Higher Education

Higher Education

Govt drops plan to control funding of central univs

PUBLISH DATE 18th July 2018

The human resource development (HRD) ministry has walked back a provision in a draft law that put it in charge of grants given to institutions of higher education after it was criticised by states and other stakeholders.

The draft proposed that HECI would specify norms and standards for grant of authorisation to a university.

Instead, the ministry will create an independent body of experts that does this. A number of states and experts had also alleged that the provision of an “Advisory Council” — which was to be chaired by the HRD minister —will lead to politicisation. That provision too has been modified in the amended draft Act. On June 28, the ministry had announced its decision to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) with the the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) by repealing the UGC Act, 1956 and passing the HECI Act.

According to the draft of the new law that was published seeking feedback from stakeholders, the new commission was to exclusively focus on academic matters with monetary grants coming under the ministry’s purview. The move faced immediate criticism. A senior HRD ministry official said the ministry received over 6,000 suggestions and comments as feedback, and that on the basis of those remarks, amended the proposed law. The last date for sending suggestions is 20 July, but major changes have been incorporated in the revised draft, a copy of which, was seen by HT.

The government is likely to put up the amended law for cabinet approval and table it in the Parliament during the monsoon session that begins on Wednesday. A number of states, teachers unions and other stakeholders had alleged that putting the ministry in charge of grants would result in interference by it. “The proposal to give this power to the ministry has been dropped and it will be given to an independent body. This would be a body of experts and will operate in a transparent manner by being online,” said the official.

Chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have both told the Centre they were not in favour of replacing the UGC.

The advisory council, which the new draft has done away with, was to be chaired by the HRD minister and had the chairperson/vice-chairperson, members of the HECI and the chairperson/vice-chairpersons of all state councils for higher education as members. In the amended draft, any advice from the government to universities will continue to flow through existing bodies like the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE).

Among other feedback received, was one on the appointment of HECI members. The draft said this would be done by a search-cum-selection-committee (ScSc) of secretaries to the government. With feedback saying this could lead to bureaucratisation, “the provision has been amended and the ScSc will now consist of reputable academicians under the chairmanship of cabinet secretary,” added the HRD ministry official.

The draft had proposed that the HECI would specify norms and standards for grant of authorisation to a university or a higher educational institution empowered to award any degree or diploma or to commence its academic operations. “We got suggestions that it would lead to centralisation ... So the provision of the existing universities to come to HECI for authorisation has been dropped. Now only the new universities will need to come for authorisation,” said the official. The section on penalties has also been redone.

“The design is very clear that they are moving towards privatisation and commercialisation of education. If they were so serious then a due process would have been followed. After seeing the initial reactions they have made certain changes but everything is being done in a rushed manner,” said Rajib Ray, president of Delhi University Teachers Association who has been a critic of the draft HECI Act.

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