The Centre’s decision to scrap the University Grants Commission (UGC) and bring in a new regulatory body in the higher education sector has not gone down well with academicians, who have questioned the move saying politicians should not be involved in academic matters.
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry had last week announced its decision to replace the UGC with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) by repealing the UGC Act, 1951.
According to a draft, which has been placed in the public domain by the ministry to seek feedback from the stakeholders, the new commission will solely focus on academic matters and monetary grants would be under the purview of the ministry.
“It is clear that as per the new norms, the authorisation is going to be given and maintained not only on the basis of what a university has at that particular point of time, but it would be contingent on achieving a set of goals over a decade.
“We can expect these goals to be about resource-generation, a burden that will surely be passed on as fees and a cutback in recruitment, and most likely, by introducing all kinds of rubbish, short-term courses. This means compliance with the Centre’s diktats will be essential from the word go, for both the older and newer universities,” JNU professor Ayesha Kidwai said.
Noted academician Jayaprakash Gandhi said, “The structure of the new body is such that it will give political parties more say in decision making regarding education, which should ideally be done by a group of core educationists and veteran academicians who can take the country forward.”
The Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) has also condemned the move as an attempt to increase direct government interference in higher education. “It is also not clear how shifting the grant-related functions to the ministry will result in less interference. On the contrary, we fear that it will result in an increased direct interference by the government.
“The present structure is being completely replaced without providing a detailed study of its founding goals, achievements, shortcomings and their possible reasons and corrective measures taken or required to improve the health of the UGC,” DUTA president Rajib Ray said
IGNOU professor Kapil Sharma said, “Right from the admission process to the intake of research scholars — attempts are being made by the government to interfere in each and every aspect. We agree that there were loopholes in the functioning of the UGC, but they should have been addressed on an institution-specific basis. That should have been done by the academicians in the higher education sector and not the government.”
According to the HRD Ministry, less government and more governance, separation of grant-related functions, end of the inspection raj, focus on academic quality, powers to enforce compliance with the academic quality standards and to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions are some of the highlights of the new Act — the Higher Education Commission of India Act, 2018 (Repeal of the University Grants Commission Act).
The new Act is likely to be tabled in Parliament during the Monsoon Session, which begins on July 18. The government was earlier mulling to have a single regulator for technical education, national council teachers training and UGC. However, it has been decided to strengthen the higher education regulator as it was felt that the UGC remained preoccupied with disbursing funds to institutes and was unable to concentrate on other key areas such as mentoring the institutes, focussing on research to be undertaken etc.