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History of Higher Education System in India and present state !!

In the present day globalized world India and China are two countries which are redefining the world equation in-terms of population, political power, economy and volume of consumption of natural resources. Development and progress of the citizens of the two countries are defined by the Knowledge society and skilled manpower. Education is the key factor in shaping the budding superpowers. Higher education in these two countries has centuries old history which is trying to re-invent with the changing times with respect to technology.
A country with history of 5000 years and growing population of 1.2 billion is slowly changing at an elephant pace. The consistent growth rate of India in last two decades has been attributed to the higher education system which has been able to generate skilled manpower for the rapid industrialization and knowledge based economy. India has become the hub of Information Technology (IT) & IT enabled services industry and manufacturing industry. Though education system has been able to support service industry Research & Development (R &D) at Universities and industries have not kept pace with developed countries which has created huge divide within the society. The progress which has been made in last two decades has not reached all sections of the society. The present crisis in environment, energy, poverty, security concerns within India has been mainly due to lack of indigenous cost effective technology to address these issues. This directly correlates to quality of higher of education in India especially quantity and quality of R & D in higher education systems. Universities and colleges have become training centers for the service based industry of the country with short term economic development of the society rather than focusing on long term development of a society which is reliable, stable and prosperous. Many factors have contributed to the degradation of higher education system since independence in 1947 which can be broadly grouped into the following factors but not limited.
Financing of higher education
Quality of human resources in higher education
Quality of the research infrastructure
Mismanagement of the system and lack of accountability
Society and ethics
Lack of industry academia collaborations in research
Lack of importance for natural and social sciences

Chapter 1: Higher Education system in India

Education in India dates back to its early civilization time where teaching and learning process revolved around the ‘Gurukal system’ .This system had been a residential concept wherein the students were educated under the tutorship of a teacher in different areas of religion, philosophy and science. Modern concept of University style education centers were established around 6 BC at Nalanda and Takshila .The concept centralized learning centres with multiple streams continued till the arrival of Europeans to the Indian subcontinent. These higher learning centres were nerve centre of different dynasties which ruled across India for thousands of years and generated the required human resources for construction, irrigation and warfare.

In the middle ages upto 1200 AD the religion based higher learning centres were established throughout the Indian peninsula. These learning centers attracted students from Central
Asia, China, Middle east, South East Asia and Rome focusing on Literature, Philosophy ,Astronomy Architecture whose influence can be seen across the world in terms temples, construction and irrigation systems.

In the early modern age after 1200 AD the Islamic influences enriched the traditional University learning centres and brought in the disciplines of Geography, Law, Administration and Arabic mathematics to Indian subcontinents.

1.1 Higher education system under British rule

The major change in the traditional style of higher education was brought by the European rulers starting from 1600 AD .Till 1850 informal European style learning centres existed across India Their man focus was in development of European language speaking administrators and clerks for enriching the establishment of the European rule. The British were successful by 1800 in controlling much the Indian sub-continent under the rule East India Company. The British established formal system of higher education which continues till date. Lord Macaulay had been responsible in making English as the language of instruction across the education system in India. The British style University was established in Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai in the year 1857 based on the model of University of London which has been the foundation of the modern higher education system in India. Universities focused on languages, literature, history and philosophy. These learning centers were focused on generating English speaking working class for the British administrative services, army and trade. Modern Science and engineering education which flourished in Europe and America during the late 1800 weren’t the main focus under the British rule. By 1903 the Indian Institute of Science was established by Tata with focus on research in science and engineering which is the first higher technical learning system in modern India. The British model of University system continued expand across India leading to growing number of higher learning centers by 1947.

