made. Targeting the higher education sector. Most critically, these include relaxation of rules for international collaboration and online learning. While these are welcome steps in the right direction, the next big boost needed to propel the higher education sector is an inflow of domestic and foreign capital.

How regulation has shaped the educational landscape

For years after independence, engaging in any activity in India meant catering to the whims of the License Raj. The higher education system in India was no different. But while other industries were allowed to grow and flourish after the New Economic Policy in 1991, the education sector remained over-regulated and under-governed, shaped by a complex web of affiliations, approvals, and competing boards and accreditation systems. Keep happening

According to the World Economic Forum, of the 13 million people who join India’s workforce every year, only one in four management professionals, one in five engineers and one in 10 graduates have the skills necessary to do their jobs at a satisfactory level. Have skill. India’s demographic dividend – with the world’s largest and youngest working age population – is therefore at risk unless the higher education system is overhauled.

A new chapter in education policy

Indian higher education has begun a metamorphosis with National Education Policy (NEP) 2020With an aim to double the GER in higher education to 50 per cent by 2035. The first step in this direction was to approve the setting up of a single regulatory body for higher education across the country. This Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will act as the central authority For all public and private educational institutions (except Medical and Law Colleges), with the important objective of standardizing the quality of learning on offer.

Another key component of this multi-pronged change in policy is the emphasis on modular and flexible education. At the macro level, the current system of affiliation is to be phased out, with each college being transformed into an autonomous entity licensed to confer degrees, or a constituent element of a university. On a more personal level, students will also be empowered to shape the trajectory of their education. Establishment of Academic Bank of Credit will facilitate credit transfer for admission to other institutions. Students will also be given multiple exit options during their graduation program, allowing them to exit the course with a specific degree every year. Certificate after one year of learning Bachelor of Research After completing full four years.

But the biggest breakthrough came earlier this year when University Grants Commission (UGC) Unveiled draft norms to facilitate ‘establishment and operation of campuses of foreign higher education institutions in India’, building on the legislative framework established for the first time by NEP 2020. Exactly one month later, it was announced that Two Australian universities, Deakin University and the University of Wollongong, plans to set up campuses in India. With guidelines allowing dual degree and joint degree programs between Indian and foreign institutions, the education landscape in India is witnessing a wave of competitiveness and professionalisation. For the first time, students do not need to leave the country to gain access to high-quality curriculum that meets international standards.

How capital flows shape the sector

The gradual opening up of the country’s higher education sector is also bound to be accompanied by substantial capital inflows. Easier regulatory environment and more welcoming attitude towards foreign players is bound to accelerate the volume of mergers and acquisitions in private higher education institutions. The flow of private money is dependent on the results. Increased scrutiny and increased focus on expenditure of these funds will enhance the professionalism and effectiveness of these institutions and raise the level of competition across the country. Increased investment, especially in areas such as research and development, could also address the funding gap faced by many institutions. The influx of funds can spur innovation, improve graduate employability, and ultimately stimulate economic growth through a new generation of well-equipped graduates.

Private players – domestic and foreign – have already started to explore the potential inherent in this sector. For example, several online universities in Germany have shown interest in acquiring assets in India that can be used to expand their reach, while Indian ed-tech players such as PhysicsWallah and UpGrad have also acquired properties in colleges and universities. Has shown interest in acquiring Significant investment from private equity funds such as KKR and international operators such as Nord Anglia and Cognita has led to the creation of high quality schools, improved learning outcomes and enhanced competition.

With many Indian universities operating in a bygone era, whether in terms of their infrastructure or curriculum, a radical change in the sector is long overdue. The NEP kickstarts this change by accommodating a market-driven approach to higher education – one that prioritizes professionalism and accountability and is open to global influences.