Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Fault lines open: UGC cites 1956 law to assert itself, five IIT directors object

We need reforms so that colleges and universities can implement structural changes that foster academic freedom. (Source: PTI) The IITs are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961, which declares them as 'institutions of national importance'. (Source: PTI)
Written by Ruhi Tewari , Naveed Iqbal | New Delhi | Posted: August 26, 2014 2:34 am

Under fire for its communiqué to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) asking them to “align their courses and degrees with the ones recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC)”, the apex education regulator Monday issued a clarification, stating that its communication had been “misconstrued” and that it had the “responsibility of specification of degrees”. With the UGC sticking to its stand and the directors of at least five IITs emphasising that the institutes fall outside its purview, fault lines seem to have been drawn.

“Unfortunately, the aforementioned communication of the UGC has been misconstrued as an encroachment on the autonomy of institutions of higher learning, especially the IITs. In this connection, it may be clarified that the responsibility of specification of degrees to be awarded by different sets of institutions has been entrusted with the UGC through its Act, 1956 in all domains of higher education,” the clarification, issued late Monday evening, stated.

The note said that the UGC has been using a “dynamic process for specification of degrees since 1956” and “is the only statutory body in the country to specify degrees in all domains of knowledge, including engineering, medicine, agriculture, exact sciences, humanities, social science, languages, etc”.

“Where is there any question of encroaching upon the authority of IITs or any other institution? We have been given the authority of specifying degrees by the Government of India. It is a question of ensuring uniformity in nomenclature of degrees. It is a question of facilitating mobility of students from one institution to another. It is a question of ensuring employability. After all, who else specifies degrees in this country? The UGC has been doing it since 1956,” UGC chairman Ved Prakash told The Indian Express.

The IITs are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961, which declares them as “institutions of national importance”, and lays down their powers, duties and framework for governance.

“Every university has an Act, doesn’t it? Each university is a statutory body whose autonomy should not be encroached upon. This is not about the IITs alone. If the IITs have the authority to specify their degrees, then good,” Prakash said.

The Indian Express had reported how members of the Anil Kakodkar committee, which was set up to recommend autonomy measures for IITs, had criticised the UGC’s latest move, claiming that the autonomy of the institutes ought to be protected.

Meanwhile, stating that the President of India, who is also the Visitor of IITs, “will have to take a call” on the issue, the directors of some institutes have said that until now, there has been “no requirement of clearance from the UGC on any matter concerning the IITs”.

Reacting to the UGC’s clarification, IIT Kanpur director Prof Indranil Manna told The Indian continued…

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