The Oxford dictionary defines ‘University’ as a high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and academic research is done. Etymologically, ‘university’ is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which crudely means "community of teachers and scholars." During medieval times, association of students and teachers with collective legal rights given by princes and statesmen or the towns in which such associations were located came to be known as university.
India’s higher education system works at both private and public level universities. Public universities function under the directives issued by the Government of India and the state governments whereas private universities function under various approved educational bodies and societies. The University Grants Commission (UGC), the highest educational authority, recognizes and awards the ‘universal’ status to various universities. The UGC draws its power from the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. Along with the UGC, 15 Professional Councils are also established, in charge of different parts of accreditation and coordination.
Types of Universities in India:
Central University: Central University aka Union University is established by an Act of Parliament and is under the purview of the Department of Higher Education (DHE) in the Union Human Resource Development Ministry. The UGC lists 46 central universities such as Rajiv Gandhi University, Nalanda University, Indira Gandhi National Open University, University of Delhi etc.
State University: A State University functions under the directives issued by the government of a particular state. It is established by a local legislative assembly act. On February 9, 2017, the UGC has recognized 358 state universities, including the oldest ones such as the University of Mumbai, the University of Madras and the University of Calcutta active since their establishment back in 1857. Colleges affiliated to such universities generally offer a range of undergraduate (UG) courses as well as post-graduate (PG) courses.
Deemed University: The nomenclature ‘Deemed’ generally creates confusion in the common man’s mind. It is a university that receives an autonomous status given by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) with the advice and approval of the UGC (Section 3 of the UGC Act). On February 9, 2017, the UGC listed 122 Deemed Universities including the Indian Institute of Science, being the first university in the list that was granted deemed on 12 May 1958. Examples of Deemed Universities include Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (Andhra Pradesh), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (Delhi), Gujarat Vidyapith (Gujarat), International Institute of Information Technology (Karnataka),
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (Maharashtra) and the like.
Private University: A private university is approved by the UGC. It is allowed to award degrees but not allowed to have off-campus affiliated colleges. On February 9, 2017, the UGC listed 258 private universities. Examples include Assam Don Bosco University (Assam), Ahmedabad University (Gujarat), Maharishi Markandeshwar University (Haryana), Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India University (Jharkhand) etc.
In total, there are 785 universities in the country with Rajasthan having the most universities (73), Tamil Nadu having most Deemed Universities (28), Gujarat having the most state universities (28), West Bengal with state universities (26), Uttar Pradesh having state universities (26) and central universities (6) and Delhi having central universities (5). Alongside these universities, there are other educational institutions (with no affiliated colleges), not officially called ‘universities’ but are allowed to grant degrees. They can be called as ‘autonomous institutes’ under the control of the Department of Higher Education. Examples include the Indian Institutes of Information Technology, Indian Institutes of Technology, the National Institutes of Technology, the various branches of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, the Indian Institutes of Management (though these award diplomas, not degrees) and other autonomous institutes. In August 2015, India had a total of 18 IITs, the Indian School of Mines, 32 NITs, 18 state-funded technical institutes and 18 IIITs.