1.2 Higher Education and University system in India

India with second largest population is home to the third largest higher education system in the world by volume of students enrolled. Government of India through Ministry of Human Resource development (MHRD) under the Department of Higher Education shapes the policies related to higher education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) a statutory body established in 1956 through Parliament enacted law modeled on the UGC of United kingdom is responsible for co-ordination, evaluation and maintaining standards of higher education in India.UGC funded through MHRD is responsible for establishing central universities across India and for recognizing Deemed to be Universities run by privately funded trusts and Universities established by the 28 Federal State governments across India. UGC has established statutory Councils to promote, provide grants, set standards and establish professional education in different areas. Figure 1 explains the overall structure of higher Education system in India.

Councils under UGC
All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE)
Medical Council of India (MCI)
Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR)
National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE)
Dental Council of India (DCI)
Pharmacy Council of India (PCI)
Indian Nursing Council (INC)
Bar Council of India (BCI)
Central Council of Homeopathy (CCH)
Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM)
Council of Architecture (COA)
Distance Education Council (DEC)
Rehabilitation Council
State Councils of Higher Education

Figure 1 Higher Education System in India

The UGC recognizes the Universities to award degrees through affiliation process .The affiliation process allows Colleges run the recognized courses of the Universities in Arts, Science, Commerce, Crafts, Law, Pharmacy and other specific areas. The colleges are affiliated to respective Universities across the 28 Federal states as per their geographical proximity. These colleges are either run by state governments or by the private trusts. These colleges running the the specific courses in different areas are required to obtain approval from the respective councils. This was further enhanced in 1986 through National Policy on Education (NPE) and Plan of Action in 1992.This policy framework allowed India to take higher education to all across sections of the society and locations. Through this framework of affiliation funding of higher education at Masters and Bachelors level education were distributed between private investors, state governments and the central government. Through the NPE in 1986 to take higher education to the masses Distance Education Council was formalized which led to huge surge in the number of students pursuing higher education through distance mode through establishment of Indira Gandhi National Open University ,New Delhi which standardizes, approves and affiliates open education system.

After 1992 when the University affiliation systems was opened to private investors with less bureaucracy India has seen tremendous increase in the number of Universities and colleges across India. Most of the Universities cater to large number of affiliated colleges in a particular geographical location figure 2 gives the overall statistics of the University system in India. Over the last three decades the University education system has reached stagnation in terms of up gradation, R & D and administration. Large volume of students coupled with strict government’s norms and lack of industry investment in University and College research has resulted in turning these colleges as mass training centers for generating skilled manpower for the service industry and totally neglecting science and research.

Figure 2 University Systems in India

Chapter 3 Higher Technical Education

Apart from the UGC governing higher education, Government of India has established special Technical Education sector under the Department of higher education which oversees Central and State government funded Institutes of higher learning focused on Sciences, Engineering, Technology, Management, Architecture, Pharmacy , Applied arts and Crafts and catering Technology. Figure 3 explains the higher technical education setup in India.

Unlike Europe and Americas British Rulers started special training centers as early as 1825 to create Engineering and Technical manpower for the construction of civil infrastructure like roads ,dams, railways ,building and military training centers to manufacture weapon systems . These training centers were later modeled on the grounds of Science and Engineering education systems which prevailed in Europe .The first engineering college focused on imparting engineering education for building barracks across Ganges was established in 1847 at Roorkee. By early 1947s there were at least 10 engineering colleges offering degrees in electrical, civil and mechanical disciplines across India. After the independence India had started heavy industrialization across India the as per the socialist policy. During the five year plans modeled on the USSR socialist policies many institutes of higher learning focused on Engineering and technical education were established to cater the growing demand of Engineering professionals . These institutes of national importance were not affiliated to any universities but were allowed to confer Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees in engineering disciplines. During the early 1980s recognizing the growth of Information Technology (IT) and computerization of manufacturing process ,Government India expanded the engineering education to private sectors. Establishing engineering colleges through limited resources of Central government hindered the industrialization for growing rapidly population led to the privatization of colleges focused on offering Bachelors and Masters level engineering degrees. To standardize the process and quality of these affiliated engineering colleges UGC established All India council for Technical Education (AICTE) an autonomous statutory body in 1987 .The AICTE has been responsible in taking Engineering and Technology education to all sections of the society across India. By 1991 when the economy of India was liberalized to aid the required the manpower for the Information Technology Sector and service industry number of AICTE approved colleges increased in huge number .AICTE has been responsible in aiding the IT and IT enables service sector which has taken India’s GDP to consistent 9 percent in last 15 years .

