Over the last year there has been a lot of discussions on whether UGC should become an umbrella body controlling various types of higher education streams -- be it universal, technical or distance or not.
The first issue cropped up when the Ministry of Human Resource Development scrapped the Distance Education Council to check the flourishing racket of distance education in the country. The Ministry asked the UGC to regulate and improve the standards of distance and open learning in the country. In the second instance the Supreme Court of India, in its ruling, said that colleges affiliated to a university are not obliged to take separate permission from the AICTE to conduct MBA/ MCA courses.
The apex court ruled that the role of AICTE is only advisory; it has no authority to issue or enforce any sanction by itself. The court added that it was the UGC which had been given the power to regulate universities in relation to granting sanction/ approval, maintaining educational standards and overseeing the fee structure including admissions to various courses offered by them, their institutions, constituent colleges, units and affiliated colleges.
Experts are divided on whether UGC should take control of higher education. Some are of the view that it is good for the system, while some others feel that following the Supreme Court’s order is one thing and ensuring good governance and quality of academics is different. They feel that it cannot be left in the hands of generalists.
Should UGC become an overarching body?
Dr Arun Nigavekar, former Chairperson of UGC, supporting the view that there has to be one single apex higher education argued that there are 15-16 councils for various higher education streams in India. The UGC was formed in 1965 with a clear mandate to maintain standards of higher education in the country. But later the Medical Council, Bar Council, AICTE and such 16 councils were created by the Parliament. Now these 16 councils have created enormous confusion in the government because different ministries like Health, Law want their say in the policy formation through these councils.
“AICTE is a council created by the Parliament but the disciplines handled by it cannot work in isolation, let us have a national body under which all the councils should work. All the councils whether it is the UGC, AICTE, MCI, DCI, etc are at par as they have been created by the Act of Parliament,” Dr Nigavekar told Careers360.
Dr Arun Nigavekar
Former Chairperson, UGC“All the councils whether it is the UGC, AICTE, MCI, DCI, etc are at par as they have been created by the Act of Parliament.”
Prof. M Ananda krishnan
“There should be one focal point for the higher education and UGC is the best place for that rather than different councils
The UGC has the role of maintaining standards of higher education in the country. However, the other professional councils also fund and maintain standards as well as grant recognition to institutions. Since education is in the Concurrent List the State governments also regulate it through their departments, making it highly fragmented and also dispersed.
It has been also argued that the regulations are not transparent, time-consuming and complex.
Prof. M Ananda krishnan, Chairman, IIT-Kanpur, opined, “There should be one focal point for the higher education system and I think UGC is the best place for that kind of overall focal point, rather than distributing it to different councils.”
“The role of the UGC should be diversified and give it as much responsibility as much possible and it is baseless argument that it cannot handle so many things. It has to learn to manage through partnerships with different councils,” added Prof. Anandakrishnan.
However, IIFT Delhi’s Director, Dr Surajit Mitra is of the view that it is not good for one body to handle different higher education streams. “If you look historically UGC has done a very good job but the pie is very big and it has become difficult for one single organization to handle everything and due to huge volume the quality is getting deteriorated. UGC has another problem that it is dependent on the government to get funds and distribute, it cannot generate its own fund; it is difficult for it be a regulator in such scenario,” he said.
Is the UGC trespassing?
When asked about UGC encroaching upon the AICTE’s role, Prof. Anandakrishnan said that the case of AICTE is that it is not the UGC, which has taken over, but the SC’s judgment that compelled it.
Answering a question on letting the AICTE control technical education (and not the UGC) as is done in the case of medical and legal education by the MCI and Bar Council of India respectively, Prof Anandakrishnan said, “I do not think UGC has any problem in AICTE controlling technical education. It is not the UGC, which has taken over, but it is the Supreme Court, which asked the UGC. This matter should be raised in the Supreme Court.”
Put the best foot forward
It has been found that regulations are formulated and enforced with a lackadaisical approach, that get manipulated by some players, leading to suffocation and frustration in higher education.
Dr Nigavekar said that in the 10th Plan he had recommended that all the councils should work together, do things collectively and create a national higher education council, bringing all the disciplines under it. Instead of talking about UGC, AICTE, MCI, there must be one single council to make the higher education system robust, he said.
“The Act does not give power to any agency; the government departments have given the power to maintain the standards which only the UGC can do, whether it is the medical education, technical education or the legal education. If you look at the UGC Act maintaining the standards of higher education is the sole responsibility of the UGC. So UGC should be given the responsibility,” said Professor Anandakrishnan.
“Putting different type of institutions under different bodies is not the solution, UGC is an apex organization and it is not the question of demarcation, the important point is the structure. We need a clear-cut structure on what UGC will do, what AICTE will do and what other such councils will do, then only you can define their role and their positioning. We should focus on how we can ensure good quality education,” said Dr Mitra.
There is a need for the UGC to develop more stringent norm as its draft regulations on technical education looks like a copy of AICTE norms. The bigger question is how to maintain the quality of affiliated colleges across the country. Will the commission be able to prevent corruption in affiliation process and develop a system, which will punish the corrupt and ensure students welfare?
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