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New Delhi: The human resource development ministry is introducing a carrot and stick approach under which the performing universities will get greater autonomy and poor performers will get their funding cut. To implement the initiative, the ministry will divide the universities into three categories based on their performance on several parameters including the teaching-learning environment, research and industry income. “We are looking to classify universities into three categories and this is not based on NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) grades," HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said.

India has currently 759 universities including 47 central universities, 350 state-run universities, 239 private universities and 123 deemed-to-be universities. At least 37,000 colleges are affiliated to these institutions and it is believed that the performance of a university impacts the education outcome of a majority of the affiliated collages. Most of these universities are far from being well run and none of them make it to the top 200 universities list in global rankings. “What we are trying is to improve the quality and will do what is required to improve the education outcome," Javadekar said.

Another HRD ministry official, who declined to be named, said that while the ministry is mulling “maximum autonomy" to top performers in the classification list, the category C universities will see a fund cut. Government-supported universities and colleges at the central and state level get funds from the University Grants Commission (UGC). “Many government colleges and universities are not up to the mark. The move will wake them up from the slumber," the official said.

The official said the plan is on the table and a decision on this will be taken soon. According to the official, the top performers will get maximum autonomy—up to 90%, the B-category will get 50% autonomy and the C category will undergo maximum regulation and scrutiny.

Maximum autonomy may entail freedom in deciding course structure, course fees, research partnership and little interference in the regular academic and administrative functioning of these institutions. And the worst entails regular audits, more scrutiny by regulators such as UGC and All India Council of Technical Education, more disclosures, restricted permission to start new courses or expand existing ones.

The government understands that the need for quality higher education in India is high and it cannot do everything on its own.

“By giving quality institutions after due scrutiny more freedom will bring more quality players to the space and thus more investments. It will be good for government, private players and the students at large," said Vineet Gupta, pro vice-chancellor of Ashoka University, a private liberal arts focused university established by a group of industry leaders through collective philanthropy.

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