Science, tech streams in higher education are losing students' preference

At the level of a Master’s degree, the technology stream seems to be in bigger trouble
The higher education infrastructure in India is growing, and a new report throws light on achievements and areas of concern. There are about 140 million people in the 18-23 age group in the country as of 2018-19, but only 26 per cent of them actually take up education. 

But, the number of universities in India are on the rise. From 760 in 2014-15, India is now close to having 1,000 universities (Chart 1). The United States, with a fourth of India’s population, has nearly 4,000. One aspect of quality of education, the student-teacher ratio improved in 2018-19, after falling for two years (Chart 2). One teacher now takes care of 24 students, courtesy a reversal in the trend of a fall in the number of teachers (Chart 3). Nationwide, 1.42 million teachers teach 37.4 million students. 

But, some data points raise an alarm. Science and technology streams in higher education seem to have lost students’ preference in recent years. While student enrolment in bachelor’s courses in engineering and technology was already falling for many years, enrolment in Bachelor of Science also dropped in 2018-19 (Chart 4). 

Going ahead, at the level of a Master’s degree, the technology stream seems to be in bigger trouble. Students taking up MTech courses, where they specialise in a branch of technology, have halved in five years: From 290,000 in 2014-15 to about 140,000 in 2018-19 (Chart 5). Many IITs are planning to raise tuition fees for the MTech course to curb drop outs.

Another area of concern is the skewed gender ratio at the top teaching positions in colleges and universities. Women have nearly caught up with men when it comes to being a lecturer, or assistant professor (70 per cent of teacher posts are these). But, at the level of associate professor and professor, men still occupy a disproportionate share (Chart 6).

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