It’s time to replace the UGC Act {Education Policy}

University Grants Commission

It is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.

It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges. Its headquarters is in New Delhi, and six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.

UGC is modelled after University Grants Committee of UK which was an advisory committee of the British government and advised on the distribution of grant funding amongst the British universities. The committee was in existence from 1919 until 1989.

History

The UGC was first formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. Its responsibility was extended in 1947 to cover all Indian universities.

In August 1949 a recommendation was made to reconstitute the UGC along similar lines to the University Grants Committee of the United kingdom. This recommendation was made by the University Education Commission of 1948-1949 which was set up under the chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan “to report on Indian university education and suggest improvements and extensions”.

In 1952 the government decided that all grants to universities and higher learning institutions should be handled by the UGC. Subsequently, an inauguration was held on 28 December 1953 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Minister of Education, Natural Resources and Scientific Research.

In November 1956 the UGC became a statutory body upon the passing of the “University Grants Commission Act, 1956” by the Indian Parliament.

In 1994 and 1995 the UGC decentralised its operations by setting up six regional centres at Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore. The head office of the UGC is located at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi, with two additional bureaus operating from 35, Feroze Shah Road and the South Campus of University of Delhi as well.

Recommendation

The new Act should establish a higher education regulatory commission (HERC), which will subsume the functions of all the three existing regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry. Recognising the critical role of States in higher education, it should further establish an advisory council consisting of representatives of all States and the Central government. In addition, it must have as members leading educationists from diverse fields. The council should advise the HERC on all matters, though the final decision-making power needs to be vested in the Commission and its different bodies.

The UGC recently issued new rules and regulations under which it divided universities into three categories: I, II and III. Category I and II universities were awarded autonomy, with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities under the recent rules into a single category.

Tasks of the Commission

If this reform is adopted, a major function on which the UGC currently spends a vast amount of time will be eliminated from the responsibilities of the HERC. This will leave the HERC with two major tasks: decisions on the disbursement of funds and accreditation.

To fulfill the first function, the HERC should have a finance board. To discharge the second function, it should have an accreditation board. Both these boards should have full autonomy in discharging their functions once the broad policy is formulated at the level of the Commission. Presidents of the boards should be ex-officio members of the Commission.

The HERC should formulate guidelines for the establishment of new institutions. A new institution should be able to enter on honor basis once it posts in a transparent statement on its website explaining how it has satisfied all the criteria stipulated by the Commission.

The HERC should have the power to review whether the entering institution has genuinely fulfilled all the entry criteria, and in cases of deviations from the criteria, to close it down.

Entry of foreign institutions

The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign institutions. The top 200-300 institutions in the world, according to generally accepted rankings, may be allowed entry as Category I institutions.

As India has a large young population, foreign institutions will have an incentive to enter the country. In turn, India stands to benefit from the expertise and reputation of these institutions.

Finally, the Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research. The separation between teaching at universities and colleges and research at research councils has not served the cause of either higher education or research well.

 

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