Latest official data on students and colleges in India indicates a healthy growth in terms of institutional capacity, according to UGC. Between 2004 and 2009, number of colleges increased by nearly 9,000 and student enrollment increased by 3.65 million students.
However, this healthy growth in numbers has its share of paradoxes and problems. It becomes obvious that in comparison with other growth indicators like GDP or number of cars, higher education has seriously lagged behind. Yet, there are signs of overcapacity and disillusion.
- The rate of growth of teachers (faculty) was slower than the number of universities and colleges. This has created a shortage of qualified faculty in higher education institutions.
- Number of students have grown at a slower pace as compared to the number of universities and colleges. This has resulted in oversupply of seats and many of which remain vacant.
- Number of colleges have grown at a rate slower than the growth of GDP resulting in talent shortage and continued demand for talented and skilled workforce.
Does that mean India needs many more colleges to meet the growth rate of the economy? Yes. But, then why are seats remaining vacant. The answer lies in what is not captured by these statistics of growth and that is quality and employability. Students and families are increasingly seeking education which may improve their prospects of employability and upward mobility. Institutions and policy-makers need to listen to the qualitative dimension of the demand and adapt to it to remain relevant and competitive.