International Seminar on Massification of Higher Education in Large Academic Systems

The global higher education system has expanded very fast from the close of the past century. While the developed countries have universalised their educational systems, most of the middle income countries have massified their higher education and the growth rate of the sector is   the highest in many less developed economies.  The expansion of the system has posed several challenges, especially in the large systems. 

The international seminar was a follow-up to the discussions that took place at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Miami in May 2014 where there was a consensus among   all participant countries to have a continued discussion with and cooperation among countries with large systems.  The meeting concluded with a proposal to organise a seminar on implications of massification on large system countries. The Indian delegation, led by Secretary Higher Education, MHRD, agreed to host an international seminar on massification in large systems in Delhi. The Delhi Seminar was organised jointly by the CPRHE/NUEPA, India and the British Council.

The Seminar brought together policy- makers and experts from the largest higher education systems in the world.  The countries involved are India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, USA and the UK.  The Indian participants included academics, policy-makers and representatives from UGC, MHRD, Planning Commission, SHECs etc.  Each of the nine participating countries prepared a country paper focusing on the challenges of massification of higher education and their implications for governance and management, modes of financing, the academic profession and quality assurance.   The CPRHE prepared the country paper for India (see Annexure III for the list of authors of country papers). 

The seminar was held on November 10-11, 2014 at the Hotel Jaypee Vasant Continental, New Delhi.  The seminar was inaugurated by Professor Ved Prakash, Chairman, University Grants Commission of India. The seminar attracted nearly 90 participants from India and abroad. The seminar was managed by a team consisting of N.V. Varghese and Jinusha Panigrahi of the CPRHE/NUEPA and Richard Everrit, Lynne Heslop and Manjula Rao of the British Council. 

The deliberations in the seminar highlighted the fact that higher education system has been expanding at an unprecedented rate in the first decade of the present century.  The global enrolment in higher education increased from 100 million in 2000 to 177.6 million in 2010, accounting for an average annual increase of around 7.6 million students.  The participating countries collectively account for more than half of the total higher education enrolment in the world. Among the participating countries, the Russian Federation, the UK and USA have universalised higher education, and while Brazil, China, India and Indonesia have massified their higher education systems, the expansions of higher education in Nigeria and Pakistan have not yet reached a stage of massification. 

 Inaugural Address at the International Seminar was delivered by Professor Ved Prakash, Chairman, UGC. Sitting on the dais from left to right are- Mr. Pawan Aggarwal, DSDE, Government of India; Ms. Gill Caldicott, British Council; Professor N. V. Varghese, Director, CPRHE, Dr. Jinusha Panigrahi, Faculty, CPRHE

A larger number of countries today are dependent on non-state funding to expand their higher education sector. Among the participating countries, Brazil, India and Indonesia have relied on the private sector to massify their higher education systems, while China and the Russian Federation have relied mostly on public institutions and public funding, with USA and UK relying more on public institutions and private funding for expansion of higher education. The studies showed that equal access to higher education has not improved as was expected during a period of expansion of the system.  In some countries, inequalities have widened.

The quality of higher education is a major concern in all countries although most countries have established external quality assurance (EQA) mechanisms and internal quality assurance cells. The debates on world university rankings and on how to develop world-class universities are lively in large system countries, and all participating countries, except USA and the UK, felt that their universities are not sufficiently represented on the list of the top globally ranked universities. The shortage of teaching staff is a major concern in most of the countries, except the UK and USA.

The new strategies adopted to finance higher education in the participating countries include privatisation of public institutions, promotion of private institutions and introduction of income- generating activities.  Student loans have become a common mode of financing higher education in the participating countries.

Participants at the panel discussion on issues in higher education in countries with large academic systems at the International Seminar

The unemployment rate among the higher education graduates is on the rise. While the economic crisis may be a reason for an increase in unemployment among university graduates in the UK and USA, the major concern expressed in other countries was the education-skill mismatch. Among the large system countries, the USA and UK have a more internationalised higher education than other countries. The USA attracts the largest number of foreign students every year; the UK hosts a higher share of foreign students to their total higher education enrolment than USA.  India and China are the largest sending countries. A report on the seminar is published and a volume, based on papers presented in the seminar, is expected to follow.

Event Date: 
10 Nov 2014