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Universities without boundaries

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SummaryThe concern for increasing the enrolment rates in higher education in India has been gaining attention for a while now.

The concern for increasing the enrolment rates in higher education in India has been gaining attention for a while now. Indiaís current GNER in higher education (gross enrolment ratio) stands at 18.1% with 82% of the students in the 18-23 years age group not having access to higher education. The country which boasts of demographic dividend has a long way to go before it catches up with the developed countries like the USA where the ratio stands at over 80%, in the UK at 54% and Japan at 49%. There is also a vast disparity in the GNER of urban population (20%) and rural population (6%) in India. The Planning Commission of India is targeting to take the GNER to 30% in the next seven years with 10 million students to have access to higher education including 1 million in open and distance learning.

In order to achieve this ratio, a multi-pronged approach to enrolment in higher education is being pursued. The recently announced National Vocational Qualifications Educational Framework (NVQEF) is yet another positive step in this direction which would facilitate the vocational and formal education system to get integrated and through this process support the need for industry centric capabilities to evolve over a period of time. Some of the other measures include permitting the current institutions to double their enrolments with the current infrastructure, permitting private universities to come up and providing autonomous and deemed university status to well established institutions.

The last decade has seen a significant rise in the number of private universities as well as the institutions being granted autonomous or deemed university status. Out of the 620 universities, around 150 are private universities and 130 institutions have received the status of deemed to be universities. However not only are these measures inadequate to meet the GNER target but the further scaling of GNER would also not gain momentum unless the associated issues around the expansion process are addressed. The key issues include, the huge investment required for setting up the universities, the quantity and quality of faculty and other resources required to deliver education, the overall cost of education and the affordability factor, making education content relevant to the industry and keeping it contemporary to societal needs and the focus on developing the young minds to become responsible citizens of the country.

Therefore, along with the need to set up more universities, it is also important to

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