Gist of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) August Week 5, 2019

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is an important source of study material for IAS, especially for the current affairs segment. In this section, we give you the gist of the EPW magazine every week. The important topics covered in the weekly are analysed and explained in a simple language, all from a UPSC perspective.


1. Access and Equity Aspects of Higher Education


  • The Draft National Education Policy 2019 (DNEP 2019) has been prepared by the committee constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, under the chairmanship of K Kasturirangan.
  • An assessment of the draft National Education Policy 2019 is undertaken in this article in reference to the Gross Enrolment Ratio.

What is Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)

  • The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is the total enrolment in higher education (both degree and diploma programmes in regular and distance modes), as a percentage of the population in the age-group 18–23 years.

Growth of Higher Education

11th Five Year Plan (2007–12)

  • It had its focal point on objectives of equity, access and quality at the same time expressing concern at the poor standards of majority of institutions and extremely low 11% enrolment ratio in higher education, compared to the then world average of 23.2%, with region-, gender- and social class-based disparities.
  • This was sought to be achieved by
    • Establishing new colleges and universities
    • Including model colleges in educationally backward districts
    • Strengthening and expanding existing institutions
    • Upgrading few select universities with “potential for excellence”
    • Strengthening distance education
  • It was proposed that apart from increasing budgetary allocation, the additional resources required can be generated by increasing fees and also by developing loan and scholarship programmes.

Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17)

  • The 12th Five Year Plan was a shift from the Eleventh Plan, proposed to achieve objectives of access, equity and quality in higher education through a set of structural reforms.
  • The operationalisation of the principle of “strategic central funding based on state higher education plans” and structural reforms was set in motion by the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)

  • RUSA is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), launched in 2013 which aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.
  • The central funding (in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, 90:10 for special category states and 100% for union territories) would be norm based and outcome dependent.
  • The funding would flow from the central ministry through the state governments/union territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions.

Objectives of RUSA

  • Improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
  • Usher transformative reforms in the state higher education system by creating a facilitating institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the state level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
  • Ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
  • Ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and ensure capacity building at all levels of employment.
  • Create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to devote themselves to research and innovations.
  • Expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.
  • Correct regional imbalances in access to higher education by setting up institutions in unserved & underserved areas.
  • Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to SC/STs and socially and educationally backward classes; promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently abled persons.

RUSA and Higher Education

  • RUSA replaced the principle of “need-based” funding with that of “norm-based” funding
  • As per the RUSA document (GoI 2013), “low GER very aptly indicates, increase in the number of institutions has still remained inadequate to meet the increased demand for higher education.”
  • Among various objectives enumerated in RUSA, one that is most pertinent here is, to “expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions, in order to achieve enrolment targets.”
  • The targets set under RUSA were to increase the enrolment ratio in higher educational institutions to 25% by the end of Twelfth Plan (2012–17) and to 32% by the end of Thirteenth Plan (2017–22).
  • Notwithstanding that the entire planning process is now abandoned, it is clear that the last two plans emphasised on expanding existing capacity and opening new institutions for increasing GERs. The DNEP completely ignores this.

Stats on variation and distribution of higher education

(As per UGC 2018; AISHE 2018)

  • 5% colleges are in rural areas (this ratio was 58% in 2014–15 and 54% in 2010–11).
  • 48% of the enrolment comprises women students.
  • Category-wise enrolment: General– 46%, Scheduled Castes (SC)–14%, Scheduled Tribes (ST)–5% and Other Backward Classes–35%.
  • Distance enrolment constitutes 11% of total enrolment.
  • Level-wise enrolment (regular mode): undergraduate–81.1%, postgraduate–9%, research–0.6%, diploma/certificate–8.7% and Integrated courses–0.6%.
  • 65% of the students are enrolled in the general stream.
  • 3% of undergraduate and 75.3% of postgraduate enrolment is in colleges and the rest is in university departments (UGC 2018).

