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Role of Private Universities in Higher Education in India


It is said that without education, a man is no better than an animal. It is only through systematic education, human beings have made remarkable progress in science and civilization through many a centuries. After independence, Indian higher education sector was predominantly under the control of the government. It was only the ministry of human resources development at the center and education ministries at the state level which established many universities, IIT, IIMs and centers of research. The role of private sector in promoting higher education and research was negligible. The reason was that education was regarded, not-for-profit initiative. Therefore, private individuals had established some educational institutions only as part of philanthropic activity. Since government was responsible for the entire gamut of higher education, it was natural that fees collected from the students was only a miniscule, compared to the expenditure government had to incur on their education. After passing out of the premier medical, technical and management institutions, students looked for greener pastures in foreign countries due to higher standard of living available there.

Educational infrastructure and capacity built by the government after independence has proved insufficient for growing number of youth aspiring for higher education. Hence many students take a flight to US, UK, Australia, Newzeland and Europe every year for their educational pursuits. According to Assocham, half a million Indian students spend around $13 billion a year on higher education abroad. According to a report in The Hindu, only 10% of the students are pursuing higher education in India, and this has to be increased to 20% by 2020 if India is to provide healthy competition to developed countries. Thus, private sector has very good scope in the field of higher education.

Entry of Private Sector

From the beginning, private individuals and societies have been allowed in a limited way to set up degree and medical colleges and also technical institutions by affiliating with a university having its jurisdiction. For technical and medical education, AICTE and Medical Council of India (MCI) are respective regulatory bodies. In present times, state governments have been very liberal in granting permission to societies to set up engineering, medical and management institutions. However, the drawback of this arrangement is that due to lethargy of government universities and centralization of decision making authority, curriculum revision and monitoring faculty and infrastructure for quality purposes has taken a back seat. In most cases, the managements of affiliated institutions have no much responsibility once they secure university affiliation and approval from regulatory authorities. They are contented with the collecting fees and adding courses and students, thus expanding their revenues. Even though India produces technical graduates in lakhs, they score very less in terms of employability. According to NASSCOM only 25% of the total engineering graduates have requisite skills needed for the IT industry.

Taking into account the capacity crunch in government institutions and to improve the quality of higher education, many state governments and also University Grants Commission (UGC) have accorded private and deemed university status to many educational institutions after they satisfied all the norms and regulations. Previously private institutions such as Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani were compared with IITs for quality standards but generally public disapproved private institutions because of the high fees they charge, compared to government institutions. However, one should realize that private institutions do not receive any grants from the government for the development of their infrastructure. Also middle class population in India is growing economically and would be more than willing to pay for value education.

The newly recognized private and deemed universities have been taking enough measures to introduce innovative courses and have designed their curriculums according to the needs of the market. They also have tie-ups with foreign educational institutions so that faculty and students can have better exposure to the cutting-edge research and developments in their fields. According to a report in Times of India, compared to India’s 27000 foreign students, Australia has four lakh foreign students. Thus private institutions would also be able to attract students from abroad if they are allowed to expand their activities in a regulated manner.


It is necessary that government provide a level playing field for both government and private institutions in the field of education. Government institutions must not be promoted at the expense of private institutions only as a vote catching gimmick. Private universities should be provided all the facilities on par with industry without compromising their autonomy so that India becomes an educational hub in the world. This would also encourage reputed foreign universities to set up their centers in India. It is necessary that government establish regulatory agencies on the lines of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) in the field of higher education so that people do not have any misconceptions with regard to these institutions.


Published: 2009-09-07

About the author or the publisher

Six years experience in Instructional Design, Courseware Development (Computer Science and Physics subjects) and Content Writing as Faculty Member in ICFAI University, Hyderabad (June, 2003 to Present).


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