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Higher education revamp

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  13 Jun 2017 12:00 AM GMT

After scrapping the Planning Commission, administering currency flushout shock to the economy and pushing through GST and other key reforms, Prime Minister rendra Modi has the country’s higher education system in his sights. A legislation is being framed to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). A new regulator — the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) — is being proposed to take their place. The idea is that a single regulator would bring about ‘better outcomes’. This is in line with the focus on learning outcomes around which the Central government is tailoring its educatiol policy. To get more mileage out of every precious rupee spent on education, the overriding question being asked is — what is the ‘essential learning’ learners have achieved and can apply fruitfully at the end of their course. The decision to introduce radical reforms in higher education was taken at a meeting in March last, chaired by the Prime Minister with the HRD ministry and NITI-Aayog providing the major inputs. It was later clarified that several reform ideas discussed have long been floating around, given by a succession of committees including the Yashpal panel during UPA rule and Hari Gautam panel set up by the present NDA regime. Before HEERA becomes a reality, the decks are being cleared to tweak the UGC and AICTE Acts and regulations accordingly. A pointer to changing times is the tightening up of norms for admission to PhD courses, with only candidates who have qualified in NET/SLET/SET eligibility tests allowed to enrol for doctoral degree. The government’s argument is that with the rest of the world swearing by synergy, it is simply outdated to artificially distinguish between technical and non-technical education, and have separate watchdog bodies overseeing their development. This has caused various ‘overlaps in jurisdiction and regulatory provisions that are no longer relevant’, which the HEERA reform proposes to elimite. The thinking is that a single regulator will bring about greater coordition among institutions of higher learning, it will eble framing of better curricula in tune with global standards, and it can take strong pel action whenever necessary. In this context, the UGC’s ‘inspector raj and harassment’ has found particular mention, which HEERA will be mandated to put an end to. This is a significant point, for the UGC has been accused many a times in the past of giving accreditation to suspect educatiol institutes; many such institutes have been known to hand out PhDs right and left. Assam too has been impacted by such malpractice, with a sizeable number of college teachers known to have furnished PhDs from dubious institutes thriving with the UGC’s blessings. The question is whether the new legislation being framed by HRD Ministry and NITI-Aayog — promised as a ‘short and clean’ reform — will ensure transparency and fair practices in such matters.

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