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 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” is coming soon with this change. The end of 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.
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 the 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 its curriculum with visions of making it more evolved with mandatory internships, engaging students with laboratory assessments, and more focus on 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 a 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 the 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 changes 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 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 mold then it can play a major role in strengthening the Higher Education System of India.
And benefit not just 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.
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