Nilima Choudhary, 20, would never have gone to college if not for the all-girls institute near her small town of Bapoli, Haryana.
“My parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of me sharing a classroom with boys,” she says.
Her uncle suggested a girl’s college — the Kalpana Chawla Institute for Women in Ambala — and the Choudhary’s quickly got on board. Nilima is now about to graduate in software engineering and is preparing for placements.
The number of girls-only colleges has more than doubled over the past 11 years— going from 1,977 to 4,506, according to a University Grants Commission (UGC) report for 2014-15. And this rising number has become both the cause and effect of more girls studying beyond school.
While about 30% of the new women’s colleges are vocational, the rest offer degree courses.
“This is an important change, because degree colleges give women a toehold to pursue a career of their choice even if they come from a conservative atmosphere,” says Shweta Prasad, a sociologist who lectures at Banaras Hindu University. “Overall, the increase in the number of women’s colleges indicates the growing demand for higher education for women among communities that lack access and among communities where women aren’t traditionally expected to pursue higher education.”
The impact of these growing numbers is interesting too — the most recent All India Survey on Higher Education report (2014-15) states that 46% of students in India are women.