Understanding the Expansion and Quality of Engineering Education in India



Martin Carnoy, Stanford University School of Education

Date and Time

February 22, 2010 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM February 21.


Philippines Conference Room

The Indian economy has expanded at a fairly steady and rapid rate in the past fifteen years, and part of that expansion has been a greatly increased demand for university graduates, particularly for those in technical fields. As of 2008, India was the largest producer and exporter of IT enabled services in the developing world. At the same time, Indian higher education has also expanded rapidly, both in the number of students enrolled and number of institutions—now four times the number in the US and Europe and more than twice that of China. The growth of private colleges in technical and business fields is an important feature of India’s higher education expansion, but it needs to be interpreted carefully. The rapid expansion of unaided colleges affiliated with universities is gradually transforming the role of public universities into regulating, degree-granting institutions and away from teaching or research (Kapur, 2009). Further, the form that higher education expansion took in India in the 2000s resulted in a steady reduction in public spending per student in higher education in the early 2000s. 

State authorities appear increasingly willing to grant support for private unaided colleges to become autonomous universities, thereby loosening the regulatory power over the institutions’ decision making.  At the same time, many signals (including the government’s 2012 higher education enrollment target of 15 percent of age cohort—approximately 21 million students) point toward considerable expansion of public universities and colleges over the next 4-5 years. The total number of students in all these institutions together, however, will be small compared to the total output of India’s technical colleges.

Given this background and some preliminary data we have from student and institutional surveys and interviews in Indian technical colleges and universities, we try to address several important issues in Indian higher education:

  1. What is the essence of the higher education financing system established by government policies and what can we infer from that financing system about government goals for higher education in the next ten years?
  2. How are colleges, their faculty, and their students reacting to these policies?
  3. What can be said about the current quality of Indian technical/engineering education and its prospects for the future?
  4. What can we conclude from the Indian case about the driving forces shaping higher education and where they are likely to take it?

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