New Delhi: The government is planning to split the regulatory and accreditation roles of the All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, which oversees the functioning of engineering and business schools, giving in to a longstanding demand of colleges which have had several run-ins with the body and even alleged that its inspectors demand bribes.
The government will create an independent accreditation body for colleges, both private and state-run, by merging the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, or NAAC, part of the government body that allocates money to universities, the University Grants Commission (UGC), and the National Board of Accreditation, or NBA, which is part of AICTE, higher education secretary R.P. Agrawal told a team from industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or Ficci, earlier this week.
“(The) government is looking at the proposition of merging these two bodies and delinking them from AICTE and UGC,” said Shobha Mishra, joint director at Ficci.
Another member of Ficci’s higher education committee independently confirmed that Agrawal had indicated this at the meeting where the participants included a representative from Manipal University, one of India’s largest private universities. The higher education secretary’s office did not return calls for comment.
“Accreditation will then be made mandatory to ensure quality”, said this member,J.S. Neerav, vice-chairman of the board of Patiala-based Thapar University, who attended the meeting as a representative of colleges. “As far as educational institutions are concerned, we have been saying that accreditation and regulation should be different”.
The move will need changes to existing laws on the regulation of educational institutions and will have to be approved by Parliament.
The university Neerav helps run is owned by Gautam Thapar’s Avantha Group, whose flagship is the listed Crompton Greaves Ltd. Thapar University has deemed university status—it is designated as a university by an order of UGC—and admits 4,500 students to undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate programmes.
Ficci’s education committee, whose members include the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, has long demanded changes in the functioning of AICTE.
In a draft report in February this year, circulated only to its members, Ficci said the existing regulatory framework constrains the supply of good institutions, excessively regulates existing institutions in the wrong places, and is not conducive to innovations or creativity in higher and technical education. It called for the “inspection raj” to be abolished. A final report was later given to the government. Both reports have been reviewed by Mint.
Policy changes: A file photo of higher education secretary R.P. Agrawal, who said the government will create a?new?accreditation?body?for?colleges.
AICTE’s inspectors have been accused of corruption by many educators. Mint hasreported on these charges, citing conversations with a private college.
In April, the government appointed R.A. Yadav as its full-time chairman. Yadav is widely seen as having the backing of the politically influential human resource minister Arjun Singh, who has actively pushed for the appointment despite significant concerns about the efficiency and efficacy of AICTE in recent years.
The regulator had had to face criticism from colleges, some of which had accused the body of corrupt practices in granting licences as well as expansion approvals.
A parliamentary standing committee on human resource development, which includes Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, had advertised earlier this year in national dailies for suggestions on improving the functioning of AICTE. But despite several colleges sending in their grievances and suggestions, the lawmakers have not met until now to take up the issue.
Yadav too has been under scrutiny for drawing both a salary as the head of AICTE and a pension from the University of Delhi, where he once worked.
Following a Mint story, the ministry said it had started an inquiry.
On 28 March, Mint reported that Yadav had returned much of the pension.