EY - Higher education in India

Higher education in India

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The global economy is undergoing structural transformation: there will be need for a workforce of 3.3 billion by 2020.

Need for a globally relevant and competitive higher education system

The phenomena is also expected to play out in India – by 2020, 90% of India’s GDP and 75% of employment is expected to be contributed by the services and manufacturing sectors. Technological advancement will make several jobs redundant while also creating new job roles.

This structural shift in employment will increase demand for sophisticated workers, innovators, and thinkers who can thrive in a globally-connected and dynamic economy. India, with its large workforce and increasing pool of higher education graduates, is strategically positioned to reap the benefits of this shift.

However, the ‘demographic dividend’ will be squandered unless India is able to create a “globally relevant and competitive” higher education system that serves the requirements of both the domestic as well as global economy.

In last year’s EY-FICCI report, Higher education in India: Vision 2030, we articulated the vision for the Indian higher education system as one which is not just the best in the world, but also best for the world. This year, we take this theme forward to explore how it can be made more “globally relevant and competitive” in terms of:

  • Creating globally-reputed institutions
  • Attracting international students, faculty and institutions
  • Becoming a hub for globally-fit talent
  • Building a culture of research, innovation, and entrepreneurship to enable high economic growth

We believe that “globally relevant and competitive” in the Indian context implies the following:

  • India prominently placed on the global higher education map in terms of more globally-reputed Indian institutions, significant student and faculty mobility, presence of/collaborations with quality international institutions
  • India as a hub for talent that is able to drive competitiveness of the Indian economy and is fit to work in or serve international markets
  • A culture of research, innovation and entrepreneurship that can power high economic growth in the country

Assessment of current state of the Indian higher education system

While the Indian higher education system has made considerable progress in terms of capacity creation and enrolment especially in the last decade, it lags significantly in terms of “global relevance and competitiveness”. The key gaps are as follows:

  • Low employability of graduates, driven by several factors including outdated curricula, shortage of quality faculty, high student-teacher ratios, lack of institutional and industry linkages, and lack of autonomy to introduce new and innovative courses
  • Low impact research output and patents filed given relatively low government and corporate spending on research, insufficient doctoral students, missing research focus and culture in most institutions, and lack of international research collaborations
  • Limited focus on entrepreneurship on campus as reflected in the fact that there are few institutes that offer programs in entrepreneurship and have active incubation/entrepreneurship cells
  • Complex regulatory requirements and hurdles, poor institutional governance standards, and lack of professional management

Recommendations for the Government and higher education institutions

EY – recommendations for higher education institutions

We recognize that the Government, on its part, is taking/planning to take several initiatives to make the Indian HE system more globally relevant and competitive. Nonetheless, we have proposed certain initiatives that the government might want to consider exploring based on industry feedback and learnings from global best practices.

In addition, we have made suggestions that Indian HEIs might want to contemplate and consider implementing based on their respective institutional missions, contexts and ambitions.


1. India prominently positioned on the global higher education map

Recommendations for the Government

  • Incentivise all HEI’s to participate in national rankings and accreditation.
  • Set up a public-private national body that advises and guides top quality Indian institutions to improve their global standing
  • Set up representative offices in target foreign countries to promote Indian HE
  • Incentivize quality foreign institutions to set up campuses in India

Recommendations for institutions

  • Open campuses abroad to provide international students a first-hand feel of the high quality of education delivery
  • Secure reputed global accreditations and participate in global ranking processes
  • Leverage alumni from/placed in foreign countries for marketing the institute to international audiences
  • Collaborate with top-end international institutions for faculty development and faculty exchange

2. India as a hub for talent

Recommendations for the Government

  • Reform & re-tool Apprenticeship Act to reflect new realities
  • Provide tax rebate of 20% to students who successfully complete skills trainings
  • Provide tax break to corporate organizations that nominate their employees for higher education programmes
  • Facilitate setting up of institutional mechanism for sustained industry-academia engagement by industry chambers

Recommendations for institutions

  • Engage industry through the value chain
  • Hire faculty with relevant qualifications and industry experience
  • Develop soft skills through tie-ups with training providers
  • Focus on lifelong learning through continuing education programs

3. Culture of research, innovation and entrepreneurship

Recommendations for the Government

  • Provide meritocratic and equal access to research grants by public and private institutions
  • Engage industry players to provide funding, mentor research projects and facilitate industrial visits
  • Improve ease of starting and operating an organized business in India
  • Improve the start-up funding ecosystem through favourable tax policies

Recommendations for institutions

  • Attract best-in-class research faculty by providing a conducive research environment to them
  • Collaborate with other institutions, research centres, and industry to create relevant knowledge
  • Partner with industry to set up and run incubation centres, with industry providing risk capital, mentorship support, etc.
  • Allow students who become entrepreneurs after graduation the flexibility to opt for placements in subsequent years if they would like to take up jobs

For a full list of the recommendations, download the full report.

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