Being part of the prestigious BRIC group, India is often
referred to as the upcoming nation of this century. Its government
understood that this cannot be done without significantly boosting
higher education. That is why it is currently undertaking major reforms aiming at expanding university access
from currently 15 to over 40 million students.
With more applicants pushing into the sector, the elite Indian
Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of
Technology (NITs) are spoilt for choice. By now, it has become a
common phenomenon that parents send their children to study boot
camps. These prepare them for entrance exams where 450.000 people
apply for 8.000 spots available.
Affordable tuition fees
Exclusivity, however, can do little to massively boost access to
higher education. Consequently, open education institutes have
gained popularity as Time Magazine reported. One of them, IGNOU, is
featuring a total student population of 4 million. This represents
15% of all students in the country with most of them coming from
poor families and rural areas.
Bachelor tuition fees are usually in the range of €28 for men
and €20 for women per year and all applicants are accepted. Most of
the education is done via old fashioned distance learning by
sending study material by mail. Some classes in computers and
sciences are taught in labs.
Access through open education
More recently, teachers increasingly work with online wikis
making material available for free to anyone who is interested. On
a national level, the government has furthermore launched a meta-university initiative through
which students can follow courses at any university in the country
"Middle-class students are not getting enough opportunities in
the universities or colleges. And it goes beyond that. The poor
people living in rural areas and slum dwellers, all of them have
direct access. Quality is one of the major focal points," comments
Renga Ramanujam, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of IGNOU.