In a bid to change the education system and enhance the standard of education in the country, the government is all set to replace the UGC Act of 1956.

What is the need for this change?

With a new law in place, the Prime Minister’s vision to create 20 institutions of eminence and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reforms push will gain momentum. The new act should respond to the current needs of higher education. Such an Act will take forward the reforms adopted until now, removing the clutter of regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry’s purview.  Ultimately, it will pave the way for the emergence of high-quality higher educational institutions.

Categories of universities

The UGC recently issued new rules and regulations under which it divided universities into three categories: I, II and III. Category I and II universities were awarded autonomy, with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities under the recent rules into a single category.

The new Act should establish a higher education regulatory commission (HERC), which wouldn’t be associated with the business of writing curriculums for universities and colleges.

Benefits of the new categories

  1. Under the proposed Act, Category I universities will be free to write their own curriculums. In addition, they will oversee the curriculums of the colleges affiliated to them. Autonomous colleges will write their own curriculums as well.
  2. Category II universities and the colleges affiliated to them will adopt the curriculums of one or more Category I universities. Colleges affiliated to these universities will adopt curriculums of colleges affiliated to Category I colleges or autonomous colleges.
  3. There may be courses that exist in Category II universities or in colleges affiliated to them or courses that these institutions wish to start which do not exist in any of the autonomous universities, colleges affiliated to them, or autonomous colleges.
  4. In such cases, the HERC will appoint a small committee of experts from the relevant field to approve or reject the proposed course in a time-bound manner.

Tasks of the Commission

If this reform is adopted, a major function on which the UGC currently spends a vast amount of time will be eliminated from the responsibilities of the HERC. This will leave the HERC with two major tasks: decisions on the disbursement of funds and accreditation.

  1. To fulfill the first function, the HERC should have a finance board.
  2. To discharge the second function, it should have an accreditation board. Both these boards should have full autonomy in discharging their functions once the broad policy is formulated at the level of the Commission. Presidents of the boards should be ex-officio members of the Commission.

Entry of foreign institutions

The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign institutions. The top 200-300 institutions in the world, according to generally accepted rankings, may be allowed entry as Category I institutions. As India has a large young population, foreign institutions will have an incentive to enter the country. In turn, India stands to benefit from the expertise and reputation of these institutions.

Finally, the Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research.

  • The separation between teaching at universities and colleges and research at research councils has not served the cause of either higher education or research well.
  • To be motivated to do research, students must have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and opportunities to interact regularly with scholars actively engaged at the frontiers of research.

Source: The Hindu