Tens of thousands of Indian students will miss out on higher education this year because there are not enough places.
University admissions opened this week amid warnings of impending chaos if the government does not act to bridge the gap between supply and demand.
While the number of prospective undergraduates has risen from 20,000 in 1947 to 8 million in 2001, there has been no matching expansion of the university system. The government says it does not have the resources and the private sector has failed to fill the gap, particularly in the liberal arts. Most private funding goes into the more profitable professional courses such as medicine and engineering.
There is pressure on the government to increase spending and to review the admissions system, which relies entirely on school-leaving marks. "The system is not demanding excellence and is instead forcing students to pass examinations, which they do by mugging up on courses," Kavita Sharma, principal of Delhi University's Hindu College, said.