State Universities in India – An Introduction 

Higher education is one of the primary social goals of every civilisation and every society that springs forth in that civilisation. Education not only teaches, it prepares the mind for the long road ahead – of getting into a job, of starting a family, of becoming a responsible citizen. While primary and secondary education prepares the mind for the journey ahead, higher education arms the student with the required skill set to flourish in a career of his or her choosing.

The Indian constitution entrusted the responsibility of dissemination of education to the state government in 1950. Universities were set up in individual states to ensure higher education was made available to students from the state. Later, through an amendment in 1976, this responsibility was divided between the state governments AND the central government.

Universities were set up across the country to ensure people had access to higher education. The authority for recognising universities in India is the University Grants Commission, which was granted this power through the University Grants Commission Act of 1956. Today there are 4 different kinds of universities in India – central universities, state universities, deemed universities, and private universities. Here we take a look at the state universities and see how they work, the benefits they offer students, and other related issues.

What is a State University?

A state university is a university that is established or set up by a State Act (or in some cases Provincial Act) is called a state university. In simple parlance, it is a university set up by a state. Each state has its own number of universities. Totally there are 251 state universities across the country today.

The responsibility of the state does not end with the setting up of a state university. It also has to ensure adequate grants and funds are provided to the universities it sets up. Funds can come in the form of plan grants or non-plan grants. The grants ensure the universities remain functional at the highest level and also help with their maintenance.

The State University and Its Relation with the UGC

Even though a state university is set up by the state, it is required to conform to the guidelines established by the UGC. The UGC, except in special cases, does not provide grants to state universities. This was decided as per Section 12(B) of the UGC Act, which stated that state universities established beyond June 17, 1972, were not eligible for receiving grants from the UGC, the central government, or even any other organization that was being funded by the Indian Government. Such a university will be able to receive grants only if the UGC is satisfied that given the norms laid down and the procedures being followed, the university falls under the exceptional category and is ‘fit to receive grants’.

That is why of the 251 state universities in the country today, only 123 have come under the purview of the UGC making budgetary allocations for them. So who are the universities that UGC does not dole out funds to? These universities include exclusive agriculture and medical universities. Some state universities that offer specialised courses in a specific stream and also have cross-stream divisions under them do receive funding from the UGC in the form of special grants. For example, an agricultural university that also has other divisions, like a Technology division, under it, can be eligible for special grants from the UGC.

These special grants are important as they allow the state universities in question to upgrade their infrastructure and remain in touch with the demands of today. These funds allow them to go so far as to create new infrastructure and facilities that are critical to remain on par with or ahead of the competition and become institutions that students would look forward to joining. After all, the promise of futuristic or at least the latest technology to aid students in their learning is the biggest draw for students of today.

Are State Universities a Good Bet for Students?

State universities are definitely a good option for students. In India, in fact, parents often look forward to getting their ward(s) into state universities even though a deemed or private university with sufficient funding may be just a block away from their homes. The reasons for this kind of preference are manifold.

The first and most important reason is that they are ‘state universities’. This to many is an automatic assurance of many things. A state university will never be short of funds, because the onus is on the state to provide for their maintenance and upkeep. That is a significant advantage for many: nobody wants to take the risk of putting their child in a university where there is no guarantee of continuity.

Secondly, there is the question of reputation. Some of the oldest institutions of higher education in India, like the University of Calcutta, University of Mumbai, and the University of Madras are state universities.

The third reason is of course familiarity. Many families have family members, relatives, or acquaintances that studied and passed out of a state university. That gives the university an aura of positivity and an automatic dose of goodwill. For many it is a matter of continuity and a need for the student to experience the university they went to.

Which are the Top State Universities in India?

So which are the top state universities in India? A survey conducted last year, the WEEK – Hansa Research Survey, listed out the top universities in India. We list the top 5 from that survey here. The ranking is based on factual data and excellence in academics.

  1. University of Calcutta, Kolkata
  2. Osmania University, Hyderabad
  3. University of Madras, Chennai
  4. Jadavpur University, Kolkata
  5. Panjab University, Chandigarh

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