India's higher education strategy sees need for 800 new varsities, 50,000 colleges

Date: August 2012
Posted By: AUSIB EduNext

A wide range of partnership possibilities between institutes of higher learning in the United States and India has opened up in view of India's youthful demography and the growing demand for higher education in India.

The Indian government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy in its endeavor to revolutionize the higher education sector. Promoting partnerships with the United States is a key component of this strategy as the U.S. is acknowledged as a global leader in the world of higher education.

The $10 million Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative (OSI) co-funded by the governments of the United States and India was conceived and formalized as a part of broad this strategy during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the U.S. in 2009. The OSI is aimed at promoting collaboration and the pursuit of innovative ideas by collaborating institutions in the United States and India in the fields of education, educational reform, agricultural sciences, food security, energy, sustainable development, environmental studies and climate change.

Very recently the Indian Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD), Kapil Sibal revealed that the number of students enrolling for higher education has risen dramatically over the last four years. This came to light in a survey undertaken by the HRD Ministry which showed that the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) - "a measure of the percentage of the relevant age-group that is enrolled"- had zoomed from 12.4 to 20.4. This amounts to a 65% rise in the GER and is extremely significant as for many years, this figure had been hovering at around 12, as against the GER ratio of 35-40 for developed countries.

"The results of the survey are tentative and not firm, but if validated, they are very encouraging...If they hold, we can expect the ratio to go up to 30-35 by 2029," Mr. Sibal said while speaking at the EducatioNext conference organised by The Times of India in New Delhi recently.

According to government estimates, by 2030, the number of Indian students seeking higher education will be as high as 400 million- equivalent to the size of the U.S. population. This is hardly surprising as according to the 2011 Indian Census, 59.9% of India's total population of 1.2 billion belongs to the 15-59 years and 40% of India's population is below 18 years. While this youthful population represents India's "demographic dividend", the Indian government feels that this advantage can be realized only through adequate investment and training in education and skill development. Encouraging international collaborations in education is seen as one of the means to achieve this goal.

To meet the burgeoning demand in the higher education sector, the HRD Minister has estimated that India would need to consolidate its educational infrastructure with an additional 800 universities and 50,000 colleges. India currently has about 560 universities and more than 30,000 colleges. One of the strategies being worked out by the government to expand the scope and reach of higher education is to harness the potential of e-learning. This would be done by promoting cloud computing, subsidizing the cost of personal computers and tablets and enabling better internet connectivity through fiber optic connectivity. According to Mr. Sibal, "the last-mile connectivity would be wireless accessed by tablets and mobile phones" and e-learning would be promoted in a big way through video uploads, availability of a variety of courses and virtual workshops. A climate of liberal educational options in higher education will be promoted in India through the proliferation of open education resources and allowing students to earn credits through a combination of courses that was not previously possible.

The Indian government visualizes a range of partnership possibilities with the United States to achieve many of its objectives to strengthen the higher education infrastructure. As a part of the Obama-Singh Initiative, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and India's Minister for External Affairs S.M. Krishna held the second annual meeting of the U.S. - India Strategic Dialogue in July 2011. This was followed by the first Higher Education Summit in Washington D.C. in October 2011 which was chaired by Secretary Clinton and HRD Minister, Sibal.

In fact, it was at this summit that Sibal inaugurated the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)-Rutgers University Joint Initiative while underlining the importance of partnership between India and the U.S. in education.

In effect, a firm foundation has been established for partnerships and collaborations between universities in the U.S. and India. AUSIB EduNext- the educational arm of The Alliance for U.S.-India Business is at the forefront in providing a bouquet of services to identify opportunities in higher education and facilitate fruitful collaborations between universities in the two countries.


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