The Prime Minister’s vision to create 20 institutions of eminence and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reforms push have set the stage for an Overhaul of higher education in India that is long overdue.
Background :- Reforms done by the Govt
- The HRD Ministry first saw the passage of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, which will extend greater autonomy to the IIMs.
- University Grants Commission (UGC), giving autonomy to India’s best-ranked universities and colleges.
- The Union Cabinet approved the continuation of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, which has been working quietly to improve the quality of higher educational institutions in the States through outcome-based grants.
What needs to be done to push the reforms ?
There is a need to replace the UGC Act, 1956, with a new law that should respond to the current needs of higher education.
Under the Proposed Act :-
Setup of commission :-
- 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. 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.
Categories of universities :-
Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities, which were awarded autonomy with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. as per recently issued new rules & regulations by UGC.
Under the proposed Act :-
- Category I universities will be free to write their own curriculums. In addition, they will oversee the curriculums of the colleges affiliated to them.
Autonomous colleges will write their own curriculums as well.
- Category II universities and the colleges affiliated to them will adopt the curriculums of one or more Category I universities.
Colleges affiliated to these universities will adopt curriculums of colleges affiliated to Category I colleges or autonomous colleges.
- In case, There may be courses that exist in Category II universities or in colleges affiliated to them, or courses that these institutions wish to start which do not exist in any of the autonomous universities, colleges affiliated to them, or autonomous colleges. In such cases, the HERC will appoint a small committee of experts from the relevant field to approve or reject the proposed course in a time-bound manner.
Functions of the Commission :-
- Disbursement of funds :-
To fulfil the function of Disbursement of funds, the HERC should have a Finance board.
- Accreditation :-
To fulfil the function of Accreditation, 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.
Tasks of the Commission :-
- Guidelines for Establishment of New Institutions :-
The HERC should formulate guidelines for the establishment of new institutions. 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.
- Draw up Standards & Grading System :-
The Commission in cooperation with the Accreditation Board will have the responsibility to draw up standards and a grading system for colleges and universities. Multiple accreditation agencies will be permitted, with the board serving as the approval authority for them. Universities and colleges may be asked to deposit an accreditation fee in a fund held by the accreditation board from which accreditation agencies can be paid. This will eliminate the need for financial dealings between the accreditation agency and the university or college being reviewed.
- Guidelines for funding Universities & Colleges :-
The Commission in cooperation with the finance board will also develop guidelines for funding universities and colleges. Once these are framed, the board will have autonomy in implementing them. The Commission must also formulate policies on tuition fees and teacher salaries. The Act should explicitly provide for independent efforts by institutions to raise funds and even incentivise such efforts by providing matching funds via the finance board.
- Grievance & Redress Office :-
The HERC will have a secretariat to maintain a separate grievance and redress office. The office will receive complaints from students, the faculty and university authorities. While routine complaints can be dealt with at the level of this office, those with wider ramifications will be brought to the Commission.
Entry of foreign institutions :-
- The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign 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.
- The Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research. To do research, students must have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and opportunities to interact regularly with scholars actively engaged at the frontiers of research. Conversely, scholars stand to benefit from interacting with young, inquisitive minds. It is critical for this interaction to be brought to the centre of university education.
AT HOME IN & EXILE :-
- In Syrian and Rohingya crises, much of the world’s attention turned to forced displacement and refugees. Both exemplified the typical conditions under which people are forcibly displaced: war, political persecution, economic instability and repression.
Internal Migration :-
Most of the world’s migration is internal, i.e. within the same country.
- Among the tens of millions displaced in 2015, 21.3 million were refugees, but 40.8 million were internally displaced.
- People usually change their homes to improve household income, for marriage or other purposes relating to family.
- The gradual rise in sea levels wherein people are compelled to leave their island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and become climate exiles is one such ongoing process
- With climate change, however, its worsening slow onset effects such as droughts, effects from sea level rise and water shortages cause many more to leave their homes and move to safer places.
Why people move ?
In “Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration”, a recent report by the World Bank
- It is estimated that in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa over 143 million people would be forced to move within borders by 2050 as a result of slow onset climate events alone.
- In the worst-case scenario, about 40 million of these migrants would be in South Asia, which is the most populous of the regions studied, with a number of climate change effects anticipated.
- The poor would be the worst affected by these slow onset events and most of them would migrate out of rural areas to nearby urban settlements, which would be cities and the peri-urban surroundings.
- South Asia is characterised by rain-fed farmland in large parts of the region. With variability in the monsoons and warmer temperatures, crop failures will lead to migration from the Gangetic plains and from the rice-growing northeast of Bangladesh and the inundated coasts.
