Indian higher education will undergo rapid changes as the nation shifts from an industrial factory system to a developed laboratory of inventions, knowledge & holistic understanding. This opens up avenues for several startups in the education space to help shape the very direction of the next decade of Indian Higher Education

This article is a combination of multiple Government articles, policies & news that helps the reader understand the initiatives, trends & estimations about various aspects of this arena.

This blog comprises of 2 parts :

  1. Education - it's importance, its future & government policies
  2. Higher Education - current problems, reforms & mindset


The Indian education system, like the Indian bureaucratic system, is Victorian and still in the 19th century. Our schools are still designed to produce clerks for an empire that does not exist anymore.

Why do we need a new direction for Indian education?

  1. Good education -> more efficient society -> more progressive nation
  2. India will have the highest population of young people in the world over the next decade, and our ability to provide high-quality educational opportunities to them will determine the future of our country.
  3. Many unskilled jobs worldwide may be taken over by machines, while the need for a skilled workforce, particularly involving mathematics, computer science, and data science, in conjunction with multidisciplinary abilities across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be increasingly in greater demand
  4. There will be a growing demand for humanities and art, as India moves towards becoming a developed country as well as among the three largest economies in the world.
  5. It will be increasingly critical that children not only learn, but more importantly "learn how to learn"
  6. The teacher must be at the centre of the fundamental reforms in the education system.

Moving forward, what is a "good educational institute"?

  1. A good education institution is one in which every student feels welcomed and cared for, where a safe and stimulating learning environment exists, where a wide range of learning experiences are offered, and where good physical infrastructure and appropriate resources conducive to learning are available to all student
  2. Attaining these qualities must be the goal of every educational institution.
  3. However, at the same time, there must also be seamless integration and coordination across institutions and across all stages of education.

The principles of National Education Policy of India, 2020 (in simple words)

  1. Harness the best of each student - holistic development
  2. Foundational literacy & numeracy by all students of grade 3
  3. Flexibility in trajectory and programs
  4. No hierarchies between curricular & extra-curricular learning
  5. Less rote learning - more conceptual understanding. creativity & critical thinking
  6. Life skills - communication, cooperation, resilience
  7. Extensive use of tech
  8. Diversity - respect local context
  9. Synergy in overall curriculum across all levels of education
  10. Teacher/faculty is the heart of the learning process
  11. A ‘light but tight’ regulatory framework to ensure integrity, transparency, and resource efficiency
  12. Continuous review of progress in curriculum, research
  13. Access to quality education must be considered a basic right of every child;

Higher Education

The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Quality universities and colleges

  1. As India moves towards becoming a knowledge economy and society, more and more young Indians are likely to aspire for higher education
  2. It must enable an individual to study one or more specialized areas of interest at a deep level, and also develop character, ethical and Constitutional values, intellectual curiosity, scientific temper, creativity, the spirit of service, and 21st-century capabilities across a range of disciplines including sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities, languages, as well as professional, technical, and vocational subjects.
HEI = Higher Education Institute

ODL = Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system is a system wherein teachers and learners need not necessarily be present either at same place or same time and is flexible in regard to modalities and timing of teaching and learning as also the admission criteria without compromising necessary quality considerations

Current Problems of Indian Higher Education ecosystem

  1. Fragmented higher educational ecosystem
  2. Less emphasis on cognitive skills & learning outcomes
  3. A rigid separation of disciplines, with early specialization and streaming of students into narrow areas of study;
  4. Limited access in socio-economically disadvantaged areas
  5. Limited teacher and institutional autonomy
  6. Inadequate mechanisms for merit-based career management and progression of faculty and institutional leaders;
  7. Less emphasis on research - lack of competitive peer-reviewed research funding across disciplines
  8. Ineffective regulatory system
  9. Large affiliating universities resulting in low standards of undergraduate education

Institutional Restructuring and Consolidation

  1. HEIs must become "large multidisciplinary universtities" - just like Takshashila, Nalanda, Vallabhi, Vikramshila (in our past)
  2. UNIVERSITY - A university will mean a multidisciplinary institution of higher learning that offers undergraduate and graduate programmes, with high quality teaching, research, and community engagement
  3. Autonomous degree-granting College (AC) - Multidisciplinary institution of higher learning that grants undergraduate degrees and is primarily focused on undergraduate teaching though it would not be restricted to that and it need not be restricted to that and it would generally be smaller than a typical university.
  4. Open system of accreditation - Colleges will be encouraged, mentored, supported, and incentivized to gradually attain the minimum benchmarks required for each level of  accreditation

