Arts, Not Medicine or Engineering, Most Popular Undergraduate Course in India: Survey

The All India Survey on Higher Education found that the sciences are second most popular, but a large margin behind the arts.

New Delhi: Even though the feeling has been that Indian students and their parents prefer that young students study science (especially medicine or engineering) in their undergraduate degrees, new data from the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) says that arts subjects are in fact the most popular.

The survey says that 93.49 lakh students are enrolled in arts courses at the undergraduate level in India, making it the most popular.

Engineering and medicine enrolment numbers may come as a surprise: engineering and technology is only the fourth most popular course (38.52 lakh students enrolled) and medicine is the fifth (11.96 lakh students enrolled).

Science is the second most popular, but a large margin behind the arts: 47.13 lakh students are enrolled in science courses, which is about half of those enrolled in arts.

Commerce is a close third to science, with 40.3 lakh students enrolled.

Of course, the number of students enrolled will drop ultimately when the number of students who actually pass their exams is announced.

At the PhD level, the situation flips: the maximum number of students enrolled for PhDs are in the science stream, followed by engineering and technology.

There are 44,702 students enrolled for PhD in a science department. Chemistry is the most popular among the science streams.

Engineering and technology is the second most popular area for PhDs, with 41,869 students enrolled.

The third most popular area for PhDs is the social sciences, with 16,698 students. Economics is the most popular within it.

Medical science has a very small number of students pursuing any advanced research, with just 7,473 PhD students enrolled. Pharmacy is the most popular subject within the medical sciences.

Commerce is even smaller, with just 5,351 students enrolled in a PhD.

There are also 3,694 students pursuing PhDs in foreign languages (including English). An even greater number are pursuing PhDs in Indian languages, at 8,016 students. Hindi is the most popular here.

How does the gender distribution change through higher education?

The AISHE report says that there are more male than female students enrolled in nearly all levels, except at the postgraduate and MPhil level where we see more female students. This trend holds true at the national and state level, according to the report.

This means that although more males go on to higher education, more females are likely to go for postgraduate and MPhil degrees as men either don’t pass undergraduate degrees or don’t chose to take up postgraduate and MPhil degrees. But after the MPhil level, there is again a fall as female students drop out of higher education and more males go onwards to PhDs.

Also read: Enrolment for Higher Ed Continues Climb but Sinks for Professional Courses

That being said, the difference between male and female enrolment is only a few percentage, and is not extremely skewed, all averaging around the halfway mark.

So for example, at the undergraduate level, there is 51% male enrolment and 49% female. And at PhD level, there is 56.18% male and 43.82% female.

As mentioned above, arts is the most popular undergraduate course with 93.49 lakh students enrolled. Here, women beat men in terms of enrolment, with 51% females. Science and commerce are the second and third most popular courses, by enrolment, and here the females enrolled stand at 51% and 48.8%.