Draft Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act), Bill, 2018 aims to replace the UGC with a Higher Education Authority named HECI. As the bill is being lined up for passage in the Monsoon session of Parliament, we must focus on critical concerns associated with the bill.
Need for HECI –
It is argued that the bill is aimed at providing more autonomy to the higher education institutes as the UGC is currently preoccupied with the disbursal of grants with little time left to focus upon academic matters. However, the new Higher Education authority will solely focus on academic issues and the matters of grant disbursal will be handled by the Ministry of Human Resources.
It is said that the structure of the commission and its advisory council that the government would be involved more in the decision making processes rather than the academicians which is against the principle of autonomy.
The sweeping powers delegated to the HECI are more authoritative than the collective strength of campus authorities. The non-compliance of directions of HECI could result in fines or even jail sentence. Universities will need to take approval of HECI before the introduction of a new course which violates the freedom of a University’s Board of Studies.
The mandate of HECI to improve academic standards with a particular focus on learning outcomes, training of teachers and evaluation of academic performance of institutions enables the HECI to micromanage and over-regulate the universities.
The proposal calling for a removal of HECI’s chairperson and the vice-chairperson by the Central Government for ‘moral turpitude’ is absurd and will definitely impact the autonomy of universities in India.
Instead of allowing the proliferation of heterogeneous administrative models according to the suitability of universities, the bill focuses on achieving a homogenous administrative model which will endanger the academic freedom, diversity, and production of knowledge out of the higher education sector.
The move to replace UGC with HECI will violate the federal structure as it restricts the role of States in matters relating to education.
Sadly, the focus of the HECI is not to ensure the realization of the objective of education for all, especially to those in the lower rungs of society. It is bound to fail to reach the marginalized sections with a standardized education system throughout the country that may not be a guarantee to ensure equitable upliftment of education standards throughout the country.
Source – The Hindu
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