Three possible scenarios are described:
- High greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along with unequal development paths, regarded as the pessimistic reference scenario
- An inclusive development scenario with high GHG emissions but development paths that improve access to services for the poor and consider their priorities and unmet needs
- Climate-friendly scenario involving lower GHG emissions but with unequal development.
The implications of these internal migrations will be significant for development in the areas and for the lives of these people. Therefore, understanding migration patterns, getting better socioeconomic data on migration and preparing in advance through appropriate planning become critical. Current climate modelling methods are not accurate at high resolutions for local decision-making, but these are expected to improve over time.
What kind of policies are needed ?
- Reducing GHG emissions is of utmost urgency, although that seems to be taking place at a pace determined by geopolitical as well as local initiatives.
- Second, integrating internal migration with ongoing development planning is vital. The peri-urban areas, which are expected to be hot spots, already show problems of water shortage, waste management, nutritional deficiency, limited services such as health and education, and poor infrastructure. Ecosystems, part of the natural resources in peri-urban areas, ought to be protected as “special ecological zones”, so that as urban settlements expand, they don’t eat into ecosystem services.
- Third, Skill building, job training and other opportunities for education and jobs for locals and migrants would also have to become a focal point.
- Fourth, Rights for those who are forced to migrate would be fundamental in these preparations, as studies and experience have shown that ignoring issues of social justice and equity in adaptation can lead to serious governance failure.
TOWARDS A REGIONAL RESET :-
The government’s foreign policy moves over the past few months represent an unannounced but profound shift in its thinking about the neighbourhood. This could change the course of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy .
Fixing ties :-
Reset with China :-
- The government has taken care not to respond with any heat to reports of the Chinese build-up at Doklam. New Delhi has been repeating that the Doklam standoff point is untouched and Chinese construction on their side of the boundary is “not a threat” to India.
- The government has also gone to some lengths to tone down planned celebrations marking the anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s arrival from Tibet.
- New Delhi and Beijing have now embarked on a flurry of high-level visits that are meant to lead up to a summit meeting between the two leaders.
- The two sides are intent on making significant progress in smoothening ties on outstanding issues such as boundary negotiations and also narrowing the trade deficit, an issue discussed during the Chinese Commerce Minister’s visit to India recently.
Dealing with Maldives :-
- Despite several appeals by the Maldivian opposition, and nudges from the U.S., the Modi government decided not to exert hard power in bringing Maldives President Abdulla Yameen around after he declared a state of emergency in the country.
- Nor did it engage China in a confrontation when Mr. Yameen sought Beijing’s support in this regard.
- The government remained silent as Male went a step further and held discussions with Pakistan’s Army Chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, on joint patrolling of its Exclusive Economic Zone, an area of operation in the Indian Ocean considered to be India’s domain.
Dealing With Nepal :-
- Despite Prime Minister K.P. Oli made it clear that he would step up engagement with China in infrastructure development, India rolled out the red carpet for him earlier this month.
- Nor did India raise concern over Nepal’s Constitution which had sparked the confrontation between India and Nepal in 2015-16.
There has also been outreach to Bhutan and Bangladesh in recent weeks. Both Bhutan and Bangladesh are to hold elections this year, and with incumbent governments more favourably disposed to New Delhi than their challengers in the opposition, the results will have an impact on India’s influence in these countries as well.
Quiet progress with Pakistan :-
- This year, the government admitted in Parliament for the first time that National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval had met his Pakistani counterpart, Nasser Khan Janjua, as a part of “established channels of communications at various levels” between the two sides in the past few years, post-Pathankot.
Need of Bold & Proactive approach :-
The reset with China will work only if there are transactional dividends for both New Delhi and Beijing. Two issues on which both governments can show flexibility are
- China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) :-
On the BRI, if there is political will on both sides, they needn’t look too far for creative solutions around India’s three concerns: on territorial integrity, transparency of projects and their sustainability.
The solution to the first is contained in a proposal under consideration — to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan. It would necessitate a shift away from projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Those projects may still be built and funded by China, but then would not constitute a part of the BRI route as a result, India’s concerns on sovereignty could be dispensed with.
- India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership :-
China could remove its block to India’s membership by adopting a more inclusive approach within the nuclear export control organisation. Indian membership, which the Modi government seems to have made its objective, will only strengthen the international nuclear regime. Even if withdrawal of China’s objections does not soften the objections of more hardline “non-proliferationists” or Non-Proliferation Treaty-proponents, the goodwill from such a move would propel India-China relations forward.
Need of SAARC re-engagement :-
However, the real tipping point in India’s regional reset will come if the government also decides to reconsider its opposition to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit this year, with Pakistan as the host.