Figure 3 Higher Technical Educations in India

Centrally Funded Institutes
Indian institute of Technology 15
Indian Institute of Management 7
Indian Institute of Science 1
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research 5
National Institute of Technology 20
Indian Institute of Information Technology 4

Engineering Colleges: 2200

Total number of students enrolled; 8 lakhs

Quality of Technical Education in India:

The number of colleges offering through private educational setup has grown around 100 % in last two decades through university affiliation model through AICTE. The privately run colleges are allowed run only Bachelors and Masters level degree programs in Engineering and Technology.

Types of Degrees offered in Engineering Colleges:

Undergraduate (UG) Degree Programs

Bachelors of Technology (B. Tech) 4 years of Duration ( 7 semester theory + 1 semester project)
Bachelors of Engineering (B.E) 4 years of Duration ( 7 semester theory + 1 semester project)

Postgraduate (PG) Degree Programs
Master of Engineering (M.E) 2 years of Duration ( 3 semester theory + 1 semester project)
Master of Technology (M.Tech) 2 years of Duration ( 3 semester theory + 1 semester project)

Entry Level Qualification for the Degrees:

UG- 10 + 2 School leaving qualification
PG- B.E/B.Tech

Number of engineering Colleges since independence
Considering the number of affiliated engineering colleges to Universities and administration problem with huge volume of students under different disciplines, the engineering and technology courses were separated from the traditional Universities .The colleges running professional disciplines like engineering , Technology and management were affiliated new type of Universities called Technical Universities. Technical Universities at each State are responsible for administration and maintenance of the quality of the technical education .
Problems with Engineering Colleges:
Volume of students:
AICTE based on the facilities available for the conduct of courses allots minimum number of intakes per disciplines .Normally this number is 60 per discipline at Bachelors level and 18 at Master level.
Considering the rigorous nature of engineering and technology education this is huge number to be trained at a time especially at the undergraduate level.
Quality of Intake at Undergraduate Engineering courses:
Students passing from the 10 + 2 system of secondary school education with mathematics as a subject along with Physics, Chemistry are eligible to apply for the engineering colleges undergraduate programs. To fill the number of seats that has been allocated to the engineering colleges in each discipline of undergraduate degree programs the entrance level qualification in-in-terms of mark secured have been lowered bare minimum of 45 % in the qualifying School leaving examination that securing a seat in an engineering course has become so easier.
Syllabus Up gradation:
Since all the engineering colleges are affiliated to Technical University in that particular state upgrading syllabus with respect to changing technology has become tedious process in getting consensus syllabus across the country. The syllabus created being centralized doesn’t provide flexibility to innovate where ever required as per the location needs.
Lack of need based delivery:
Most of the engineering colleges function like manufacturing industry. Most of the courses are delivered to structured syllabus with specific text books and laboratories exercises. This is turn creates apathy among students in creative thinking and experimentation. The methods of evaluation is about the volume of information known in a particular subject rather than the depth of understanding a student has in particular subject.
Lack of applied engineering:
Most of the subjects are delivered through theoretical means rather practical mode .Route learning has become the fulcrum of education. Most of the engineering colleges have readymade laboratory equipments for the training purposes. Irrespective of the discipline of engineering most of the laboratory exercises are standardized. Experiments are always performed on the training equipments in groups rather in individual nature. This method of teaching and learning process has resulted in growth of many small and medium scale industries which supply readymade equipments to setup laboratories for the listed experiments
Lack of Quality Professors
Engineering colleges lack quality teaching professionals since most of the professors have graduated from similar type of engineering colleges. Instead of PhD, the minimum requirement for teaching in engineering colleges is any professional with Masters Degree in Engineering and Technology. This has resulted in total neglect of research and development at college level since the academic culture and environment is not created by the Postgraduate degree holding professionals.
