Indians spend Rs 12 lakh on college education way above per capita income of Rs 1.11 lakh

What India Today Best College Survey reveals about the state of India’s higher education sector is startling as the citizens spend in excess of Rs.12 lakh on college education, which is way above the per capita income of Rs.1.11 lakh, writes Aroon Purie, Editor-in-Chief of India Today in Daily O.

“Our endeavour at the India Today Best Colleges Survey, now in its 22nd year, has been to provide readers with all the inputs to make an informed choice from over 50,000 higher education institutes. With this goal in mind, we have made our methodology more stringent this year and widened the net to include many more colleges”, he writes and adds, “We have included new entrants among the top 20 colleges, across all streams, and segregated rankings of public sector and private sector engineering colleges.”

Reflecting the increasing diversity of career choices, India Today has included architecture, dentistry and social work streams this year. Its new survey partner, Marketing & Development Research Associates (MDRA), surveyed 988 colleges nationwide and visited 115 colleges to verify ranking parameters.

State of Higher Education Sector

It is quite cumbersome to mention about colleges without raising an alarm about the state of our higher education sector, and here the author cites the NITI Aayog’s three-year action agenda released last year. India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), the number of students in a particular grade, has risen over the past five years to 25.2%, but is still way below the global average of 44%, he points out.


Citing a 2016 assessment of 150,000 engineering graduates, Poori writes, the study found only 18% were employable in the software sector in a functional role, only 41% in non-functional business process outsourcing and a mere 4% in software engineering start-ups. Large sections of India’s workforce have insufficient job skills because only 2.3% have undergone formal skill training in contrast with52% in the US and 96% in South Korea, he writes.

Alarming Facts

Poori writes it is in fact quite alarming when we see the facts, when you consider Indians spend over Rs 12 lakh on college education, way above the per capita income of Rs 1.11 lakh. “With this in mind, our Best Colleges Survey has introduced new features like a return on investment (RoI) ranking to highlight the quality of jobs (in terms of salary package) one could expect after passing out from a college and how it compares to course fees paid”, he continued.

Worrying Indicators

The survey, put together by senior Associate Editor of India Today, Kaushik Deka, has found interesting facts. The alarming slide in the engineering stream continues unabated. Once the most sought-after stream, today over 50% of engineering seats are going empty with colleges approaching the AICTE to slash over 130,000 seats. There are also some worrying indicators — most colleges continue to be concentrated in the north and south. The number of colleges in the east, including densely populated states like Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, is abysmally low. Although India aims to attain a GER of 30% by 2020, it will still trail behind global powers like China (42%). Higher government spending in education, with stricter focus on quality management, is the way forward. Just to give you an idea, the Rs 44,000 crore Indian students spent in 2016-17 to study in just one country, the US, outstripped the Rs 30,000 crore the Centre allocated for higher education this year, Purie pointed out.


The reasons for this exodus are not far to see. India seriously lags behind when it comes to higher education. Just three institutions — IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay and IISc Bangalore — feature in the list of top 200 universities in the world. These are appalling figures for a country on the cusp of a demographic and economic revolution. India will become the world’s youngest country by 2020 with an average age of 29 years and the world’s third largest economy by 2028. Not reforming our moribund education system could squander this rare opportunity, the author warns.

Robust Education System

“It’s worth remembering that no country has become a developed country without a robust education system. Sadly, our primary education system is in a worse mess than higher education. It requires vision, commitment and dedication to reform our educational institutions. It should be our topmost priority as it would be the greatest gift we can give to future generations”, Purie concludes.

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