In one of the biggest move towards reforming higher education in India, the Modi government today announced a complete overhaul of the apex higher education regulator- University Grants Commission, repeal of the UGC Act, 1951 and a fresh legislation to set up the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
The HECI Act, 2018 is expected to be piloted in Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session. Considering that the Modi government’s term is coming to an end, it will be challenging to get parliamentary passage for a fresh legislation.
Reasons led to set up new body :-
- The UGC and its regulatory regime have been criticised by a number of committees and their reports for its restrictive and suffocating processes.
- Several committees have recommended a single education regulator to rid higher education of red tape and lethargy (Including the Prof Yash Pal committee and the National Knowledge Commission of the UPA era and the Hari Gautam committee in the Modi regime) .
- While plans for a single regulator were at an advanced stage, these were dropped after a May meeting chaired by the HRD minister in Mussorie.
- Accordingly, while UGC will undergo a major overhaul, the legislation’s governing AICTE and NCTE will be amended to bring in changes if necessary.
About HECI (Higher Education Commission of India):-
- The HECI will also 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.
- The HECI will not subsume the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) as was originally envisaged as there were concerns red flagged over cadre merger and other technical issues.
- The provisions of the new HECI Act, 2018 will override the Architects Act as far as academic standards are concerned
- The key thrust areas of the HECI will be downsizing over governance of institutions, bring in disclosure based regulatory regime and powers of enforcement of regulations. A huge focus will be there on academic quality with emphasis on improving learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, use of technology and so on.
- The HECI will also set standards for opening and closure of institutes, provide greater flexibility and autonomy to institutes and lays tankards for appointments to critical leadership positions at institutions across spectrum and even for those falling under state laws.