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Editorial

Will HECI Be The New Face Of The Higher Education In India ?

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In one of the leading education system of the world, India namely the third largest Higher Education system can probably go under major change as the Modi Government recently announced its decision to scrap the University Grants Commission ( UGC ) and set up a fresh legislation called Higher Education Commission of India ( HECI )

Be it the upcoming elections or say it the need of the hour, But the Modi government is quite set to bring change. Maybe “Acche Din” are coming soon with this change. The end of the June this year did not only bring the end to scorching heat but also a prospect to end the flaws in our Education sector. The Modi Government and The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry on 28th June announced their decision to formulate a Single Regulatory body for The Indian Higher Education called Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) repealing The University Grant Commission (UGC) Act, 1951. This proposal is all set to pilot in the upcoming monsoon session of the Parliament.

And before this bill gets passed or not considering all the opposition, let’s have a closer look into the matters that will decide the fate of the Indian Education Sector.

HECI - The industry before HECI

Into Yesteryears: A little about the past

Have you heard the quote “Try and try until you qualify “? It seems the situation is the same in this case too. The decision to scrap UGC  first came to the table back in 2009, the then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal proposed to create a new regulatory body called National Commission For Higher Education and Research (NCHER). And like many proposals that the Indian Government has failed to apply, much didn’t happen at that time.

Later in 2013, The Central government restarted this debate when it intended to create NCHER under The Higher Education and Research (HE&R) Bill, 2011. But before the center could draft the bill, The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) decided to ask the opinions of other state governments which seemed to be opposed by the idea. Despite this, the dire need for an overarching regulatory body in higher education is felt again and again.

The Current government previously in 2016 also suggested this idea. At that time, the Prime Minister of India and Niti Aayog supported the draft ‘Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA). It was circulated and discussed, in May meeting also occurred in Mussoorie. This Meeting was red flagged by other regulators which HEERA was going to replace .

It’s truly said that History repeats itself as the same situation is happening right now. Though HECI will not replace All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) but the AICTE Act and the NCTE Act will have to be modified to fall in tune with the new HECI Act. The AICTE at the beginning of the year revised it curriculum with visions of making it more evolved with mandatory internships, engaging students with laboratory assessments and more focus towards practical training.The AICTE and NCTE raised objections stating that if the regulators are already making changes then there is no need for an entirely new body.

Why is this change a necessity now?

Even though this issue didn’t proceed to this level, but every time the need for a single regulatory body was felt by many. The UGC and its regulatory regime have been criticised by a number of committees and their reports. Several committees like the Prof Yash Pal committee and the National Knowledge Commission of the UPA era and the Hari Gautam committee in the Modi regime have also recommended for a body like HEERA.

This is due to the fact that over the year the progress of the education sector has been very restricting compared to the Global Standards.

The UGC has been busy with granting funds instead of promoting the better level of Higher Education in India, which was the sole purpose of UGC formation.

HECI – What is it?

The  Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has decided to revamp the UGC into a single higher education regulatory body called Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The main focus of HECI will be to set higher academic standards by implementing new plans and research and ensure that they undergo instead of giving grants.

It will also be given certain penal powers like to order the closure of institutes that violate the set norms or charge fines on institutes wherever required and also a provision for imprisonment where necessary. The UGC didn’t have any powers like these which made it handicapped at times, hindering to take any major actions or decisions against fake institutions. The set guidelines for HECI are yet to be defined.

The HECI is set to be governed by a chairperson and vice-chairperson selected by a committee which will include the Cabinet Secretary and the Higher Education Secretary. There also will be the panel having Twelve other members, including various ministers, two serving V-C’s, and industry doyen and two professors. And if for any policy the Centre and HECI have any dispute then the decision of The Central Government prevails.

How is it different?

The HECI will be the new reform, a better version, a new face and a new avatar of UGC.

It has different aims, focuses, and powers with it. It will not give grants like UGC instead this power will now be vested with HRD Ministry. This is due to many government committees pointing out how often the Grant giving the function of the UGC allowed over regulation, therefore, decreasing the quality of Indian Higher Education System.

A single Higher Education regulator will help in better management as it won’t have regulatory issues over the precedence of the presiding Higher Education Systems, hence doing away with the overlaps and creating an environment concentrating on the nurturing of the prevailing Higher education systems into excellence. Despite this, the Leading Academicians of India feels that the government is trying to interfere in the education sector. They also believe if such changed are to be made then it should be the Academicians who take such decisions.

The HECI won’t be providing any financial aid so that it could just focus on the Academics.

Into Future: How will it help?

