Educational Infrastructure in India


Naresh Kumar, Vipan Kumar and Neelam Kumar


The issue of financing is of utmost importance to the growth and development of education in India. Since the 1950s, mainly the central and state governments have financed higher education. The relative share of the government has shown remarkable increase since the time of independence to the recent years. India has witnessed a massive expansion of its educational infrastructure and today it has one of the largest education networks, and third largest reservoir of science and technology manpower in the world. India has a large school going population. To accommodate this school going population, it requires a strong educational infrastructure in order to keep pace with the developing economy and provide it with quality manpower. Education can accelerate economic growth and investment is a key indicator to expand and improve quality of education. Thus Indian education requires more investment, which can lead to good quality education.

Public expenditure in educational sector in 1961-62, was 1.52% of the GDP, which increased to 3.68% in 2004-05 (Figure 1). At elementary level the expenditure was 1.78% of GDP in 1990-91, which marginally went up to 1.89% in 2004-05. Similar fluctuating trends were observed for secondary and higher secondary level education. The expenditure on secondary/higher secondary level education was between 1.13 to 1.11% of GDP during 1997-1998 to 2004-05. The percentage expenditure on higher education to GDP was 0.77% in 1990-91, which decreased to 0.62% in 1997-98 and was slightly raised to 0.66% in 2004-05. Similarly, with comparison to other sectors the share of expenditure on elementary education to total expenditure on all sectors was 6.19% in 2004-05 while on higher secondary education it was 3.85% for the period 2004-05.


Fig 1. Break-up of total expenditure on education in India


As far as higher education is concerned, the union gov­ernment has however raised budgetary allocation in the budget for 2007-08. The expenditure on education is budgeted to go up by 33 per cent over the revised estimate for 2006-07. For higher education, expenditure is budgeted to go up by nearly 29 per cent compared to a rise of 22 per cent for the previous year. Yet, the question of adequacy remains, keeping in view certain factors like escalating costs; increasing needs of the system on the one hand with declining resources on the other. The fall in the expenditure per student from Rs 7,676 in 1990-91 to Rs 5,522 in 2002-03 (in 1993-94 prices) is an indicator of this [CABE Report 2005]. Intra-sectoral allocation also lacks balance. Elementary Education accounted for 52.32% of the total expenditure on education in 2007-08, followed by Secondary Education, which was 28.76%. The share of University & Higher Education and Technical Education was 11.83% and. 5.33% respectively. Moreover, while the expenditure on higher education has gone up over the years, the major expenditure has mostly been on the non-plan side covering the wage bill of the teaching and non-teaching staff. The improvement of infrastructure etc remains largely deficient. The capital or development expenditure has not been found to be commensurate with the non-plan expenditure.



Table 1: Expenditure on Education (2007-08 BE Revenue Account)






(Rs.  Crores)




Share of Total (%)




SourceAnalysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education, 2005-06 to 2007-08


Considering the inadequacy of financing of higher education and the rising demands, the role of private resources in higher education has often been discussed and recommended. The Education Commission (1966) recommended an increased allocation to education. It has been made clear and desirable that India needs to allocate 6 per cent of GDP to education. The National Policy on Education (NPE, 1986; 1992) and University Grants Commission has also recognized the role of private sector in the sphere of higher education. The Punnaya Committee (1993), though strongly recommending funding as a major responsibility of the government, also suggested increasing fees so as to partly recover the cost of education. Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) Committee (2005) on financing higher and technical education recommended the allocation of 1.5 per cent of national income to higher education.  Recently, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has made recommendations to diversify the resources for higher education.




