The UGC’s role in higher education has been a talking point recently. It started with the rollback of Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme, then came up again with regard to degrees being offered by IISc Bangalore and some other institutions. Now, the commission’s letter to the IITs on the conformity of their degrees with those recognised by the UGC has generated more controversy.
The UGC Act applies to “universities”, as defined in Section 2(f): “‘university’ means a university established or incorporated by or under a Central act, a provincial act or a state act, and includes any such institution as may, in consultation with the university concerned, be recognised by the commission in accordance with the regulations made in this behalf under this act”. In Section 3, deemed universities are defined and also included in the purview of the UGC. That the IITs are not universities and the provisions of the act do not apply to them is implied in Section 22(1): “The right of conferring or granting degrees shall be exercised only by a university established or incorporated by or under a Central act, a provincial act or a state act or an institution deemed to be a university under Section 3 or an institution specially empowered by an act of Parliament to confer or grant degrees.” The IITs fall under the last category, institutions specially empowered by an act of Parliament to confer or grant degrees. However, Section 22(3) states, “For the purposes of this section, ‘degree’ means any such degree as may, with the previous approval of the Central government, be specified in this behalf by the commission by notification in the official gazette.” So if we take sections 22(1) and 22(3) together, it implies that the IITs are bound to award only those degrees specified by the commission.
This is the only point on which the UGC has a say in IIT matters. So the UGC is right in asking the IITs to follow the provisions of Section 22 of the UGC Act.
What is to be specified by the UGC under Section 22(3), however, is not defined anywhere. In the beginning, the UGC specified merely the names of degrees — BA, BSc, BTech etc. This list would have new degrees added to it as the need arose; when design became established as a discipline, the BDes degree was added. So this list did not have an adverse impact on the IITs or similar institutions. One only had to make a request for a new degree, and in most reasonable cases, it was accepted (and in some unreasonable cases, too, if one goes through the list of 163 odd degrees). Then, in a May 2009 notification, the continued…