A single body will ensure that it removes the duplicity of regulatory tasks and the overlap of jurisdiction will also be nullified. Therefore, this will also give some clarity in the higher education system and give more space for development and change

It won’t just give an administrative ease but this change can transform the education sector of India. Many institutes have been given granted funds by UGC continuously and the concern shifted from the academic need to governance needs.

If HECI comes into existence after all the struggles and is able to break through the UGC mould then it can play a major role in strengthening the Higher Education System of India. And benefit not just the domestic students but students from all around the globe. Despite this we cannot predict the drawbacks it will have but one thing is sure that the increasing interference of the government into the Higher Education will lead to a major conflict of opinions and decisions between the government and the leading Academicians of India.

But before all this is possible, let’s see what fate is decided of HECI by the Parliament of India.

 

Editorial

Private Accreditation – A boon or curse?

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In a very astounding and one of a kind move, education ministry had opened new doors for private bodies for accreditation roles in India. Private firms can now gain the rights for accrediting institutes spread out in one of the largest education markets of the world. Back in January, UGC, who is the current holder of institute accreditation rights, decided that apart from its sub-bodies, NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) and NBA (National Board of Accreditation), the rights can now be shared by private firms as well. While this a pretty shocking news, the relevance and the credibility of institutional accreditation in India has come under strong criticism as a concurrence to this decision. Let us look into the present state and the proposed private accreditation policies and the impact it will create in the education sector.

You can check the formal letter send by UGC inviting the private Accreditation here

What does it mean to be Accredited?

In this post-independence era, India’s higher education system has evolved and grown double fold to become the world’s third-largest Higher education systems followed by China and USA. One of the major role players in this highly spread education system is the University Grants Commission (UGC) which is India’s tertiary level governing body responsible for university accreditation. So what exactly is accreditation and what does it mean to be accredited?

With numerous private and government held universities opening in India, it becomes even more essential to have a strict governance to ensure that these institutes are upholding the best of quality in providing education for our future generation. Accreditation is a process by which the respective bodies regulates and makes sure that each of the institutes under their domain is following strict protocols set towards imparting education, conducting admission drives, placements and appointments in each of these institutes. Moreover, Accreditation bodies also make sure that these institutes are accountable for their curriculums and institute credibility.

UGC – University Grants Commission

UGC which was modeled after the University Grants Committee of UK was set up after the protocols drafted under the UGC Act of 1956 under the HRD Ministry. Primarily the body was set to govern three major Central institutes of the time, Aligarh, Banaras, and Delhi University but now UGC is the governing and accreditation body for a lot more institutes. Although UGC is the main body, there are various sub-bodies that cater to different types of universities and looking after various aspects of its working. These range from appointments to grants to university recognition. These sub-bodies consist of

  •    All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)
  •    Distance Education Council (DEC)
  •    Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
  •    Bar Council of India (BCI)
  •    Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore College (BTESSC)
  •    National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE)
  •    Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI)
  •    Medical Council of India (MCI)
  •    Pharmacy Council of India (PCI)
  •    Indian Nursing Council (INC)
  •    Dental Council of India (DCI)
  •    Central Council of Homoeopathy (CCH)
  •    Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM)
  •    National Council for Rural Institutes (NCRI)
  •    State Councils of Higher Education (SCHE)
  •    Council of Architecture
  •    Veterinary Council of India (VCI)

Apart from this, in January 2018, it was decided that various private firms can now be applicable for accreditation rights. So what does private accreditation mean for the industry?

The Private Accreditation

After the major decision to scrap AICTE and UGC for a new Higher Education Body, HECI, a new direction was taken in incorporating private firms along with UGC to accredit the institutes in India. Currently, only The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) under the UGC body were authorized to accredit institutes. Although the move was under debate, it has been finally given the green flag by the HRD Ministry recently.

The Ministry said that the decision was taken after a heavy burden was seen shouldered by the two bodies and with a third-party entry, the hope of lessening this burden and proper channeling of protocols can be made sure but the decision isn’t sitting well with any member of the industry.

Prof. R.K. Chauhan, the former vice-chancellor of Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in Hisar, Haryana, said

 

“if the NAAC and the NBA were overburdened, the government should have opened more branches. “Why are private entities being allowed to do assessment and accreditation under the garb of semi-government agencies? Allowing private entities in any manner means accreditation grade for sale.”

 

Major concerns emerging from the decision is the sudden outbreaks of rules and regulations that are hell bound on changing the ways the industry has been working. The recent controversy over picking Jio institute for the Institute of Eminence tag, an institute that has not been yet built and even shutting down of more than 250 fake universities have all been creating a big question mark over the credibility of the highly reputed Indian education board.

