by Elton Gomes
The Centre, on Wednesday, decided to scrap the University Grants Commission (UGC) . It will be replaced by another higher education regulator that will focus on academic matters and will have powers to enforce quality standards.
Union education minister Prakash Javadekar said in a tweet that a draft act for the HECI (Higher Education Commission of India) has been prepared.
Under the leadership of PM @narendramodi has embarked on a process of reforms of the regulatory agencies for better administration of the HE sector. In a landmark decision, a draft Act for repeal of #UGC & setting up #HECI (Higher Education Commission of India) has been prepared.
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) June 27, 2018
“The draft act is in accordance with the commitment of government for reforming the regulatory systems that provide more autonomy to HE (higher education) institutes to promote excellence & facilitate holistic growth of the education system,” Javadekar said on Twitter.
All stakeholders and general public can provide suggestions and comments on the draft act before 5 pm on July 7. The document can be accessed on the Education Ministry’s website. The proposed act is likely to be tabled during the Monsoon Session of the parliament, slated to begin on July 18.
The proposed HECI will reportedly be able to exercise penal powers to order shutting down of institutes that violate norms. The HECI might also be able to imposed fines wherever necessary, and it can make provisions for imprisonment up to three years in extreme cases.
The new regulatory body is likely to focus on areas such as governance of institutions, bringing in a disclosure-based regulatory regime, and enforcing regulations. Apart from these, an important area of focus will be improving academic quality with an emphasis on enhancing learning outcomes, assessment of academic performance by institutions, mentoring institutions, and teacher training, among others. Furthermore, the HECI might have the final say on opening and closing of institutes, and will provide for more flexibility and autonomy to institutes.
Lamenting over the fact that the UGC has remained preoccupied with disbursing funds, R. Subrahmanyam, secretary of higher education, HRD ministry, said, “The current commission remains preoccupied with disbursing funds to institutes and is unable to concentrate on other key areas such as mentoring institutes, focusing on research to be undertaken and other quality measures required in the sector,” as reported by Hindustan Times.
Over the past few years, the UGC has come under immense criticism from several committees for its restrictive processes. The Professor Yash Pal committee, the National Knowledge Commission, and the Hari Gautam committee have advocated for a single education regulator to render higher education free of rep tapeism.
In 2015, a committee set up by then education minister Smriti Irani to assess the working of the UGC stated that the regulator has not only “failed to fulfill its mandate but also has not been able to deal with emerging diverse complexities,” as reported by the Times of India. The committee was headed by former UGC chairperson, Hari Gautam, who stated that any type of “reshaping or restructuring” of UGC “will be a futile” exercise. The committee suggested that the UGC Act be amended.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.