Impact of Mass Migration on Higher Education in Punjab

mass migration of youths from Punjab to countries like Canada and Australia

The mass migration of youths from Punjab to countries like Canada and Australia is having a significant impact on the state’s colleges and universities. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report 2021-22, released by the Union Ministry of Education, there has been a decline of at least one lakh students in the total enrollment in Punjab’s higher education institutions over the past five years.

However, there is a silver lining as the past year has seen a slight uptick in enrollment. Despite this, Punjab’s Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER), which measures the level of participation in higher education within a given population, remains lower than the national average. Punjab’s GER currently stands at 27.4, while the national average is 28.4.

The decline in Punjab’s GER is concerning, as it has dropped from 29.2 in 2017-18 to 27.4 in 2021-22. This indicates a decrease in enrollment in higher education among the specified age group of 18–23 years.

The AISHE report for 2021–22 reveals that the total enrollment in Punjab in 2017–18 was 9.59 lakh, which has now dropped to 8.58 lakh in 2021–22. Although this is slightly better than the enrollment of 8.33 lakh in 2020–21, it still represents a significant decrease compared to five years ago.

A study conducted by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) on migration patterns in Punjab found that the emigration boom in the state began in 2015, with more than 40% of migrants going to Canada on study visas.

Comparing Punjab’s GER to other states, it is evident that Punjab lags behind. Neighboring states like Haryana (33) and Himachal Pradesh (43.1) have higher GERs. Gujarat, another state experiencing a migration boom, also has a GER of only 24, lower than Punjab.

The states and union territories with high GERs 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).

Looking at the level-wise enrollment data in the AISHE report, the number of students in undergraduate courses in Punjab has decreased from 6.88 lakh in 2017-18 to 6.13 lakh in 2021-22. However, there has been a slight improvement from 5.86 lakh in 2020–21.

In the last five years, the number of students enrolled in diploma programs has decreased from 7,431 to 5,814, while PG diploma program enrollment has decreased from 1.26 lakh to 96,000.

Punjab’s colleges and universities have been empty for the past ten years, according to Harpreet Dua, a senator from Punjab University in Chandigarh, who blamed migration alone. The situation on the ground is still alarming, he said, so any slight improvement in the numbers over the previous year was merely a mirage.

“Population growth is the reason for the slight increase in enrollment numbers, not a decrease in migration. And that only represents enrollment. The statistics regarding dropout and pass rates are alarming. Even when young people register for and enroll in courses in Punjab, they often leave the program in the middle and relocate abroad, moving to Canada, Australia, and other countries.

Leaders need to realize that young people in Punjab are not traveling to Canada in search of a better education or curriculum; rather, they plan to move there permanently because there are not enough jobs and opportunities back home. Although our course content and curriculum are on par with those in Canada and other nations, young people want better employment opportunities and a higher standard of living. Migration has caused at least a 30% to 40% reduction in the number of colleges and universities in Punjab. Punjab has a severe problem with brain drain, according to Dua.

There is no denying that Punjab’s mass migration of youth to nations like Canada and Australia has had an impact on the state’s higher education system. Concerns concerning Punjab’s higher education accessibility and quality are raised by the enrollment decline and lower GER when compared to the national average and nearby states.

Efforts should be made to address the factors driving this mass migration and to create opportunities for higher education within the state. This could involve improving the quality of education, expanding the range of courses and programs offered, and providing better career prospects for graduates. By doing so, Punjab can retain its talented youth and ensure the growth and development of its higher education sector.

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