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By: M.M. Ansari
SC reversal of 2013 AICTE order compounds policy uncertainty.
The Supreme Court verdicts on the regulation of technical and management institutions, from last month and a year ago, are riddled with inconsistencies. They have created unnecessary confusion about the mandates of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to regulate colleges affiliated to state universities. These regulatory bodies are, therefore, on the warpath to take control of approval and affiliation of private colleges, which are mushrooming around the country.
In its April 25, 2013, order, the SC ruled that the AICTE could not regulate engineering colleges affiliated to a university, since it was only an “advisory body” as per the AICTE Act. The UGC was accordingly directed to take control of the regulation of technical institutes.
In compliance with the order, the UGC acted fast to evolve mechanisms to perform regulatory functions. In a departure from earlier practice, UGC guidelines for the regulation of technical institutions required the process of affiliation and approval to be merged. They vested these functions with state universities. This was considered critical for ensuring institutional autonomy and accountability. Besides, it would minimise allegations of corruption in granting approvals. Moreover, the UGC guidelines rationalised the infrastructure requirements for different academic programmes. This was done after painstaking consultation and obtaining feedback from stakeholders.
However, because the UGC accorded regulatory powers to state universities, a few private colleges have been apprehensive about their future. Some don’t want to accept the UGC as a regulator, mainly because they want to safeguard their vested interests. Such motives led some private colleges to seek a review of the SC’s 2013 decision.
On April 17, the SC delivered a judgment which reversed the 2013 order in favour of the petitioning private colleges and the AICTE. This latest order restores the AICTE to its pre-2013 regulatory position. The AICTE has been allowed to act according to the Approval Process Handbook, as it did earlier, and ignore the new UGC guidelines.
On a number of occasions, the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) and the courts have given inconsistent decisions, which have hampered the effective functioning of institutions. First, in pursuance of the 2013 order, the MHRD asked the UGC to take over the regulatory functions of affiliated technical colleges. But management institutes were left out of the purview of the UGC without clear instructions to the AICTE to continue to regulate them. The 2013 order was also silent on this issue. At a subsequent stage, however, this was clarified and the AICTE was asked to regulate them until further direction. With confused policies, the functioning of continued…