Evidence And Figures: EWS Is Well Represented In The Higher Education Sector: The representation of EWS students in higher education institutions remains safely above ten percent. All the available evidence contradicts the EWS reservation policy or the system of reservation for economically backward classes, its justification, and stated objectives.

The heated political debate over the Supreme Court’s verdict upholding the 10 percent reservation for the Economically Backward Classes (EWS) has largely come to a standstill. Let us examine one of the bases of giving advance reservation in this situation.

The first simple thing to check is whether the EWS quota is implemented on an evidence-based basis. To answer this, here is an examination of what the main criteria for the EWS quota are and whether the available evidence justifies it.

The 124th Amendment Bill to the Constitution claims that Economically Backward Classes (EWS) are largely excluded from higher education institutions because of their economic status. Therefore, exclusion or underrepresentation in higher education is the primary justification for allocating EWS quota.

Therefore, here we examine the available evidence to find out the extent of representation of EWS from the general category in institutions of higher education.

Representation of EWS

We have prepared a new database of higher education institutions under the National Institutional Ranking Framework to check EWS representation.


A comparison was made between the representation of EWS students in 457 higher education institutions in 2019 and 528 institutions in 2022 before the implementation of EWS quota. This number was arrived at by eliminating duplicates due to the ranking of the same institute in different categories.

For example, if an institute is included in the ‘Engineering’ category and ‘University’ category, we have counted it only in the ‘University’ category. Because the ‘engineering’ category is only a sub-category of this.

Does NIRF’s data reveal the proportion of EWS students in these higher education institutions? The answer is no. But this data indirectly helps us to calculate the ratio.

NIRF has asked educational institutions to provide details of how many ‘economically disadvantaged students are studying under the definition of ‘students whose parental income is less than a taxable slab’ in their data submission. The format is requested.

In order to avoid duplication, the format specifically mentions that economically backward students should be treated as a separate category and not included in the category of socially backward categories.

This is the argument of the Ajay Bhushan Pandey Committee appointed to assess the EWS income criteria.

“The committee is of the view that the total annual income limit of eight lakhs for the entire family would be a valid reason to include them under EWS, considering that the income tax exemption limit in effect at present is around Rs eight lakh per individual”. Therefore, these economically backward students are eligible to be considered as EWS category from the general category.

NIRF 2019 data shows that 19 percent of EWS students are studying in higher education institutions included in the NIRF rankings. Whereas the students from socially backward classes (SC ST category, tribals, and other backward classes) are only 39 percent.

(The difference is huge when comparing the population ratio of the two groups. The EWS group, which is less than 10 percent of the population, gets 19 percent representation, while the socially disadvantaged, who make up the vast majority, get only 39 percent representation).

In colleges also the proportion of students from the EWS category is high (28 percent) but in medical institutes, it is only two percent.


This difference is also seen in the case of students from socially disadvantaged sections. While their representation in colleges is 47 percent, it is only three percent in management institutes.

What is most surprising is that three years after the implementation of EWS quota, the representation of EWS students has decreased from 19 percent in 2019 to 15 percent in 2022. But it remains safely above ten percent.

These higher education institutions include both private institutes and government-funded public institutes. Therefore, a separate analysis is required. In 2019, the representation of EWS students was 19 percent in 218 government institutions of higher education and 20 percent in 239 private institutes. But in 2022, it will reach 17 percent and 13 percent respectively.

Even though it is outside the scope of the EWS reservation policy More than 10 percent of private institutes are EWS students in NIRF-ranked institutes of higher education.

Meanwhile, the proportion of socially disadvantaged students in private educational institutions is only 36 percent in 2019 and 2022. Representation of EWS students in central government-funded elite public education institutions like IITs and IIMs will increase from 21 percent in 2019 to 16 percent in 2022.

The backward among the forward is currently getting more representation than they would get through quotas

All these figures indicate that students from the EWS category are not marginalized or under-represented in premier higher education institutions.

The same is understood when analyzing the Periodic Labor Force Survey Data, 2019.

We have categorized households into three groups based on income using the Palma Ratio. At the very bottom 40 percent of the poor, 50 percent of the middle class in the middle, and the top 10 percent of the rich. It is like that. Here only the figure of poor families is considered because the EWS quota is meant for economically backward people of the general category.

Among the bottom 40 percent of households, the proportion of the general category (non-SC, ST, and OBC categories) is 18 percent. More than 20 percent of students in the age group of 18 to 25 years, belonging to 40 percent of economically backward families belonging to the forward class, are admitted in higher educational institutions.

In other words, 24 percent of the students who get admission in higher education institutions from economically lower-middle-class families are 40 percent from the general category. Similarly, about 20 percent of the 22 to 29-year-olds have completed their degree or above educational qualification as against 40 percent belonging to the general category.

Compared to the population ratio of the general category in the economically lower 40 percent, this proportion of higher education graduates is much higher.

All the above figures show that the EWS categories from the general category are getting more than 10 percent representation in higher education institutions.

Therefore, all the evidence available now contradicts the EWS reservation policy or the system of reservation for economically backward classes and its justification and stated objectives.


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