Indian higher education system is ranked 3rd in the world after China and the USA in terms of numbers. Indian higher education system has seen many downs but yet it has overcome challenges and made its mark at the international level. Higher education holds the key in the transformation of India from developing country to the developed nation.


Since independence in 1947, there has been massive growth in terms of infrastructure, a number of institutions. Both the central and state agencies are responsible for providing quality higher education to an Indian citizen. University Grant Commission and other bodies maintain the quality and coordinate among all these educational institutions.


Indian educational system comprises following types of institutions:

  • Central University
  • State University
  • Private University
  • Deemed University
  • An Institution of National Importance
  • The Institution under State Legislature

The Governing Body – MHRD

The Department of Higher Education, MHRD is the main governing body responsible for overall development of the Higher Education sector. MHRD decides all the policies and implementation. This department is authority for expansion and improvement in higher Education through top-notch universities and institutions.

Challenges in Higher Education in India

 We got independence in 1947 and we have progressed a lot in the field of higher education since then. Yet, none of our institutions is ranked amid the top 100 institutions in the world. Here are some of the important factors contributing to this failure.

Enrolment: The Gross Enrolment Ratio has increased at the school level but most of the students leave education as they progress towards the higher education. Only 15% of all students enrol for higher education; this number is very low when compared with other developing nations.

Equity: Indian society has made significant development in gender equality but still the number of female candidates compared to male candidates is less. There has been un-equity in GER amid various states and social groups too. GER shows a notable imbalance in the Higher Education.

Quality: UGC is trying their best to increase the standard of Indian institutions. There are many colleges and universities which fail to meet the minimum necessary requirements. Our universities need to go a long way to secure place amid the top 100 institutions in the world.

Infrastructure: Many Indian colleges lack both advanced as well as basic infrastructure; hence, it is one of the major challenges in front of the Higher Education system. UGC provides grants to all of the government institutes but private colleges lack basic facilities due to a shortage of funds. Lack of funds results in not only poor infrastructure but the degraded quality of the education.

Political interference: Most of the colleges in the public sector are owned by politicians and they run it according to their interest and benefits. Even in some of the government institutions, politicians use their power to interfere in the administrative processes. They divert student’s attention to politics, social campaigns which make them neglect their education. Only one in a thousand gets benefited from these activities and rest just waste their time.

Faculty: There is a great shortage of well-qualified teachers in the higher educational system. Reservation system does not allow permanent employment of candidate other than that particular reservation category. Many of the positions remain empty or are filled temporarily by less qualified candidates. Hence our system fails to retain qualified faculty members.

Accreditation: According to the recent data published by the NAAC committee very less number of educational institutions are accredited. Only 25% of institutions fulfil criteria set by NAAC committee and out of that accredited institutions, only 45% colleges and 30 % universities fall in ‘A’ category.

Research and Innovation: Not many research papers are published in the reputed or internationally recognized journals and researchers are satisfied with accreditation at the national level only.  Research scholars in the central institutions like IIT, IISC, IISER etc.  are provided with a good amount of grant and other facilities which should motivate them to work better and help to get international recognition but they are failing to do so. A student from universities and state institutions do not get that much funding hence, there is very less to expect from them.

Structure of higher education: Administration and overall higher education system have to face hurdles like central vs. state clashes, bureaucratic problems, lack of transparency, professionalism, and no accountability. The institutions are so engrossed in solving these administrative problems that their focus on research and academics is diluted (Kumar 2015).

Low Career Opportunities: Reservation system, lack of transparency, political interference result into biased employment system and most of the students do not get proper job opportunities for years after completion of higher education. Hence, they prefer to start working somewhere rather than investing time and money in higher education.

Important Government Schemes and Initiatives

Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

In 2013, the government launched a Centrally Sponsored Scheme RUSA which works on providing steady and continuous funding to higher educational institutions at the state level.

National Research Professorship (NRP)

Since 1949 Indian Government provide fellowship to honour research scholars and professors for their contributions in the field of education.

Establishment of New Central Universities

On 15th January 2009 government passed the Central Universities Act 2009. 16 Central universities established, now every state except Goa has at least one central university now. Jammu and Kashmir have two central universities in each division of Jammu and Kashmir.

Indira Gandhi National Tribal University

The Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU) commenced its academic sessions from 2008. IGNTU is situated in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh.

National Academic Depository

NAD is an online platform which is open 24/7 for the whole year. It is a home of various academic mark-sheets, certificates, degrees, and diplomas. These certificates are valid and accepted nationwide.

SWAYAM is a platform for self-actualization giving opportunities for learning.

Swayam Prabha

The SWAYAM PRABHA is a cluster of 32 DTH channels assigned for broadcasting top-notch educational programmes 24/7 using bands of the GSAT-15 satellite.

IMPRINT is the only MHRD supported Pan-IIT + IISc joint initiative which addresses the engineering and science challenges in India. The aim is to empower students, enable them to grow.

Suggestions Improving the System of Higher Education:

  • Implementation of innovative and transformational teaching methods at higher education level.
  • Better infrastructure and facilities along with well-qualified faculty members.
  • A number of collaborative projects with the top international institutions.
  • Better industry-education collaboration for application based learning and better quality education.
  • Provision of autonomy to the all educational institutions for the sole purpose of betterment of the educational system.
  • Incorporation of a multidisciplinary approach to increase all-around knowledge of students.

Way Forward

Higher education has developed very rapidly after independence. India is one of the strongest developing nations on this globe. Opportunities have been created and made them availed for everyone. In order to sustain the growth rate, the number of institutions has been increased. The quality of higher education is much better than in previous decades and it will be much better in coming years. The government has provided and still plan to provide more economic resources for better infrastructure and improved the higher education system.