The Government of India on Thursday announced the dissolution of the apex higher education regulator, University Grants Commission, and the setting up of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
The decision was taken by the Human Resource Development Ministry (HRD) for revamping the UGC ‘so that the HERC focuses on setting up academic standards and ensure their implementation rather than invest its energies on grant giving’. The HECI Act, 2018 will be brought in the Parliament in the monsoon session and it will be backed with penal powers ‘to order closure of institutes that violate set norms, imposition of fines where necessary and provisions for imprisonment up to three years where necessary’.
While the UGC will be overhauled, AICTE and NCTE will have considerable changes within them wherever necessary. The decision is welcomed as the UGC has been constantly criticised for its regulatory and restrictive practices. Prof Yash Pal committee, National Knowledge Commission and the Hari Gautam committee have called for a single education regulator ‘to rid higher education of red tapism and lethargy’.
The HECI will focus on downsizing over governance of institutions, bringing in disclosure based regulatory regime and powers of enforcement of regulations, academic quality on learning with emphasis on improving outcomes, evaluating academic performance by institutions, institutional mentoring, teacher training , use of technology, etc. There will also be set standards for
- Opening and closing of institutes,
- Provision of greater flexibility and autonomy,
- Leadership positions at institutions.
An advisory council will be set up chaired by the HRD minister, Higher Education Secretary and state higher education council heads besides experts advising on issues every six months.