Higher Education Commission of India

The University Grants Commission has long been charged on grounds of inefficiency and over-regulation without realising the outcomes. Thus, the Centre has decided to establish a Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) in the place of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The new regime separates the academic and funding aspects of higher education. takes away funding powers from the proposed regulator and gives it powers to ensure academic quality and even close down bogus institutions.

The Regulator will have powers to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions. Moreover, non-compliance could result in fines or even a jail sentence. Till now, the UGC had no such powers. All it could do was to release a list of bogus institutions and not recognise their degrees.

HECI is tasked with the following mandate:

  • improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes,
  • evaluation of academic performance by institutions,
  • mentoring of institutions,
  • training of teachers,
  • promote use of educational technology.

It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of university started under any law (including state list).

Source: The Hindu

UGC vs. HECI – A comparision

  • Financial powers – The UGC disburses grants to central institutions out of its own funds. However, HECI will not have any financial powers.
  • Academic powers – The GC is mandated to promote and coordinate university education and determine and maintain standards of teaching, examination and research. HECI will specify standards for grant of authorisation to a university of higher educational institution to commence its academic opeartions.
  • Inspection – To assess financial needs or standards of teaching in an institution, UGC conducts periodic inspections, however, HECI will prescribe norms on academic performance by higher educational institutions.
  • Action on bogus institutions – The UGC is empowered to terminate affiliations of colleges to universities for contravention of its regulations. It can also withhold grants to universities for violations of its regulations and it occasionally publishes lists of bogus institutions. Widening such powers, HECI will be empowered to penalise or even shut down sub-standard institutions without affecting students’ interests. If the management of the institution does not comply with the penalties, HECI is empowered to send them to jail for up to three years.
  • Staff – The UGC appoints its own staff. The same will apply to the HECI as well. The present staff of UGC will be re-trained to work on fully digital mode — without physical files — at HECI.

Source: The Hindu

Challenges to the implementation of HECI:

  • Overlooking the authority of states – HECI has the power to order the closure of institutions in case they fail to acquire accreditation within a stipulated period or fail to adhere to minimum standards.  This may amount to giving excessive powers to the HECI and will also act against the federal spirit by denying the state government any right to intervene before the closure of the institution.
    The distinction between university, college, or institutions has been done away with because all institutions will have power to grant a degree. Any non-state actor can establish a college or institution without being scrutinised by the state, and apply to the HECI for a license to grant a degree and only HECI will have centralised power to authorise any such university, college or institution to grant a degree. States will have no power to check the entry requirement for colleges or institutions and in the name of maintenance of standards by the union government, all the power will rest with HECI.
  • Mushrooming of private colleges – Private parties will have no restrictions to establish colleges or institutions. They can straightaway approach the HECI for the license to grant a degree or diploma. This is likely to lead to the mushrooming of colleges and institutions for diploma or degree courses and put considerable pressure upon the HECI. 
  • Undue pressure in rural areas – The HECI will act as a licensing authority. After setting the standards, it will provide the license to grant a degree. At any time, if such standard is not met, then the institution will be used to shut down. Any institution, particularly institutions serving in rural areas that may suffer from teacher and infrastructure shortage. It is important to bear in mind that in a developing country, many government colleges or universities are established with few teachers and little infrastructure and they slowly develop into big institutions. In fact, many new central universities in the recent past began their operations from borrowed infrastructure made available by the state government. Now, over the years, they have developed into large institutions. Under the new system, the HECI, to begin with, asks that the standard be met in order to provide degree-granting license. Private providers, with promoters that are big businesses, in order to earn money in the future, may invest and get the license. Government institutions that serve the social function of providing higher education in rural areas, by not being able to meet the standard, will suffer from the threat of closure all the time. The worst sufferers will be the humanities and social sciences, which have survived so far with meagre government resources.  The democratic and inclusive character of many government institutions is likely to be threatened. 
  • Lack of public funding – Unless the government commits to public funding and addresses the shortage of teachers, teachers will be overburdened and will hardly have the free time to devote for the research. Under a resource-constrained situation, if institutions are forced to generate resources from the private sector, then their autonomy is restricted to serving only the source from which the fund is received. If public-funded institutions are short of public funding and will have to rely on loans and on self-financing courses to manage academic affairs, then there will inevitably be a tendency to increase the fees and higher education will consequently become less affordable. 
  • The challenge of standardisation – It should be left to the teachers to understand local context and adopt appropriate ways to teach. Any attempt to have centralised control and to standardise learning outcomes may not work in practice.

Source: EPW

Categories: POINT IAS

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