Big-bang education reform is on its way – the Modi government is all set to scrap the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and replace them with one higher education regulator, tentatively christened Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA).
The decision to go ahead with this radical change, long advocated by experts but never implemented, was taken after a meeting on education chaired by the prime minister in early March. If required, and since setting up a new regulator may take some time, amendments to existing rules will be considered as an interim reform measure.
Senior officials who spoke off record told ET that work is on at a rapid pace to frame the HEERA legislation. The human resource development (HRD) ministry and the Niti Aayog are working on the new law. A committee that has, among others, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and higher education secretary KK Sharma as members, is working on the detailed blueprint.
Greater Synergy Among Institutions
One senior official said replacing UGC and AICTE by a single regulator will be the “cleanest, most sweeping reform” that will “eliminate all overlaps in jurisdiction and also do away with regulatory provisions that may no longer be relevant”.
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While the idea of replacing multiple regulatory authorities with a single and streamlined one is not new – several committees including the Yashpal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission of the UPA era and the Hari Gautam Committee set up by this government have recommended the same – the reform never happened.
Officials told ET that the new regulatory legislation is likely to be short and clean and will outline minimum standards focused on outcomes. They also said separation of technical and nontechnical education is outmoded and out of sync with global practices, and that a single regulator will bring in greater synergy among institutions and in framing curricula.
HEERA is aimed at putting an end to the inspector raj and harassment that the UGC regime is associated with, another official said, but the new body will also be empowered to take strong penal action when necessary.
Since bringing in new legislation and repealing AICTE and UGC Acts may be a time-consuming process, interim measures are likely and amendments to these Acts and modification of UGC regulations are among options being considered.
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News Courtesy: The Economic Times (link)
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