The Human Resource Development Ministry has given up on its ambitious bill for a National Council for Higher Education and Research,the single regulator that was proposed to be forged from the merger of University Grants Commission,All India Council for Technical Education,Council of Architecture and other such agencies,and is instead working on a co-ordination mechanism for the regulators.
The ministry has held a series of meetings to work out the mechanism to co-ordinate among regulators and discuss and implement issues of common interest,such as UGCs anti-ragging norms which are largely acceptable to engineering institutes regulated by AICTE and medical colleges overseen by the Medical Council of India.
The HRD ministry hopes the co-ordination mechanism,which has not been named yet,would serve as a system to introduce reform in higher education and as a forum to build consensus on major policy issues.
The proposal to subsume all regulatory agencies,which often end up working at odds with each other,into an overarching regulator for higher education was made by two key panels,the PMs National Knowledge Commission headed by Sam Pitroda and the Committee for Rejuvenation of Higher Education led by Prof Yash Pal.
The ministry then introduced a bill,after ironing out differences with the health ministry,to set up NCHER. However,as with several other bills piloted by the ministry,it got stuck in Parliament,so the ministry decided to push through whatever reforms are possible through the non-legislative route.
The co-ordination mechanism for regulators is part of that effort,as was its decision to back the UGC to review and tighten standards and regulations to ensure quality and transparency in private universities,whose number is increasing by the day.
The UGC has sought public opinion on which provisions of the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulations 2003 need to be repealed,revised,amended or replaced; which provisions are difficult to implement,which could be misused or abused,or which need to be made more robust to prevent lowering of standards of teaching and research.