The ratio of children opting for higher studies has remained fairly static over the last four years but the silver lining is the narrowing of the gender gap with more girls now going to college, according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) unveiled by HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar Friday.
The survey shows that India registered its best performance on the Gender Parity Index (GPI) in the last seven years — 0.94 in 2016-17 from 0.86 in 2010-11 (see box). It shows that in at least seven states — Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, J&K, Nagaland, Sikkim and Kerala — women in higher education out number men. In J&K, the total number of women students overtook men only two years ago.
Although the proportion of students pursuing higher education hasn’t increased dramatically from 2015-16 to 2016-17 — in the range of 23% to 25% since 2013-14 — six states registered GER higher than the national average (25.2%), with their share of students entering higher education growing twice as fast as the overall rate. These states are Himachal Pradesh (36.7%), Kerala (34.2%), Punjab (28.6%), Tamil Nadu (46.9%), Andhra Pradesh (32.4%) and Haryana (29%).
GER is a statistical measure for determining the number of students enrolled in undergraduate, postgraduate and research-level studies within the country and expressed as a percentage of the population. Tamil Nadu has the highest GER in India at 46.9 per cent.
However, eight states — UP (24.9%), MP (20%), Odisha (21%), Bihar (14.4%), Gujarat (20.2%), Rajasthan (20.5%), Mizoram (24.5%) and West Bengal (18.5%) — had an enrolment ratio far less than the national average.
Bihar has the lowest GER with just 14.4 per cent of its eligible population (in the age group of 18 to 23 years) pursuing higher education.
According to the survey, there were 864 universities in the country last year compared to 799 in 2015-16. The total number of students in higher education was about 3.57 crore, of which 1.9 crore were boys and 1.67 crore girls. Almost 80 per cent of the enrolment, or 2.83 crore, were studying at the undergraduate level. About 40 lakh, or 11.2 per cent students, were studying at the postgraduate level. PhD scholars accounted for less than 0.4 per cent of the total students in higher education.
Although India aims to attain a GER of 30 per cent by 2020, it’s still far behind countries like China with an enrolment ratio of 43.39 per cent and US with 85.8 per cent — Pakistan’s GER is 9.93 per cent.
As has been the case in the past, states in south India have higher college density, which is defined as the number of colleges per lakh eligible population. Puducherry has, on average, 549 students enrolled in each college, followed by Telangana with 483 and Karnataka with 381. The college density in the top three states is 49 in Puducherry, 59 in Telangana and 53 in Karnataka.
Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the pile with seven, eight and 11 colleges, respectively, for every one lakh students.
At a time when Indian institutions are competing to figure in world rankings, there hasn’t been much improvement in the internationalisation of education in the country. There is marginal improvement in the number of foreign students — 45,424 in 2015-16 to 47,575 in 2016-17— with 31,779 men and 15,796 women. The highest share comes from the neighbouring countries of Nepal (23.6%), Afghanistan (9.3%) and Bhutan (4.8%).
The survey findings are based on the responses of 795 universities, 34,193 colleges and 7,496 standalone institutions. There are a total of 864 universities, 40,026 colleges and 11,669 standalone institutions in the country.