Indian Government's 20 year plan -

  1. By 2040, all higher education institutions (HEIs) shall aim to become multidisciplinary institutions and shall aim to have larger student enrolments preferably in the thousands, for optimal use of infrastructure and resources, and for the creation of vibrant multidisciplinary communities. Since this process will take time, all HEIs will firstly plan to become multidisciplinary by 2030, and then gradually increase student strength to the desired levels.
  2. There shall, by 2030, be at least one large multidisciplinary HEI in or near every district. Steps shall be taken towards developing high-quality higher education institutions both public and private that have medium of instruction in local/Indian languages or bilingually
  3. GER should be from 26.3% (2018) to 50% in 2035 - this means that the load that systems managing enrollment data, will be taking, will double
    NOTE : Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) : Total enrolment in primary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of. the eligible official primary school-age population. in a given school-year.
  4. More growth in the public HEI sector - Fair & transparent system for determining increase levels for support for public HEIs
  5. quality online courses will be suitably integrated into curricula of HEIs, and blended mode will be preferred.
  6. Single-stream HEIs will be phased out over time, and all will move towards becoming vibrant multidisciplinary institutions or parts of vibrant multidisciplinary HEI clusters, in order to enable and encourage high-quality multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary teaching and research across fields.
  7. Through the attainment of suitable accreditations, all HEIs will gradually move towards full autonomy - academic and administrative - in order to enable this vibrant culture.
  8. PORTING OUT THE OLD SYSTEM - "Challenge mode" between colleges - What happens to current system of "affiliated colleges" - will be phased out - they shall retain the required benchmarks over time to secure the prescribed accreditation benchmarks & eventually become ACs (autonomous degree granting colleges)
  9. NOMENCLATURE CHANGE - The present complex nomenclature of HEIs in the country such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university', ‘unitary university’ shall be replaced simply by 'university' on fulfilling the criteria as per norms.

More holistic & multidisciplinary approach

  1. This notion of a ‘knowledge of many arts’ or what in modern times is often called the ‘liberal arts’ (i.e., a liberal notion of the arts) must be brought back to Indian education
  2. RESEARCH ON MULTIDISCIPLINARY EDUCATION -  Assessments of educational approaches in undergraduate education that integrate the humanities and arts with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have consistently showed positive learning outcomes, including increased creativity and innovation, critical thinking and higher-order thinking capacities, problem-solving abilities, teamwork, communication skills, more in-depth learning and mastery of curricula across fields, increases in social and moral awareness, etc., besides general engagement and enjoyment of learning
  3. A holistic and multidisciplinary education, as described so beautifully in India ’s past, is indeed what is needed for the education of India to lead the country into the 21st century and the fourth industrial revolution. Even engineering institutions, such as IITs, will move towards more holistic and multidisciplinary education with more arts and humanities

Imaginative and flexible curricular structures will enable creative combinations of disciplines for study, and would offer multiple entry and exit points, thus, removing currently prevalent rigid boundaries and creating new possibilities for life-long learning

Flexibility in curriculum and novel and engaging course options will be on offer to students, in addition to rigorous specialization in a subject or subjects. This will be encouraged by increased faculty and institutional autonomy in setting curricula.

  1. Increase industry exposure - students at all HEIs will be provided with opportunities for internships with local industry, businesses, artists, crafts persons, etc., as well as research internships with faculty and researchers at their own or other HEIs/research institutions, so that students may actively engage with the practical side of their learning and, as a by-product, further improve their employability.
  2. The undergraduate degree will be of either 3 or 4-year duration, with multiple exit options within this period, with appropriate certifications, e.g., a certificate after completing 1 year in a discipline or field including vocational and professional areas, or a diploma after 2 years of study, or a Bachelor ’s degree after a 3-year programme
  3. An Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) shall be established which would digitally store the academic credits earned from various recognized HEIs so that the degrees from an HEI can be awarded taking into account credits earned.
  4. HEIs will have the flexibility to offer different designs of Master’s programs: (a) there may be a 2-year program with the second year devoted entirely to research for those who have completed the 3-year Bachelor’s program; (b) for students completing a 4-year Bachelor’s program with Research, there could be a 1-year Master’s program; and (c) there may be an integrated 5-year Bachelor’s/Master’s program
  5. MERUs (Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities) will be set up and will aim to attain the highest global standards in quality education. They will also help set the highest standards for multidisciplinary education across India.
  6. More focus of HEIs towards research. The NRF will function to help enable and support such a vibrant research and innovation culture across HEIs, research labs, and other research organizations.
NOTE - National Research Foundation (NRF) in India, as a body to catalyse, facilitate, coordinate, seed, grow, and mentor research in institutions around the country.

Optimal Learning Environment & Support for students

The curriculum must be exciting and relevant and updated regularly to align with the latest knowledge requirements and to meet specified learning outcomes

Thus, curriculum, pedagogy, continuous assessment, and student support are the cornerstones of quality learning.

First, in order to promote creativity, institutions and faculty will have the autonomy to innovate on matters of curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment within a broad framework of higher education qualifications that ensures consistency across institutions and programs and across the ODL, online, and traditional ‘in-class’ modes

The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) will be revised for instilling innovation and flexibility.

  1. Incorporate extra curricular positions of responsibilities, into the credit-based framework of the academic curriculum
  2. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds require more counseling, funds
  3. A better framework backing ODL quality - Norms, standards, and guidelines for systemic development, regulation, and accreditation of ODL will be prepared, and a framework for the quality of ODL that will be recommendatory for all HEIs will be developed.


  1. Transferring credits -provide greater mobility to students in India who may wish to visit, study at, transfer credits to, or carry out research at institutions abroad, and vice versa.
    Credits acquired in foreign universities will be permitted, where appropriate as per the requirements of each HEI, to be counted for the award of a degree.
  2. Becoming "Vishwa Guru" and global presence - Setup satellite campuses abroad & welcome campuses from abroad universities here
    Research collaboration between campuses

In Closing

Education has an important role to play in making India self-reliant. The research here hints at an optimistic leap for Indian education to evolve and eventually help the nation spearhead technical breakthroughs & deeper thinking on the most pressing matters of the world.

And that's a future I look forward to growing up into.