Upset over the University Grants Commission's gross failure in curbing fake universities and haphazard growth of private and deemed varsities, the union government has appointed a high-level committee to suggest ways to restructure the commission.
The committee will be headed by former UGC chairman Hari Gautam. An order in this regard was passed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) on July 30 which also seeks to amend the UGC Act, 1956, in order to re-organise the UGC to bring out reforms in the higher education sector. The commission's grant distribution system will also be revamped. The decision is in sync with BJP's manifesto for the Lok Sabha election 2014.
What does the order say?
Listing the failures of the UGC on many fronts, the four-page MHRD order states, "There is a realization that the UGC is not able to do justice to its mandate in light of massification of higher education...UGC's entire funding continues to be oriented towards grant giving rather than regulation and enforcement of minimum standards."
Pointing out to a private university which was been in controversy last year for selling PhD/MPhil degrees, the order further reads, "It is imperative than an urgent review of the UGC in its entirety is conducted."
UGC Chairman Ved Prakash didn't respond to calls and messages.
Why has UGC drawn flak?
UGC is an autonomous body, which is headquartered in Delhi, runs its operations through six regional centres in Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore. It was formed in 1956 as a statutory body. The commission has drawn flak from every quarter over years for its mishandling of the affairs related to higher education. Ved Prakash also courted a controversy when he reportedly retired himself as an employee of the commission at the age of 62 and fixed his pension and got reappointed himself as its chairperson till 2017.
How will the overhaul help?
The MHRD move is supposed to be a step towards restructuring underperforming higher education bodies, a long-pending demand of the educationists who have been pointing out at the mess in higher education including uncontrolled growth of colleges with no check of quality of education for many years. No Indian University figuring in top 100 world universities ranking was another sore point which hurt the image of Indian higher education system despite being one of the largest in the world.
What are limitations of UGC?
The UGC act was enacted in 1956 when only 20 varsities and 500 colleges with 0.21 million students were there across the country. This has now grown to 726 varsities and 38,000 and 28 million students. "The UGC has no mechanism to ensure follow up on compliance. These limitations can only be overcome by a thorough review and amending the UGC Act," said an official of MHRD.