Private Institutions: Still a Question of Affordability?
The key to harnessing India's demographic dividend is education. Indian higher education currently the third largest in the world, is likely to surpass the US in the next five years and China in the next 15 years to be the largest system of higher education in the world. Indian higher education has a complex structure riddled with many contradictions, still has great possibilities.
Private sector accounts for more than 76 per cent of total institutions of higher education, data from the AISHE 2014-15 Report show. As many as 34.2 million students were enrolled in institutions of higher education in 2014-15, according to the 2016 All India Survey on Higher Education report of the ministry of human resources and development. While government-owned institutions for higher education increased from 11,239 in 2006-07 to 16,768 in 2011-12 (49 per cent), private sector institutions recorded a 63 per cent growth in the same period from 29,384 in 2006-07 to 46,430 in 2011-12, according to the 12th Five-Year Plan document of the erstwhile Planning Commission.
The first decade of the 21st century witnessed expansion of higher educational institutions, according to this mission document of the National Higher Education Mission (known as Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan – RUSA), a programme run by the University Grants Commission.
Privatisation of higher education: A major hurdle in increasing enrolment
- Successive governments have argued that allowing private sector in higher education would lead to higher enrolment. It was with this objective that both state and centre governments allowed expansion of private educational institutions in the last 10 years.
- While it is true that GER in higher education has recorded growth during this period, the increased cost of higher education due to privatisation has deprived millions of aspirants from education.
- Low gross enrolment ratio in higher education has been a concern in India compared to other emerging economies in the world.
- Private institutions keep the cost of education high, despite restrictions on generating profit.
- Fees at private institutions are more than double those charged by government institutions, according to the NSS report.
Source: National Sample Survey Report, 2014
Balancing the dream of higher education with financial reality is the biggest challenge that students and their parents face nowadays. According to the Neilson Global Survey 2013, of Education Attainment, the gateway to a better life, better employment opportunities and improved lifestyle is education.
The skyrocketing education cost keeps students and parents wondering if investment in higher education such as management studies, engineering, and medicine still a lucrative option. This becomes even more thought provoking issue when the return on investment is minimal, which means the annual cost of pursuing a course from a private college is more than the annual salary earned by a graduate in the first few years of a job.
There is an immediate need for transforming governance and leadership in higher education Institutions. So, while there is high demand for public higher educational institutions, successive governments have failed to meet the demand, pushing students towards expensive and, very often, low quality private education.