The Grey Chronicles


Engineering Education in India, Part I

A former colleague, wrote a personal email after reading my six-part post on The Mis-education of Filipino Engineers suggested that maybe I could “research and write about engineering education in India”. He also heard somewhere that India has the most number of universities and colleges worldwide. Now an overseas-based electrical engineer, busy as a bee thus no free time for research, sharing a short anecdote, he wrote: “When I was there, Indian engineers bragged that their engineering education is one of the world’s best”. He asked: “I’ve known you as a better writer than me and read your blog almost regularly, so I hope you could clarify these for me. I owe you one!” I sent him a short reply that if schedule permits, I might be able to do so.

India’s Educational System

The present educational system of India traces its roots with the British Raj. Joshi (1998) states: “Policy guidelines given by Macaulay and Wood’s Despatch (1854), later known as the the Magna Carta of Indian education, shaped the scope and the role of universities in India.”

India’s educational system is mandated by the National Policy of Education [NPE] (1986) and Program of Action (1992) laid down the objectives and features of Indian education policy. The most salient points, with respect to this commentary, of these initiatives are: a common educational structure (10+2+3) for the whole of India; redesigning of courses of higher education to meet the increasing demand of professionalism; and a combined perspective of technical and management education.

Several critics observed that the 1992 NPE laid down many objectives for the development of education system in India but it has not been successful in achieving all of them. Modern education in India is often criticized for being based on rote learning rather than problem solving. BusinessWeek (2008) denigrates the education in India which seems to encourage rote learning instead of experimentation and questioning. It has specified that the examination system should discourage the memorizing but it is what is going on. ExpressIndia (2008) suggests that students are focused on cramming. There is also some disparity in assessment as all the State Boards have different standards of evaluation.

World Bank’s (2009) statistics found that fewer than 40% of adolescents in India attend secondary schools. The Economist (2009) reports that half of 10-year-old rural children could not read at a basic level, over 60% were unable to do division, and half dropped out by the age 14.

Higher Education in India

World Bank (2009) reports that India’s higher education system is the third largest in the world, after China and the United States.

India: A Global Studies HandbookBlackwell (2004) reports:

“India has 20 central universities, 215 state universities, 100 deemed universities, 5 institutions established and functioning under the State Act, and 13 institutes which are of national importance. . . Other institutions include 16000 colleges, including 1800 exclusive women’s colleges, functioning under these universities and institutions. . . The emphasis in the tertiary level of education lies on science and technology. . . Indian educational institutions by 2004 comprised of a large number of technology institutes. . . Distance learning is also a feature of the Indian higher education system. . . Some institutions of India, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), have been globally acclaimed for their standard of education.”

By 2009, this massive system of higher education in India constitutes of 342 universities (211 State, 18 Central, 95 deemed universities) 13 institutes of national importance, 17,000 colleges and 887 polytechnics.

The University Grants Commission [UGC] was established in 1952 and was constituted as a statutory body under an Act of Parliament in 1956. The primary responsibility of the Commission is to promote and coordinate university education in the country and to ensure that the standards are maintained in teaching, research and examinations (Joshi, 1998). Accreditation for higher learning is overseen by 12 autonomous institutions established by the UGC. On 18 January 2009, UGC issued 22 fake Universities alert. By February 2009, UGC declared 19 fake institutions operating in India.

Suri and Rajaram (2008) clarify:

“From the first Five Year Plan onwards India’s emphasis was to develop a pool of scientifically inclined manpower. . . India’s National Policy on Education (NPE) provisioned for an apex body for regulation and development of higher technical education, which came into being as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in 1987 through an act of the Indian parliament. . . At the level of the centre the Indian Institutes of Technology are deemed of national importance. . . The Indian Institutes of Management are also among the nation’s premier education facilities. . . Several Regional Engineering Colleges (REC) have been converted into National Institutes of Technology. . . The UGC has inter-university centres at a number of locations throughout India to promote common research, e.g., the Nuclear Science Centre at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.”

In 2007, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as quoted by Kapur & Mehta (2007), said:

“Our university system is, in many parts, in a state of disrepair. . . In almost half the districts in the country, higher education enrollments are abysmally low, almost two-third of our universities and 90 per cent of our colleges are rated as below average on quality parameters. . . I am concerned that in many states university appointments, including that of vice-chancellors, have been politicised and have become subject to caste and communal considerations, there are complaints of favouritism and corruption.”


From the above exposition, India truly has a greater number of learning institutions, but there is also an alarming rate of fake universities. Aside from that, the educational system is plagued by rote learning although initiatives are creeping in to improve the standards of teaching, research and examinations. Later posts will delve particularly on engineering education in India, specifically the engineering curriculum and the manner of becoming an engineer.


Anon. (2008). Rote system of learning still rules the roost, Online:, accessed 21 October 2008. back to text

Blackwell, Fritz (2004). India: A Global Studies Handbook Washington, D.C.: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2004. pp. 95-96 back to text

BusinessWeek (2004). India, Online: Business Week, 31 May 2004. back to text

The Economist (2009). A special report on India: Creaking, groaning: Infrastructure is India’s biggest handicap, Online: The Economist, 11 December 2008. back to text

Joshi, Murli Manohar (1998). Higher Education in India: Vision and Action. Country Paper delivered during the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century, Paris, 5-9 October 1998. back to text

Kapur, Devesh & Mehta, Pratap Bhanu. Mortgaging the future? Indian higher education. New Delhi:, 2007. back to text

Suri, R.K. & Rajaram, Kalapana [eds.] (2008). Infrastructure: S&T Education, Science and Technology in India New Delhi: Spectrum, 2008. pp. 30-32. back to text

World Bank (2009). India Country Summary of Higher Education, Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2009. back to text

World Bank Statistics (2009). Education in India, New Delhi: World Bank, India, accessed March 2009. Online. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.


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