The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), an industry lobby, has drafted 18 pages of suggestions for the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the controversial regulator of private colleges.
This is the first response from an industry lobby to an advertised notice by the parliamentary standing committee on human resources development, which includes members such as Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, in major daily newspapers last month asking the public to send in suggestions on AICTE. The panel asked interested organizations, institutions and individuals to send comments by post or email to improve the functioning of AICTE.
In the recommendations, which circulated internally but have been reviewed by Mint, Ficci has said that 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. They called for the “inspection raj” to be abolished.
Under fire: The All India Council for Technical Education office on the seventh floor of Chanderlok building at Janpath in New Delhi. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/ Mint)
“The multiple function of AICTE in regulating entry, accreditation, disbursement of public funds, access and licence makes the system very confusing and conflicting,” said the higher education division of Ficci.
AICTE has battled charges of corruption and chronic irregularities in its functioning from private colleges. On 17 December, Mint reported that acting AICTE chairman Ram Avatar Yadav, who has been actively lobbying to be made chairman, faces questions over his dual compensation from AICTE and Delhi University.
The director of a private college whose representative participated in the discussions to draft the recommendations said members of Ficci’s education panel will meet the members of Parliament to hand over these suggestions. There are 40 colleges that are part of the higher education division of Ficci, including Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Symbiosis International University and Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. The Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, is a patron.
Ficci has criticized the entry norms set out by AICTE in its draft suggestions. It has said the norms are restrictive and relate to only supply side, or the infrastructure, faculty and fees, with little consideration to the quality of education or output. “There are extensive rules after entry, as the AICTE seeks to regulate almost every aspect of an institution from fees to curriculum. (There are) routine annual inspections of ongoing courses. Towards this inspection, the institution concerned is required to pay an amount of Rs40,000 for each course,” the document said, referring to the bribery that has come to be associated with the inspections of institutes.
“Common format for approval of new institutions, new courses, additional courses and increase in intake of students restricts any innovation,” it said.
The recommendations, dated 7 February, call the AICTE’s organizational structure “non-inclusive” and “outdated.”
AICTE officials did not immediately return calls for comment. “We will collect all the suggestions. In the past, we have heard general comments such as colleges charging donations but still being allowed to function. Now we hope to get specific complaints,” said Ram Deo Bhandary, member of Rajya Sabha, who is on the standing committee.