The 2019-20 report of the All India Survey on Higher Education, that provides key performance indicators, puts the total enrolment in the country at 3.85 crore: 1.9 crore male and 1.89 crore female students. There has been an overall growth of 11.4 per cent in the last five years; female enrolment during the period has gone up by 18.2 per cent. The number of institutions of national importance has increased to 135 from 75. The continuous rise in enrolment, number of institutions and gender parity in higher education signals a positive change, yet the findings call for detailed scrutiny, more so in light of the shrinking job market. More young people choosing to pursue higher education is a welcome sign, but not in the absence of clear career goals and guidance.
Female participation in professional courses is lower in comparison to academic courses at both the under-graduate and post-graduate levels; the share of girl students is lowest in institutes of national importance. The trend needs intervention. The pandemic has brought to the fore the need for having a lot more of the skilled workforce in the critical healthcare sector and allied services. Encouraging and preparing students for tasks that require intensive learning and training, and for which the demand is only going to increase, is one way to course-correct. Research and cutting-edge learning, too, have to be exponentially incentivised. Financial constraints cannot be allowed to come in the way of India’s brightest.
A healthy aspect of the report is the number of institutions maintaining a playground: 89 per cent of universities, 92 per cent of colleges. Around 94 per cent of universities, 98 per cent colleges and 98 per cent standalone institutions have library facility, though nothing less than 100 per cent makes sense. For PhD, 2.02 lakh students are registered, but only 26.73 lakh have enrolled for diploma courses, that too mostly in teacher training, nursing and technical streams. Again, not so encouraging figures; jobs have to be at the core of the pursuit of higher education.