Fears for autonomy in UGC overhaul plan

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New Delhi, June 28: The Centre on Wednesday unveiled a draft law to set up a new higher education regulator in place of the University Grants Commission (UGC) with powers to permit universities to offer academic programmes, prompting allegations of a dilution of the statutory powers of educational institutions.
The Human Resource Development Ministry has uploaded a draft bill for the creation of a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The proposed HECI Act will repeal the UGC Act of 1956.
Although several Government committees have advocated replacing the UGC with a new regulator, the sudden action by the Government has prompted many teachers to express scepticism.
The Federation of Central University Teachers Associations (FedCUTA) feared dilution of autonomy.
“This law is an attempt to take away the statutory powers of the universities. The Act and Statute of each university give full academic autonomy to the institution. But that autonomy is going to be undermined by the HECI Act,” FedCUTA president Rajiv Ray said.
The Secretary in the Higher Education Department under the HRD Ministry, R. Subramanyam, disagreed with Ray and said the proposed body would be better than the UGC in ensuring quality.
“The HECI will get powers for quality control and monitoring. It will certainly be able to ensure better standards of higher education in India,” Subramanyam told The Telegraph.
The UGC currently serves the dual functions of standardising higher education and giving grants to public-funded institutions. The proposed HECI will not have the responsibility of giving grants, which will be disbursed by the HRD Ministry. The HECI will serve only as the academic regulator.
Now only technical colleges are required to seek approval to launch courses. The HECI bill proposes to make all universities seek permission from the Commission to start courses.
Every university is set up by a central or a state law or through an executive order in case of deemed universities. They enjoy statutory powers to decide their courses. They take the approval of the UGC in case they need funds.
Under the proposed law, the new universities will have to take permission before offering any course. The existing universities will have to do the same after 3 years of the HECI coming into force.
Subramanyam said the need for authorisation was a one-time affair unless the yearly review gave an adverse report. In case of an adverse report, the HECI will have the power to revoke the authorisation of an institution.
The HECI will be a 14-member body having a Chairman, a Vice-Chairman, 3 Central Government Secretaries, the AICTE and Teacher Education Council Chairpersons, 2 members from accreditation bodies, 2 serving Vice-Chancellors, 2 Professors and 1 doyen of industry.
For the first time there will be an advisory council to be chaired by the Union HRD Minister.
FedCUTA president Ray said it was not clear why the overhaul was necessary and how it would address the needs of higher education in a better way.
“The present structure is being completely replaced without providing a detailed study of its founding goals, achievements, shortcomings and their possible reasons and corrective measures,” Ray said. (Courtesy: TT)