Characteristics of Distribution

  • Evidently, the undergraduate colleges, especially in the general stream, are the backbone of higher education in the country.
  • Moreover, a majority of the undergraduate colleges are in rural areas and this proportion has grown steadily since 2010.
  • This expansion has played a role in the rise in GER through expanded opportunities for access to higher education to rural masses.

Comparative study between Maharashtra and other states

  • As per reports of AISHE on Maharashtra, we find that at the commencement of Twelfth Plan, in 2011–12, the states of Himachal Pradesh and Kerala had GERs as 24.8% and 21.8% respectively, which were below the 26.3% of Maharashtra.
  • However, these two states have registered GERs higher than Maharashtra, during the Twelfth Plan as well as by the end of it.
  • Further, Tamil Nadu has the highest GER in the country and very close to the overall target of 50% set by the DNEP.
  • As per the reports of AISHE sluggish enrolment growth and contraction of institutional base in Maharashtra is in stark contrast with the consistent and impressive rise in enrolment in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • Creation of additional capacity in existing institutions and/or establishing new institutions in these three states is highly evident.
  • Even with a near stagnant average enrolment per college, the significant jump in the GER in both Himachal Pradesh and Kerala is accompanied by a rise in the number of colleges.
  • In the case of Tamil Nadu, it is the increase in, both, number of institutions as well as the size of the institutions.

New Institutional Architecture

  • In DNEP the road map to move towards the declared policy thrust “Institutional Restructuring and Consolidation,” will actually cause a shrinkage of the expanding base of higher education.
  • This framework comprises of developing three types of institutions:
    • Type 1: research universities,
    • Type 2: teaching universities and
    • Type 3: colleges.
  • It is proposed that this “institutional architecture” be executed through comprehensive 10-year plans prepared by all state governments.
  • The plan will envisage judicious distribution of the types of institutions across the state, with a special emphasis on access in disadvantaged regions.
  • It is expected to have one each of types 1, 2, and 3 institutions per 50 lakh, 5 lakh, and 2 lakh of population respectively, with scope of some variation allowed across regions.
  • The stated objective is to have bigger and fewer institutions, with the target to have about 150–300 of Type 1, 1,000–2,000 of Type 2 and 5,000–10,000 of Type 3 institutions.
  • This is sought to be done by restructuring the institutions which cannot develop into Type 1, 2 or 3 due to lower enrolment levels and utilising their infrastructure for other purposes like schools, library, vocational centres, etc.
  • Clearly from the AISHE stats, a greater number of Type 2 HEIs (teaching universities) would be required, much fewer Type 3 HEIs (colleges) will be needed.
  • Even if we presume that several Type 3 HEIs will evolve into Type 2 and some of the Type 2 would be upgraded to Type 1, the total number of HEIs will be less than 10,000.
  • Thus, the veil of high-sounding jargon is to conceal the “framework” to close down colleges.


  • Based on the United Nations projections, India’s population in the 18–23 age-group is estimated to be about 139 million in 2035 (8.8% of total population), lower than the present 141.8 million (AISHE 2018), which is 11.7% of total population.
  • The policy aims to reach the target of 50% GER by then. This would necessitate the all-India gross enrolment to reach a target of about 70 million from the current 37 million.
  • Apparently, this would require more sustained efforts for expansion of existing capacity, which cannot be achieved by severe curtailment of existing base.
  • Further, it is incomprehensible how “smaller number of institutions” with much larger average size, will lead to increase in GER and is nowhere explained in the DNEP.
  • On the contrary, curtailment of a number of institutions can have severe repercussion on the district- and taluka (tehsil)-wise distribution of HEIs.
  • Thus the consistent rise in GER has also accompanied expansion of higher education base in rural India.
  • In Maharashtra, the policy to have at least one government-aided college per taluka, led to expansion of higher education in the remote hilly and tribal areas.
  • In view of this the DNEP in its present form constitutes a threat to the “access” and “equity” aspects of higher education.

For more EPW articles, read “Gist of EPW”

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