Using the data from National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 64th and 71st round survey, supplemented by other sources, the present paper attempts to examine the impact of neoliberalism on higher education participation in India. The paper is primarily concerned with mapping the impact of neoliberalism on the growth and inequalities in higher education participation by various socioeconomic indicators such as gender, social groups – caste and religion, location – rural and urban, major states, and type of institution – government, private-aided, and private-unaided. The analysis is done in two sections. The first section maps the growth of Higher Education Institutions in terms of numbers and enrolment, particularly after the 1990s. Considering two important indicators, namely, Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and Gross Attendance Ratio (GAR), the second section examines whether inequalities in higher education participation have increased or declined during 2007-08 and 2014-15.
The findings indicate a substantial growth of private sector participation in higher education. In 2014, the total students enrolled in higher education were around 56 per cent and 44 per cent respectively for private and government institutions. With respect to the socioeconomic indicators, the findings reveal a disparity in participation across gender, location, caste and religion wherein females, rural students, SCs, STs, and Muslim students respectively were least represented. With the advent of neoliberalism and subsequent increased privatization in higher education, it is imperative to examine enrolment variations in it, and therefore the findings of this paper provide significant policy implications.
Keywords: Neoliberalism, Higher Education, Participation, Disparity