The University Grants Commission will be replaced by a new regulator for higher education in the country The Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry has prepared draft legislation for the Higher Education Commission and educationists, stakeholders and the general public have been asked to give comments and suggestions before 5 pm on July 7. The draft is on the ministry's website. The new body will be constituted for academic matters alone and monetary matters like grants will fall under the HRD Ministry.
This is apparently being done to ensure better quality of education. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar had stated that the UGC was currently tied up in allocating funds, which was causing a decline in the quality of education. The decision to set up the new body has elicited mixed reactions. Vice Chancellor of Osmania University, S Ramachandram, said such a body was needed "as higher education in India has expanded and a single body can no longer handle all the work." He said that frequent interactions with UGC have shown that the burden that it carries, catering to all universities and colleges around the nation, is huge. "I welcome this step as we can focus on the truly important academic issues and get faster responses now," he said.
The regulator can order the closure of sub-standard and fake institutions, which under the UGC only had to pay a fine. The UGC merely put up the names of fake institutions on their website but had no power to shut them down. Non-compliance can now lead to a jail term. This is appreciated by educationists who say that students suffer when their certificates from these fake universities are not accepted. The new body will oversee rules for admission and fee structure and ensure that students gain a place on merit and not other-wise.
'The Chief Executive and other members of the management of such institutions that do not com-ply with the penalty imposed by the Commission shall be liable for prosecution as per procedure laid down under the Criminal Procedure Code and may be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years.' the draft says.
Educationist N. Narayana says more thought needs to be put into formulating the powers of the new body. If the proposed Higher Education Commission is limited to academic issues, without having administrative powers, how will institutions honour and obey it?" he asks. "If there is no inspection, how will the private and foreign institutions be regulated? With the New National Education Policy around the corner, such a major change should be debated more."
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