Engineering Colleges as Profit centers:
Though privatization of engineering colleges has contributed in immensely to progress of IT and IT enabled sector majority of the colleges run as profit centers .Private investors look at engineering colleges as a profit centers and the number of colleges have grown over the years due to rampant corruption at large. Establishing and running an engineering college has become a goal oriented business model. AICTE and UGC regulates the fees to be charged by the private run engineering colleges .But there has not been a standard evaluation model to assess on the fees collected and the investment made on the infrastructure development like laboratories ,library and other campus amenities.
Decline in core disciplines:
Starting from late 90s the growth in the service industry has resulted in total decline of traditional and fundamental areas of engineering and technology. Students and parental focus on short term service jobs has resulted in huge surge in the number of students enrolled in Information Technology and Software related courses. So there has been a steep decline in the core disciplines like electrical, mechanical and civil engineering at both Bachelors and Masters Level. In the NASSCOM-Mckenzie report it has been observed that 9 million engineering students will go for the IT/ITES sectors and BPO creating six million vacancies in the manufacturing sectors, retail and transportation
Focus on English language and Aptitude Test:
Most of the engineering colleges are more focused on providing employment to students in the IT service industry and BPO’s through placements. Students are encouraged only to improve their English spoken skills and aptitude solving techniques. Since the industry requirement is limited towards programming and debugging huge programs for back office work and employment is easy focus on core areas of engineering is sidelined and curriculum developed ends up only being benchmark to pass evaluation process.
Societal Issues:
The economic growth in the IT service industry has resulted in the societal consciousness that getting engineering degree is the stepping stone to success .This has resulted in the pressure among students to pursue engineering degree though the individual may not have an inclination toward engineering .Its societal respect and recognition given for engineers that has resulted in decline in the quality of the students passing out with engineering degrees. As per the report of the NASSCOM-Mckenzie report only 25 % of the graduates of the engineering colleges are employable.
Quality of Postgraduate Engineering Education:
As the number of seats in Bachelor degree in IT related engineering disciplines were increased to meet the requirements of IT industry from 2000, the demand for qualified engineering professors increased, this led to creation of more specialized courses based on the American model of Postgraduate education .M.Tech and M.E courses were approved and launched across many engineering colleges which have completed 4 years of operation and have required Accreditation as per the norms of AICTE. Similar to the undergraduate curriculum the PG curriculum was structured and rigid .Such a curriculum cannot offer scope for research as part of the curriculum.

[1] Higher education in India: issues, concerns and new directions, university grants commission, New Delhi, December 2003

[2] Perceptions of European higher education in third countries, Country Report – India

[3] UGC- Notice on State Universities, August 2010

[4] Annual Report 2009-2010, Ministry of Human Resource Development , Government of India

[5] AICTE Annual Report 2009-2010.
[6] Development of Education System in India, Edited A.R. Rather, Discovery Publishing House, 2004, tables, ISBN : 81-7141-816-3
[8] Education In India Problems and Perspectives, M.Dash, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi , ISBN : 81-7156-881-5
[9] Education in India: a comparative study of states and union territories J. C. Aggarwal, Sarita Aggarwal, Concept publishing Company ,New Delhi ,ISBN 81-7022-286-9
[10] History of education in India, Ram Nath Sharma, Rajendra K Sharma, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi,
[11] Higher education in India: development and problems By Birendra Deka, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, , ISBN : 81-7156-

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One comment on “History of Higher Education System in India and present state !!

Also by the h century, invasions from India’s northern borders disrupted traditional education systems as foreign armies raided educational institutes, among other establishments.

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