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Webinar on 'Access to Higher Education in India', Monday 18th May 2020, 1:00-3:00pm (Online)


The FCF Project (PI Ann Stewart, Law, Co-I Emily Henderson, Education Studies) and Education Studies are co-hosting a research webinar taking place on Monday 18th May 2020 at 1:00-3:00pm (UK time).
To access the webinar, please click HERE and connect on Microsoft Teams (no license required to take part in this webinar).

The topic of the seminar is ‘Access to Higher Education in India’. The presenters are as follows:

  • Nidhi S. Sabharwal (National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi): Dynamics of inequalities in access to higher education opportunities in India
  • Anjali Thomas (Education Studies): Role played by families in the educational trajectories of undergraduate students in Haryana, India
  • Akhila Padmanabhan (Visiting student from Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum): The Role of Different actors in Higher Education Development: Evidence from Kerala, India 


Emma Smith (Education Studies, Warwick) and Sudipa Sarkar (Institute for Employment Research, Warwick).

We look forward to seeing you online!

Full Presentation Details:

Nidhi S. Sabharwal, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi


Nidhi S. Sabharwal is Associate Professor at the Centre for Policy Research in Higher Education, National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, India. She has a Ph.D. in Geography from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India. She has studied inter-group inequalities across human development indicators, focusing on the role of caste- and gender-based discrimination in market and non-market institutions, and has previously served as the Director of the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies.

Her current research focuses on issues of college readiness, gender and higher education, student success, equity and social inclusion in higher education. Dr Sabharwal has recently completed multistate studies on issues of student diversity, academic success and social inclusion in higher education institutions in India. She is also a key partner in the ongoing 5-year action research project on gender and educational success in Haryana funded by the Fair Chance Foundation and University of Warwick.


Dynamics of inequalities in access to higher education opportunities in India

Although affirmative action policies have helped in improving access of the socially excluded groups (SEGs) to higher education in India, inter-group inequalities continue to persist. Based on empirical evidence, this presentation provides an overview of persisting forms of inequalities in access to higher education (HE) opportunities in India which results when a combination of socio-economic-spatial disadvantages intersects with pre-college educational pathway handicap and identity-based discrimination. SEGs such as women, the scheduled castes (former untouchables in the caste hierarchy), the other backward classes (other ‘lower’ castes) and the scheduled tribes (indigenous groups) are at the intersection of multiple forms of inequalities. As a result, these groups tend to be worse off than the rest in terms of HE enrolment rate in general and in particular to selective higher education institutions and to high value academic subjects like science and engineering. A market-led expansion of the higher education system, impoverished and discriminatory school experiences and, inequalities in conditions supporting social capital formation and cultural capital accumulation are substantial access barriers facing students from the SEGs in India. It is argued that there is a scope for devising better public policies and institutional strategies that recognises the challenges of multiple forms of inequalities and its cumulative negative effects on access to HE opportunities for the SEGs in India.

Anjali Thomas, Education Studies, University of Warwick


Anjali is a PhD student at the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. Her PhD is being funded by the Fair Chance Foundation and the University of Warwick. Her PhD research will inform the Fair Chance for Education Project on gendered pathways to educational success in Haryana, India. Her doctoral research explores the role of Families in the Gendered Educational trajectories of Young People accessing Higher Education in Haryana.

Anjali is a graduate of English Literature (Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi) and has a Masters in Social Work (University of Delhi). She also has an M.Phil. degree in Social Sciences (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai) during which she studied the narratives and experiences of caste-based social discrimination and prejudices among undergraduate students in a college in Delhi University, India.

In the past, she has worked with CORD (Collaborative Research and Dissemination) and ICRW (International Centre for Research on Women) on a qualitative research project in Haryana, India.


Role played by families in the educational trajectories of undergraduate students in Haryana, India 

Gender regimes and education in India are patrifocal in their behaviour and choices in terms of education for their children. Educational choices are inherently unequal and are in favour of the men in the family. Education of men and women is significantly influenced by cultural norms and marriage practices. The study involved conducting semi-structured qualitative interviews with 26 undergraduate students enrolled in three colleges which were sampled across three districts of the Indian State of Haryana (Mahendargarh, Sirsa and Sonipat) which are located in varying distances from the national capital of Delhi. This was complemented with semi-structured interviews with family members of 11 undergraduate students. The interviews explored educational perceptions, choices, experiences and aspirations during schooling and during their transition into higher education. This presentation will explore how different family members and their social capital are mobilised to support, inspire, inform and steer the educational choices and decisions made by young people in Haryana. My analysis finds that the ways in which these roles are gendered is not straightforward. Often young women and men are experiencing and are subjected to different gendered socializations and situations which limit their educational options and choices. Additionally the analysis observed how trailblazing students and individuals actively re-negotiate the gender regimes and educational pathways operating within their families and communities.

Akhila Padmanabhan, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, India


I am a PhD student in Centre for Development Studies(CDS) Trivandrum, India. In my doctoral research, I focus on the factors and forces that drives educational inequality in higher education sector of Kerala using social exclusion framework. The study adopts a mixed method approach by integrating both qualitative and quantitative methods in the analysis.

I hold M.Phil. Degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (JNU) that investigated the perspectives and gender interest of elected women representatives in politics and local governance in Kerala. My personal interest includes research in gender issues, exclusions in education and inequality. I co-authored a paper financial Inclusion and agricultural indebtedness of agricultural households in Kerala that dealt with financial inequality and indebtedness of farmers in Kerala.Presentation:

The Role of Different actors in Higher Education Development: Evidence from Kerala, India 

This paper presents Kerala’s higher educational policy ethos from 1900’s which is a narrative of state’s grave effort to safeguard its regional and social equity in the educational development. Building on the theoretical framework of role of the state and different actors in educational development, the paper addresses two purposes. First, it attempts to understand the process and phases of higher education development in Kerala with special emphasis on the role of state and non-state actors. Second, it aims to address the policy discourses and strategies used by state and other actors to address the issues of exclusion in the higher education development. The study makes use of historical data sources, data published by All-India Census and data from Kerala economic review for the analysis. Unlike the existing studies which discuss about the exclusionary trends in Kerala’s higher Education after 1990s, our research analytically tries to understand the historical trend in the higher education development and exclusions created in terms of access to higher education. The research identified the predominant role of non-state actors who are the caste and religious groups. Though their policies were initially philanthropic, their approach later became market oriented and created widespread inequality in terms of unequal access to educational institutions and disciplinary choices.

Fri 28 Feb 2020, 12:40