Regulatory Reform: MHRD Decides To Scrap UGC, Will Replace It With ‘Higher Education Commission’

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre has decided to scrap controversial higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) and replace it with Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The key difference between the two bodies would be in their primary function: while the former focused on giving grants, the new commission will orient its energies in setting standards and overseeing the functioning of the entities in higher education sector.

Earlier, the government had hinted at scrapping all higher education bodies such as UGC, AICTE, NCTE and replace them with a single body - Higher Education Regulatory Authority (HERA) but it had now decided against it. The Human Resource Development Ministry’s new draft law, titled as ‘Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act 2018’ is expected to be introduced in the upcoming monsoon session and will only subsume the functions of UGC. Changes will be made in AICTE and NCTE regulations such that they are in tune with the aims of new HECI.

The draft bill put out by the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar says that the commission will aim at promoting the autonomy of higher education institutions. Its main functions will include specifying learning outcomes for courses in higher education; laying down standards of teaching, assessment, research, curriculum development, training of teachers, skill development and so on; monitoring and evaluating the yearly academic performance of higher educational institutions; promoting research and coordinating with the government for provision of adequate funding for research; putting in place a robust accreditation system; providing for mentoring of institutions found to be failing in maintaining the required academic standards; ordering closure of institutions which fail to adhere to minimum standards and so on.

Additionally, the commission’s functions include specifying norms and standards for grant of authorisation to a higher educational institution to award any degree or diploma, to commence its first academic operations. It will also specify norms of academic quality for a university to affiliate Higher educational Institutions and lay down standards for grant of autonomy apart from providing the institutions autonomy to develop their own curriculum. HECI will also frame regulations to provide for Graded Autonomy of institutions. The commission will have the mandate to set rules for establishment and winding up Institutions in higher education sector.

While putting out the draft bill in public domain, Javadekar invited all stakeholders to send their comments and suggestions regarding the new bill by 7 July. He said that the draft Act was in accordance with the commitment of his government for reforming the regulatory systems on the basis of principles such as Minimum government - Maximum governance, separation of grant functions, end of inspection raj, focus on academic quality, and powers to enforce.

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