Women in Higher Education: A West Bengal Case Study

Women in Higher Education: A West Bengal Case Study


Quality education is important for a woman to build a strong personality to work and live in an increasingly competitive world. Higher education is the entrance to economic security and prospect particularly for women in West Bengal. It offers the proficiencies that are required in different spheres of human activity. Higher education for women in West Bengal has witnessed impressive growth over the years and the State Government has introduced policies and measures to promote female education, gender equity, and improve women enrolment in higher education. This article aims to study the role of women in education and their enrolment in higher studies as a case study in West Bengal.


Education is important for national growth and development.  Higher Education in particular plays a pivotal role in building up a powerful knowledge-based society. Since a society compromises both men and women, so education is equally important to both. Education is a driving force as it can change the economy and society by reducing poverty and inequality. Hence higher enrolment of women in education particularly in higher education will enhance the competitiveness in the global economy. The higher education system in India is one of the biggest in the world with 14.6 million students enrolled in more than 31,000 institutions. Education is an essential element for growth and prosperity. Apart from primary and secondary education, higher education is also an option for development and transformation. Higher education is omnipotent in preparing future students in different spheres of life such as social, economic, political, cultural, scientific, and technical. According to a UNESCO report on education in the 21st century, higher education is mandatory to bridge the knowledge gap between countries and communities to enrich the fusion of culture, a network of ideas research, and technologies. Thus, higher education if somehow enriched among women in society can inevitably provide the competencies that are required in different spheres of women’s activities such as household chores, administration, business, industry, health, and communication, arts, and culture. Out of 1.21 billion population in India, around 234million fall in the age group of 15 – 24 years, which is expected to increase by 13% over 2005- 2020 as compared to the world average of 4%. Hence, India has higher potential from higher education. India’s education and training sectors are estimated to be about USD 40 billion markets, with a potential women involvement.

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Objective of the Study

The growth of India’s higher education system has undergone a remarkable transition. It is a result of the nation’s policy change that was adopted immediately after independence to promote education in the country. Despite that, there is still an urge among women in the country to receive better higher education facilities. So, the main objective of the paper is to study the role of women in higher education concerning the enrolment rate. The study focuses on different education branches such as arts, science, commerce, business administration so on to generate competently enlighten higher education in India as a whole.

Descriptive Data and Results

The data presented was downloaded, from the Annual Report 2009-10 from the Department of Higher Education, Govt. of West Bengal.

Figures 1, 2 & 3 show the enrolment rate of female students in undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) in colleges, universities, and other educational institutes in West Bengal based on caste categories – general, SC, & ST respectively.

All the Figures are irrespective of caste and categories in both the UG & PG level. A greater rate of enrolment of girls is in pure stream i.e., arts, science, and commerce as compared to very little participation of girls in engineering and management sectors. This shows that now more thrust should be given increase their participation in higher education in the latter two sectors.

In 1947 -48, there were only 3 Engineering colleges in West Bengal with an intake capacity of only 320 students. In 2009 -10, the total number of engineering and technology colleges was 83 with a total intake capacity of 23854. In West Bengal, many management institutions have been established by the government of India. As well private initiatives were taken in the last few years to meet the enhanced demand of higher education of women in these sectors. In the early ’50s, there was only one management institution named the Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management established in Kolkata. In the early ’60s, the Indian Institute of Management was established in Joka. But two institutes together, still could not meet the requirements. Hence, many State Universities were established with Management Departments. In 2009 -10, the total number of approved institutions providing MBA courses were 45 and the intake capacity was 2790. Distance learning in recent years has also gained importance for remote and backward students who cannot get enrolled in a regular fashion due to poverty, particularly for women. Thereby Distance learning could meet the aspirants of higher education and has gained sufficient support and confidence from authorities. Today Public Universities in West Bengal like Burdwan, Vidyasagar, Kalyani and IGNOU, ICFAI, Netaji Subhas Open University, etc. are also successfully running distance learning centers. Hence, increasing the scope and accessibility of education to women better.


Higher education in earlier days essentially concerned men of the society. Today public, as well as private institutions, are providing higher education to all, including women. The institutes are also popularizing higher education further to impart quality education so that women can receive higher education affordably and effectively.

Dr. Prosenjit Mukherjee
Dr. Prosenjit Mukherjee

Assistant Professor
Bangabasi College, University of Calcutta

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