New Delhi: In a big step towards the creation of an autonomous education system, the government will in its first 100 days work towards setting up a National Council for Higher Education, which could mean the abolition of its top two regulators around two decades after they were established.
An announcement to this effect was made by President Pratibha Patil in her address to Parliament on Thursday.
The proposal is based on the recommendations of a panel set up by the government to review the functioning of the University Grants Commission, established in 1956, and the All India Council for Technical Education, which came into existence in 1987.
The top two regulators have drawn widespread criticism for their restrictive policies and sometimes opaque functioning. The Committee for Rejuvenation of Higher Education, headed by physicist and educationist Yash Pal, recommended the establishment of a Higher Education Commission to oversee academic, financial and accreditation of India’s universities.
Those functions are currently tackled by the two regulators. The Yash Pal committee also called for a self-regulatory regulatory regime for universities, allowing them to handle issues such as the appointment of vice-chancellors, fee structure and expansion of courses. Such autonomy would also be available to Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
“If we can make the universities autonomous and evolve a process of internal management, they will be largely free from any unnecessary regulation,” Yash Pal had said in an interview earlier this year.
The announcement also puts the National Knowledge Commission (NKC), the advisory body to the Prime Minister, at the centre of the reform roadmap of the ministry of human resource development, which oversees education.
NKC, in several reports, had called for abolition of the top two regulators and said the constitution of an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education is key to ushering in an autonomous education sector in India.
The Yash Pal panel also recommended that institutions of higher learning, including the IITs and Indian Institutes of Management broaden their menus to include more subjects and disciplines.
It suggested scrapping the deemed university status for state and private institutions. The status of deemed universities has been granted predominantly to private institutions, allowing them to operate largely free of government controls in admissions, fees and coursework.
“There are several recommendations in the report. While President’s announcement on a Higher Education Commission is a good sign, it has to be seen if the report is adopted in totality,” Yash Pal said over the phone on Thursday. The HRD ministry, in its 100-day roadmap, will also work towards developing a policy that would help attract overseas students to the 14 “Innovation Universities” to be set up under the 11th Plan (2007-12)