Punjab colleges and universities witness a significant exodus of students: AISHE

This decline is attributed to the growing trend of youth migration, particularly to countries offering opportunities for higher education and better prospects.

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The All-India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report for the year 2021-22 has unveiled a concerning trend in Punjab's higher education landscape. The mass migration of young individuals from the state to countries like Canada and Australia has led to a notable decline in enrolment figures for colleges and universities in Punjab.

Enrolment Trends in Punjab

According to the AISHE report, the total enrolment in Punjab's higher educational institutions has experienced a significant drop of at least one lakh students over the past five years. This decline is attributed to the growing trend of youth migration, particularly to countries offering opportunities for higher education and better prospects.

Impact on Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)

Punjab's Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), a crucial indicator reflecting the level of participation in higher education within a specific population, has also witnessed a decline. The state's GER stands at 27.4, which is lower than the national average of 28.4. This drop in GER is noteworthy, signalling a decrease in higher education enrolment among the targeted age group (18-23 years).

A Slight Uptick Amidst Concerns

While the overall trend has been a decline in enrolment, the AISHE report offers a glimmer of hope with a slight uptick in the past year. However, this positive shift needs to be interpreted cautiously, considering the persistent challenges posed by mass migration.

Migration Patterns and Challenges

A recent study conducted by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) highlighted that the surge in emigration from Punjab, especially to Canada, commenced around 2015. Over 40% of migrants from the state reportedly pursued study visas for Canada. This migration has not only impacted enrolment numbers but also raised concerns about a potential brain drain from the state.

Comparative GER Analysis

Punjab's GER of 27.4 falls below not just the national average but also lags behind neighboring states like Haryana (33) and Himachal Pradesh (43.1). Even Gujarat, another state experiencing a migration boom, records a GER of 24, lower than Punjab. States and Union Territories with higher GER include Chandigarh (64.8), Puducherry (61.5), Delhi (49), Tamil Nadu (47), Himachal Pradesh (43.1), Uttarakhand (41.8), Kerala (41.3), and Telangana (40).

Enrolment Trends Across Courses

Examining the enrolment trends across various courses, the report indicates a decline in the number of students in undergraduate, postgraduate, and diploma courses. However, there has been a slight improvement in the numbers in 2021-22 compared to the previous year.

Concerns Raised by Academic Figures

Harpreet Dua, a senator at Panjab University, Chandigarh, emphasizes that migration is the primary reason for the decline in Punjab's colleges and universities. He points out that while enrolment numbers may show a slight increase, the ground reality remains alarming, with a significant proportion of students dropping out and opting for migration.

Nonetheless, as the AISHE report sheds light on the migration-induced challenges faced by Punjab's higher education sector, policymakers and academic institutions must strategize to retain local talent. Providing opportunities, jobs, and a conducive environment for growth could play a pivotal role in curbing the alarming trend of mass migration.