With over 700 universities and 35,000 affiliated colleges, India has the third largest highest education system in the world, after the United States and China. According to the 2011- 2012 Indian census, approximately 21 million students were enrolled in Indian colleges and universities.
The current Indian higher education system is rooted in the legacy of British rule. Between 1858 and 1947, the British government established 25 central universities across India. These institutions, only accessible to Indians of upper and middle castes, taught a classical western curriculum of arts and sciences in English and established a new middle class of educated Indians. After independence, the creation of new universities and colleges in India greatly expanded. Contemporary Indian universities and colleges follow a similar arts and science curriculum to the one set by the British, with most institutions still teaching primarily in English.
There are four main types of universities in India. The first, central universities, are public universities established by the federal Indian government and ratified by Parliament. The second type is state universities, which are public universities established by regional governments in each of the thirty-six Indian states and territories. The third, private universities, are (as the name would suggest) privately run, having been established with funding from the private sector and accredited by the Indian University Grants Commission, a subsidiary of the Indian National Government. Finally, there are deemed universities. Deemed universities are established either by local governments or private funding and are declared “high performing” by the Indian National Government. All accredited universities in India are non-profit.
Despite the size of India’s higher education system, there is still limited access to university education for qualifying students. More than half of India’s 1.2 billion people are under age twenty-five, and university admissions are highly competitive. India’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for higher education – the ratio of students eligible for university level-education versus the amount of students enrolled – was 15% in 2012. India’s GER for higher education is markedly low when compared with the world average, 23.2%, and the average for developed countries, 54.6%. Looking forward, the Indian government has vowed to build more universities in order to develop wider access to higher education.