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New Indian legislation on affirmative action

A bill passed in India’s parliament in December 2006 will have a drastic influence on India’s university enrollment. The Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act provides for the reservation in admissions for quotas of students from underrepresented lower castes and tribal groups. This system sets aside 27% of places in central government funded higher education institutions (Central Education Institutions) for ‘other backward classes’, historically disadvantaged groups numbering up to 1.1 billion people and classified accordingly by the government. Likewise, an additional 7.5% of seats per faculty are to be reserved for Scheduled Tribes (once known as ‘untouchables’), who already claim a 22% enrollment quota from previous legislation. A small group of research focused institutions and private institutions are exempt. This ‘affirmative action’ move has been hotly debated in India, with many critics accusing the Congress party of rallying support from the disadvantaged. Students and faculty have also shown outrage, particularly last summer as the legislation was being designed. Students already competing for selective places at top universities feel their chances of acceptance will decrease. Resigned to the change, universities are projecting forward to increased student enrollment and considering how they may best implement the new law. Globally, affirmative action remains a controversial method for promoting equal access to higher education institutions. Central Educational Institutions Act