Thoughts on economics and liberty

Topsy turvy higher education system in India

One of the reasons why it is so hard to find Indians who understand policy is that the disciplines of law and politics are looked down upon in India. In India the best children go into engineering and medicine after school, leaving the third best students to study law and politics.

In Australia, on the other hand, the most difficult course to get into (I'm using the University of Melbourne as a proxy – see data below) is law. Thereafter comes veterinary science (for some unknown reason!) and medicine. Both these are easier to get into than law! Engineering comes well below medicine.

The way of thinking of doctors and engineers, however, is completely contrary to the way societies work (indeed, the way they themselves, as humans, work). It is impossible to understand society without understanding human incentives – and that is the one thing that engineers and doctors are never taught. This topsy-turvy prioritisation of higher education in India, in my view, is one important reason for the failure of otherwise brilliant Indians to understand good regulation and policy making (Nandan Nilekani seems to be an exception). The so-called brightest brains in India are simply not able to understand economic or political theory!


(data from where not specifically cited; figures are percentiles)

Law: 99.45 in 2006

Veterinary Science: 99.10 (see this)

Biomedicine (general medicine): 97.9

Media and Communication: 95.7

Commerce: 94.8

Engineering: 91.75 in 2001 (84.7 in 2010)

Arts (general): 89

Science: 89.05 (see here) in 2010

Environments: 85.15

Education: 82.9 in 2001

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2 thoughts on “Topsy turvy higher education system in India
  1. Sutanu

    This is true as of now. However things are going to change drastically within a short time. Engineers are going to be a dime a dozen. In earlier times, good engineering colleges were few and seats were limited. Every engineering graduate was assured of a good job. Consequently, engineering was looked up as the gateway to job heaven. It wasn’t that the students had an aptitude for engineering or that becoming one was their ambition. It was simply a shortcut to a lucrative job. Period.

    Now the situation is as opposite as it can get. There are many engineering colleges all over the country. Students can pick and choose their course. Students who rank 10000 or lower in the entrance examination today are going to become engineers of tomorrow. A decade ago such candidates would have faced serious difficulties in getting admitted to a general degree course in any college.

    This trend marks the shift in the educational background of our population. In the near future, the vast majority of Indian graduates will be engineers. They will be everywhere, from call centers, to trade and commerce, and among the unemployed. A decade ago only students who couldn’t become engineers or doctors joined BSc, BCom and BA courses. Naturally, the majority of them not really being the best and the brightest, failed to perform capably even in the workplace.
    This group of people will be replaced by the BTech graduates soon.

    A trickle of good students are returning to the general streams. Hopefully motivated students will take up courses in the arts, science and commerce streams. Then perhaps India will get good administrators, lawyers and policy makers.

  2. peterparker

    Economics , law and medical courses are pursued by best brains abroad. Engineering is pursued by those, who belong to middle class, and are seeking out for upward mobility.

    India still has a large number of middle class, and their fedual attitude promotes servility, in order to have a steady and secure career. They hardly care who is ruler, can they even sign documents, what are their credentials. As long as middle class gets its due, they are fine with it.

    Any surprises, why many people have come and ruled on them?

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