Private Accreditation – The Pros Column

Under the new private accreditation scheme, a new accreditation body which is being pushed forward by various IITs and premier engineering colleges of the country have agreed on setting up a section 8 company to oversee the accreditation and its protocols. The idea behind this decision is that the involvement of IITs and premier colleges will add more value and prestige quotient to the accreditation. The decision also hopes to spearhead a smooth and more efficient accreditation process for the institutes.

Private Accreditation – The Cons Column

While the new movement claims to carry forward effective accreditation methodology, eyebrows are raised over how commercialization is overshadowing the new decision.

“Accreditation and assessment are key to ensuring quality in higher education. The majority of the institutions coming up in India are in the private sector. If some private entity is involved in assessment and accreditation, impartiality cannot be ensured,”

says Prof. R.K. Chauhan, former vice-chancellor of Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology in Hisar, Haryana

on the same matter, Rajesh Jha, a member of Delhi University’s executive council, said:

“The government is trying to promote privatization of higher education. It wants top colleges to take autonomous status to start self-financing courses. It wants to give institution of eminence status to Jio Institute, which is yet to be set up. Now it is involving private entities in accreditation also.”

You can check out the formal protocols and regulations that has been set by UGC as a deciding criteria for private bodies for Accreditation eligibility here

 

The debates have already been sparked over the sudden reform changes to one of the most prestigious activities within the higher education industry. The biggest concern is the impending commercialization of the education sector and the way it is bound to slowly lose its credibility and a strong lineage that it has managed to preserve till date

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Editorial

Atal Bihari Vajpayee – Visionary behind Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

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“Our aim may be as high as the endless sky, but we should have a resolve in our minds to walk ahead, hand-in-hand, for victory will be ours”

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

On 17th August, amidst full state honors and in the presence of state delegates and leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India’s former prime minister and perhaps the only one to have ever served three terms successfully in the office, was bid a final farewell from his worldly duties. As the country mourns the loss of one of its greatest leaders, let’s have a look at one of the impactful reforms that he had brought into the dynamics of Indian Politics especially in the education Sector.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee – The Poet, Politician, and Reformist

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his tenure in the office had been an inspiring journey for many. He was the powerhouse behind many of the economic, social and education reforms that this country has ever seen. A poet by heart, he was awarded Bharat Ratna in 2015, which is the highest civilian Honour bestowed upon an individual in India as a recognition for achievements accomplished by one. With an unmatched oration skill, he had touched the hearts of millions whenever he addressed the nation. One of the facts that he emphasized was on the importance of education and the need to empower the youth of this country so as to help India achieve its full potential and zenith.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

An advocate of practice what you preach, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had pioneered the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) program. After being mandated by the 86th Amendment of the constitution of India, the program was launched in 2001 and aimed at providing free and elementary education for all. The program strived towards removing the disparity in the society by working at the grassroots level which was education. He advocated the effectiveness of societal growth by making sure that every person in the society has access to their basic education which can, in turn, help them in improving the quality of their livelihood and helping them get a firm ground for their future goals.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan – The Features

The SSA or the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was created in response to the need for quality education which would be available for every individual irrespective of caste, creed, and religion. The program had a clear time frame in making sure to provide universal elementary education. As part of the initiative, both central and panchayat bodies were made to join hands in making sure that an effective methodology was adopted in its execution.  Education committees and bodies that belonged to all levels from state to panchayat were made the part at the grassroot level to create an efficient flow of free primary education for all. As part of the program, each state was given their own will to create programs and strategy that would work best for their respective states.

Following are the other objectives that were part of the SSA Program

  •      All children should either be in a school or an education center of an alternative school or an’   Back-to-School’ camp by 2003
  •      All children of the appropriate age will fulfill five years of primary schooling by 2007
  •      All children of the appropriate age will fulfill eight years of elementary schooling by 2010
  •      Focus is on elementary education of satisfactory quality which will be considered to be beneficial for life
  •      To bridge all gender and social class gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010
  •      Have universal retention in schools both primary and elementary by 2010

(Source: childlineindia.org.in)

A varied amount of resources and planning had been adopted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan executioners to make sure that the program is able to achieve a massive success. With the primary goal of the program being to provide quality education, the SSA had actively taken initiative in reforming the ways in which education is delivered. Focus on improving resources and financial backing for smooth operations of the schools was also prioritized as part of the Program. Reaching out to even the lowest strata, the program had made sure that marginalized minorities were also able to reap the benefit out of the program

Financial Support

The financial provision for the program was taken as a collaborative force between the state and central government. Another share of the financial burden was supported by the external agencies like the World Bank, DFID, and UNICEF. As per the stats, the program by 2001, had taken 50 million children under its wings and it was reported that the impact of the program was mostly noticed on minority children

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan – The Modern Day Fate

In 2014, a subdivision program was launched by then HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The program was aptly named “Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat” and was an attempt to revive the reading and mathematical skills of elementary kids. The program which was funded by the government for a whopping 762 crore was majorly seen as an extension of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and has been actively working towards helping children gain proficiency in reading as well as basic mathematical skills. In 2018, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan along with Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan was merged into a single program, Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is a good example of how education should be prioritized and how it acts as a catalyst in reforming the society and providing the individual the necessary armor to have an opportunity at obtaining quality life. As he leaves the world at the age of 93 after a long battle with illness, he leaves behind a long trail of wisdom and reforms that has taken this country on a progressive path.

