18-23 year bracket is considered the higher education age-group and according to the data available from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), India has around 14 crore youth (14,10,46,000 to be precise) who should populate our institutes of higher learning.
But only 24 per cent of them, i.e., 3,42,11,000 are enrolled in higher education courses, means over 10 crore youth of the country in an age-group that is considered academically most fertile, are missing from the scene.
And when we further split this 3.42 crore figure, we come across some more disturbing facts that tell why India's higher education is in shambles and why it lags in every major global ranking.
Research based course like Ph.D. and M.Phil. have just over 1.5 lakh (1,51,000) students enrolled the ministry data shows. That is just 0.1 per cent of the total higher education population in our country. And even their quality is questionable with corruption, political appointments and nepotism ruining the standard of teaching in almost every institution.
Apart from few institution, we simply do not have the research culture in our universities. We can gauge the seriousness of the situation by the fact that for quality research education, it has become a common observation that one needs to look beyond India.
Number of students in post-graduate courses in the country is 38,53,000, a little under 3 per cent (at 2.73 per cent) of the 18-23 age-group population. Only cream of them go for further higher education like carrier oriented research education or get into post-graduate professional courses like management, medicine and higher engineering and technology courses. Most of them had no other option but to look for jobs - jobs that are really not there - or jobs that have dried up.
And maximum of them are enrolled in under-graduate courses, 2,71,72,000 of them or around 20 per cent of the country's higher education population or 80 per cent of all students enrolled in higher education.
Now irrespective of the fact that how many of them go on to complete their under-graduate, post-graduate, M.Phil. and Ph.D. courses, something that is subject for a separate discourse, the huge difference between every successive level of higher education shows higher education in our country virtually stops at the graduation level.
Only 38.5 lakh graduate students (around 14 per cent) out of 2.71 crore students enrolled in under-graduate courses opt for a post-graduate course, and only a handful of post-graduates (around 4 per cent) go for further higher education or research.