The higher Higher Education

India is an under-educated country. While the overall literacy rate has increased, a relatively small number of Indians have a formal college education and a college degree. As of 2019-20, Just 25% of Indians have studied till higher secondary level or above. And an even smaller proportion of Indians have higher education - just over 10% of India’s population have studied till at least graduation.

At almost 30%, Delhi and Chandigarh have the highest share of the population having studied till at least graduation. But these are city-states. Excluding them and Puducherry, the other city-state), no state has more than 20% of its population having studied till at least graduate level. Amongst the states Manipur has the most population having studied till at least graduation – 17.5%, followed by Telangana at just over 16%. At just under 7%, Tripura, Assam and Bihar have the lowest number of people having studied till graduation.

While this sounds depressing, that is not the reason for this post. This picture will change, and perhaps dramatically, in the years ahead. Consider this:

  • Between 2011-2020 (y/e March), the number of students enrolled in higher education (graduate level and above courses) has increased by 40% - from 27 million in 2010-11 to almost 40 million as of 2019-20.

  • The Gross Enrolment Ratio for higher education (age group 18-23 years) has increased from 19% in 2010-11 to 27% in 2019-20. This means that while at the start of the last decade, around 20% of the population in the 18-23 age group were studying in higher education courses, as of 2019-20 27% of the population in that age group is.

  • And even more positive is the rising share of girl students. At the start of last decade, there were around 80 female students for every 100 male students. Currently, there are over 95 female students for every 100 male students.

In the next few years, as these students graduate and more students enrol, the share of the population with higher education will increase. In just the last 2 years (2017-18 to 2019-20), the share of the population with at least a graduate degree has increased by 1.4ppt.

This is, without doubt, a positive, medium-term trend underway in the economy. A more educated workforce will, ceteris paribus, mean a more productive workforce. And thus, a country with a labour force that is becoming more educated will mean, again ceteris paribus, an economy that is becoming more productive. Assuming of course that there are enough jobs to go around.

This trend of more youth pursuing higher education in a way also explains the interest, activity, and growth in the Ed-Tech market. Especially the firms that cater to the higher education sector – and there are several of them out there.

At least, in the case of education in general and higher education in particular, the proverbial glass is probably more than half full…