 

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Editorial

Fake Universities: The disturbing figures

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Fake Universities

The  government of India in the last decade faced a lot of cases surfacing with students and many seniors availing fake certificates to start their careers. But this norm is changing in the last few years, with the growing technology it is becoming really difficult to identify what is real and what is fake. The country is going around with fake news, certificates, degrees and now even fake universities. This scandalous current of Fake Universities  is increasing with each passing year like a wildfire, and if this continues then soon the Indian Higher Education system will feel the burns.

Fake Universities

The Chronicles of Fake Universities

Recently, The data provided by Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State in Lok Sabha deemed 277 Engineering Institute as fake in India existing currently. The shocking results also showed that the national capital, Delhi is the home to the most of these fake institutions. The number of fake engineering colleges identified in Delhi are outrageous, followed by  Telangana and then West Bengal. The Human Resource and Development(HRD) Ministry asked All India Council Of Technical Education (AICTE) to take actions against these Universities. The most revolting thing is not the high numbers of the fake institution but the fact that this is not happening for the first time in our country.

The UGC previously this year in April had announced a list of 24 “self-styled” fake universities in India. The Universities were spotted in:

  • Bihar
  • Delhi
  • Karnataka
  • Kerala
  • Maharashtra
  • West Bengal
  • Uttar Pradesh
  • Odisha
  • Puducherry

You can check the full list by visiting the UGC Site

Delhi being the capital of the country is an educational hub seeing thousands of admissions yearly. Sadly, Delhi also harbours the most number of fake institutions which are pulling the level of higher education in the capital down. In May 2018 the government released a list of 12 fake education boards found in Delhi. The Delhi Police has also claimed that they have accessed a list of some of the beneficiaries of the gang running a fake admission racket.

“According to the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 under section 22(1) provides that a degree can be awarded, only by a University established under a central, state/provincial act or an institution deemed to be university under Section 3 of the UGC Act or an institution especially empowered by an Act of Parliament to confer the degree.”

A similar case was seen  in Rajasthan too where the Rajasthan Higher education department held an enquiry for 151 private colleges for not obtaining the necessary no objection certificates (NOC). According to officials, Strict actions were suggested to be taken against these colleges, as well a demand for the affiliation of these colleges to be cancelled was also done. However, it was also made clear that the students who are currently studying will not have to face any problem. The institutes won’t be permitted to run the session from the next session.

But the difference between these 277 Fake universities and that of  Rajasthan’s Private Universities lies in the fact that the prior ones have no approval from UGC, therefore, the UGC has slapped these institutions with notices to shut down. And the fates of the students and teachers are not very bright. The UGC is in no mood to forgive students with degrees from unrecognised universities or give them any relaxations.

“Students should take an informed decision. We try to create as much public awareness as possible, giving notices in newspapers, and on our website. If students join a course blindly, then it’s their misfortune.”, said an official from UGC.

Furthermore, this has impacted the Higher Education sector very deeply. The annual All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) report showed 80,000 Ghost teachers in the Indian Higher Education System in its survey. The UGC and the government on the other has not taken any strict decision against these teachers. The destiny of teachers from 277 Fake Engineering colleges is yet to be decided by the AICTE.

Fake Universities

Fake Universities – The actions and lack of one

We are all aware of the existence of fake universities in India. And the fact that they are being discovered recently is raising eyebrows over these sudden movements against these universities. The announcement of a new body replacing UGC called Higher Education Commission of India ( HECI ) can also be the reason driving this change. The government currently seems desperate to bring HECI into a reality and perhaps these actions can be seen in the light towards shining light on the relevance of a more strict regulatory body.

The sad part about the whole ordeal is that the government has taken no strict actions against these fake universities so far. The lack of measurements and proper governance and regulations taken towards monitoring these universities can also be one of the reasons why these fake universities are growing rapidly.The UGC and government have tried to make the people aware by publishing a list every year. But is that enough?The need of the hour requires stricter actions to be exercised. the government also needs to lay down certain ground rules. The future of the students and teachers trapped in this scandal of fake universities should be the priority of the Government.

 

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