Text Box: Can the pattern of financing be judged to be adequate, leading to equity and efficiency of higher education?    Financing of higher education has often been critiqued to be illusionary in terms of growth, lopsided in priorities and unsatisfactory (See Tilak, 1997). The expansion of higher education is said to be taking place without a commensurate increase in funding (Altbach, 1993). However, the growth has not been critiqued on various accounts including the expenditures in real prices and per student. Public expenditure on education as a proportion of GNP has been far below the national target of spending 6 per cent (Tilak, 2004). Because of the inherent inter-linkages between efficiency and equity in the Indian educa¬tion system, education system is feared to suffer on both counts [Majumdar 2005]. Analyses reveal that the financing on higher education has been subject to the rise and decline, often, with the shifting priorities of the government towards education. For example, the share of total expenditure on higher education by the union government was 20.6 per cent in 1990-91; it fell to 16.7 per cent in 1996-97, climbed up to 26 per cent in 1998-99 and again declined to 19 per cent in 2003-04. In real prices, the union government’s expenditure on higher education declined from Rs 645 crore in 1993-94 to Rs 559 crore in 1996-97 (Tilak, 2004). The various plans also reveal a similar picture. The relative importance to education has been declining gradually over the years. As a percentage of total expenditure on education, allocation for higher education was as high as 27.9 per cent during the Fourth Plan (1969-74), but it declined to 9.2 per cent during the Ninth Plan (1997-02).  As a percentage of GDP, the government expenditure on higher education de¬clined to 0.37 in 2003-04 from 0.46 in 1990-91 [Sharma 2005]. However it has been estimated to have increased to 0.70% in the year 2007-08. Public expenditure on education as a proportion of GNP has been far below the national target of spending 6 per cent and in recent years it has declined from above 4 per cent in 1990-91 to about 3.9 per cent in 1998-99 (Tilak 2004). The mid-1980s, when human resource development was emphasized and education was seen as an important component of it, witnessed an increasing trend in terms of educational expenditure as per cent of GDP. The pre and post economic reforms periods seem to have shown enormous changes and influences. The new economic policy initiated in 1990s resulted in lowering of the public expenditure on education and encouraged privatization.




Text Box: What does the National Knowledge Commission Say!        NKC emphasizes that the expansion of our system of higher education is not possible without enhanced levels of financing. This must necessarily come from both public and private sources. NKC recommends diversification of sources of financing and makes the following specific points:     •	Since government financing will remain the cornerstone, the government support for higher education should increase to at least 1.5 per cent of GDP, out of a total of at least 6 per cent of GDP for education.  •	Even this would not suffice for the massive expansion in higher education that is imperative. It is essential to explore other possibilities that can complement the increase in public expenditure.  •	 Most public universities are sitting on a large reservoir of untapped resources in the form of land. It should be possible to draw up norms and parameters for universities to use their available land as a source of finance.  •	It is for universities to decide the level of fees but, as a norm, fees should meet at least 20 per cent of the total expenditure in universities. This should be subject to two conditions: first, needy students should be provided with a fee waiver plus scholarships to meet their costs; second, universities should not be penalized by the UGC for the resources raised from higher fees through matching deductions from their grants-in-aid.  •	India should nurture the tradition of philanthropic contributions through changes in incentives for universities and for donors. At present, there is an implicit disincentive in both tax laws and trust laws. These laws should be changed so that universities can invest in financial instruments of their choice and use the income from their endowments to build up a corpus.   •	 Universities should also seek to tap other sources such as alumni contributions and licensing fees. There is need to create supportive institutional mechanisms that allow universities to engage professional firms for this purpose.  •	 It is essential to stimulate private investment in education as a means of extending educational opportunities. It may be possible to leverage public resources, especially in the form of land grants, to attract more (not-for-profit) private investment.

Source: National Knowledge Commission, Government of India, Recommendations on Higher Education, 2006, pp 2-3 downloaded from


To conclude it is clear that the government has to play an important role in the Indian education system in general and in higher education system in particular:

  1. in view of India’s growing need for skilled manpower which can be met only by strengthening the higher education system
  2. to have an edge in knowledge generation in a global economy
  3. to achieve a developed socio-economic structure / for societal transformation
  4. to ensure access, equity and excellence.

The govern­ment (as well as non-governmental and other social wings of the society) has to strengthen the extant resources and also explore the feasibility of alternate sources of financing education, including higher education.


