Published on June 4, 2019 | Education News| Eye Opener| University
Final curtain for the UGC, will HECI replace the UGC?
The role of the UGC is set to be split up between the MHRD and HECI body. With one taking over financial duties and the latter ensuring academic excellence amogst institutions. The University Grants Commission Act of 1956 appointed the UGC to oversee the higher education institutions by setting the standards for the quality of education to be followed by academic institutions. Additionally to approve funding or grants based on the institution’s results. The government however seeks to replace this act with a new HECI draft bill.
The Human Resource Department has proposed to replace the UGC with the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). If the bill is passed, the HECI will separate the academic and funding aspects of the education sector. With the MHRD in charge of doling out grants to universities, the HECI will be responsible for setting standards for institutes and shutting down bogus colleges, universities that have failed to meet the required standards. While few are critical of the move 1 and see it as a means to bureaucratise academically governing bodies. The actual outcome is yet to be witnessed.
Whether this draft bill is a step in the right direction or not is yet to be determined. However, it does bring to light that the need for reform in India’s education system has been long overdue and the centre is now paying close attention to it. Reform for higher education will happen, but at what costs?
Out with the old, in with the new.
While UGC had the power to dole out grants, the HECI will have no access to the funds and is to focus on the academic part of educational institutions. The periodical inspections conducted by UGC to ensure that institutions were maintaining the standards they set are also to be done away with. The HECI will only be specifying the standards to be followed.
When certain institutions were not up to the mark, the UGC would either terminate their affiliations to universities or withhold grants. Whereas HECI will have the power to penalise or shut down institutions. If the management refuses to adhere to penalties, they can be jailed for up to 3 years. HECI also needs to approve all courses that institutions provide which earlier was the University’s prerogative.
A Different tune, same game. Musical chairs in the Ministry.
The UGC members comprise of the Chairman, the Vice-Chairman and 10 members from various academic backgrounds and stakeholders from the industry. The age for retirement for the Chairman is 65 years and their tenure would be 5 years with a possible extension of another 5.
The HECI is to be made up of the Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and 12 members from academic backgrounds or stakeholders. The age for retirement for the Chairperson is 70 years with 5-year tenures. The HECI will have an advisory committee above it, headed by the HRD Minister.
When either the UGC or the HECI are in disagreement with the centre over any policy, the centre will always prevail.
The staff for both commissions are to be appointed by commissions themselves. The current UGC staff is to be trained by the HECI to completely go digital.*
“The Maharaja is dead but the surgery was successful” – The Tiger King, Kalki.
One of the main points promoted by HECI bill is the separation of academic supervision and funding. Initially, the funding of institutions was to be controlled by the Union Human Resource Department Ministry, but this caused alarm for many educational representatives and teaching staff, as it would mean that this would allow for the centre to interfere and threatened the autonomy of universities. Later the HRD Minister, Prakash Javadekar, proposed to create an expert panel to control the funding and approve grants on a transparent and merit-based approach by monitoring the institutions through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) portals.*
If and when the HECI Bill passes, it raises many concerns. Regardless of which commission will handle the funding, the HECI has to follow the advisory council above it, which as mentioned is headed by the HRD Minister, meaning the centre has the power to interfere with the workings of educational institutions and by extension, promote their agenda with the students. With HECI, the state government’s role in anything related to education in their own states is restricted. HECI is also trying to bring a single mould system of education at a national level, which if executed properly might be a step forward for India, but it would also mean that the universities lose autonomy. With unsure government funding, the colleges are more likely to jack up the already high tuition fees, making higher education even more inaccessible than it already is.*
As overwhelming as the above information can be. The draft isn’t written in stone and when the ministry opened itself to suggestions on the HECI draft bill an overwhelming number of responses were received for review.
If you’d like to read more about the draft bill here’s a few more voices below: