- Amitabha Bhattacharya, Professor, Michigan State University, discuss the major reforms needed in higher education and designing the successor regime to the UGC.
2. The draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill put in public domain now.
3. The HECI will replace University Grant Commission (UGC).
4. The new Bill will cover all fields of education except medical, agriculture and institutions set up under the Central and State Acts, excluding those of national importance.
5. The purpose of creating new Bill :
- To provide more autonomy.
- Facilitate holistic growth.
- Offer greater opportunities to Indian students at affordable cost.
- More multi-disciplinary in nature.
- Reform in higher education.
- Replacing UGC, once it is done, the technical education regulator AICTE and the teacher’s education regulator NCTE will also be reformed on similar lines
6. Main points of departure in the proposed Bill:
- Separation between academic functions and grant-giving ones.
- The former to be discharged by the HECI and the latter by the Ministry of HRD directly.
- The academic functions includes- promoting the quality of instructions, comprehensive and holistic growth of education and research in a competitive global environment.
7. Need for single regulatory body:
- To cope with the ever increasing complexity of the sector.
- Rapidly expanding number of institutions
- Deteriorating standards in the quality of students of the job market.
8. Regime of multiple regulators:
- It started in mid 1980’s.
- Various professional bodies also started asserting themselves as regulators in early 90’s.
- This period also mark a galloping period of growth with setting up many private universities.
9. Concern areas:
- The proposed Bill seeks to empower the HECI with all academic functions, however its role vis-à-vis professional bodies is unclear.
- Depriving HECI from funding functions.
- The MHRD has been directly funding institutions of national importance.
- The funding scheme of state universities, which account for more than 50% of the student enrolment, requires to be clearly worked out.
- It is sought to be done through the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan or RUSA.
- Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and 12 members.
- The secretary of HECI will be an officer of the rank of joint secretary
12. Functions of HECI:
- Improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes.
- Evaluation of academic performance by institutions
- Mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology, etc.
- It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions.
- Provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions.
- Lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list).
- Specifying norms and standards for grant of autonomy.
- The proposed Bill has to be situated in the context of certain new initiatives like granting autonomy to institutions like IIM.
- Quantum jump in public expenditure is required in the following sector:
- Making the universities major issues like making the universities the hub of scientific and technological research,
- restoring the value of education in social sciences and the humanities,
- ensuring that poor and meritorious students can afford to be educated in subjects of their choice,
- improving the quality of instruction to enhance the employability of the students,
- Addressing the concerns of faculty shortage, etc.
14. UGC vs HCEI:
15. The UGC’s regulatory power included quality assessment and giving grants. The HECI will just ensure academic quality while MHRD will give grants to institutions.
16. The UGC conducted inspections to assess institutions. The HECI will practically do away with these and shift to a regime of “transparent disclosures” instead.
17. The UGC published lists of bogus institutions once in a while. The HECI will be empowered to shutdown sub-standard and bogus institutions. Non –compliance by institutions could also lead to jail terms.