Growth of Institutions, Faculty and Infrastructure

Enrolment at primary, secondary and higher levels in India is increasing constantly. Accordingly, to accommodate increasing number of students at all levels it is indispensable to have more educational institutes. Both public and private agencies manage educational institutes. However, the government agencies manage more institution than private agencies. There has been a structural change in education sector after allowing private partnership, at higher levels in particular. This has led to private investment not only in school education but also in tertiary education. Consequently several private universities and colleges are opening in general education, engineering and medical education. Despite these changes the Government and local bodies still organize more than 90% of primary schools whereas the contribution of private agencies was about 9.79% in 2004-05. In the case of Secondary/Senior Secondary level education the growth of institutes under different management bodies has also increased continuously. Since 1973-74, percentage of Government Secondary/Senior Secondary schools has increased from 26.5% to 33.1% in 2004-05. It is apparent from Figure 2 that the number of institutes increased very fast after 1990-91. It may be due to the new economic and education policy, which allows private partners in the education field. According to the Department of Higher Education during the period 1950-51 and 2004-05 the number of Primary Schools increased by 3.66 times, while the Upper Primary Schools and Secondary/Hr. Schools increased by more than 20 times each. The major growth took place in general education and professional education, which is around 28 and 15 times respectively. Similarly, universities have also registered significant growth. It is important to note that since 2001-02, number of Universities/Deemed Universities has increased more rapidly as compared to other educational institutions. During this period, Primary Schools increased by 1.2 times, Upper Primary Schools by 1.3 times, Secondary/Senior Secondary Schools increased by 1.1 times. In higher education, colleges for general education increased by 1.3 times while Universities increased by 1.5 times. For higher education there were 407 universities including deemed universities and institutes of national importance.


Fig 2. Growth of recognized educational institutions

Source : Selected education statistics, MHRD


Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR)

Teaching staff constitutes a vital aspect of education. Pupil teacher ratio is one of the critical indicators of education. It may provide insight to measure the quality of education. Being a large country, India requires sufficient number of teaches at all levels to impart good quality education. Figure 3 shows pupil teacher ratio at the different stages of education in India.



Fig 3. Pupil-Teacher ratio across the stages of education in India

Source : MHRD,2004-05


The figure reveals that the PTR is quite low at primary and middle level figuring 46 and 34 respectively and needs improvement. Thus it is imperative to improve PTR to enhance quality of education and to make human resource globally competitive. Is there any state-wise variation in terms of PTR? Figure 4 shows the state-wise students enrolment in relation to the number of teachers. 



Fig 4. State wise student enrolment and number of teachers

Source : MHRD,2004-05


Shortage of faculty is felt in institutions for higher education as well. Many positions are lying vacant. According to the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) annual report for the year 2007, the total number of teachers is 4.88 lakh (see Tables 2 and 3). More than 80% of them are at the college level and about 16% at the university department level. Faculty crunch is felt even at the prestigious institutes of learning, like IITs and IIMs, with their elaborate funding and infrastructure. What then can be said about the lesser-known institutes? The report by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) also confirms the shortage of the teaching staff. Currently, on the basis of the established AICTE norms of student – teacher ratio of 1:2:6 for professors, readers and lecturers respectively, the shortage of teaching staff is over 40,000 and the shortage in the different carders is professors – 4,531, readers – 9,063 and lecturers - 27,187. The shortage of PhDs exceeds 30,000 while Masters shortfall is over 24,000 (Education Times, Delhi, 1st Sept 2008).

Table 2 shows that the faculty strength is top-heavy in Indian universities. Professors and readers constitute more than 52% of the teaching strength. We need more lecturers and this will infuse fresh blood in the system.


Table 2:   Number and Distribution of Teaching Staff, By Designation, in University Departments and University Colleges**: 2005-2006




Sr. Lecturers


Tutor/ Demonstrators

















Note: (a) Figures in parentheses indicate the percentage of the cadres to the total staff.

(b) Part-time teachers/Physical training instructors are included in lecturers

(c) * Includes Principals and Senior Teachers who are equivalent to Professors.

         (d)  ** Estimated


Source: UGC








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