In what can be called as a major step to reform the higher education sector in the country, the Central government on Wednesday announced to repeal the UGC Act, 1951 and replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) with Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
“In a landmark decision, a draft Act for repeal of #UGC & setting up #HECI (Higher Education Commission of India) has been prepared,” Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
“The focus of Higher Education Commission of India will be on improving academic standards and the quality of Higher Education”, he added.
The HRD minister said that the draft act is in line with the commitment of the government to reform the regulatory mechanism and provide more autonomy to higher education institutes for promoting excellence and facilitating the holistic growth of the education system.
“The Central government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked on a process of reform of the regulatory agencies for the better administration of the higher education sector’, he said.
The minister said that several reform measures have also been launched – reform of the NAAC, regulation for grant of Graded Autonomy to Universities, granting of Autonomous status to colleges, the Regulation for Open Distance Learning, Regulation for Online degrees etc.
“The HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote use of educational technology etc,” he said, adding, “It will develop norms for setting standards for opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level.”
The HRD minister informed that the HECI will have the power to enforce compliance to the academic quality standards and will have the power to order the closure of sub-standard and bogus institutions.
“The HECI will provide a roadmap for mentoring of institutions found failing in maintaining the required academic standards,” he said.
The minister also stated that the HECI will encourage higher education institutions to formulate a Code of Good Practices covering promotion of research, teaching, and learning.
“The constitution of the Commission is strengthened by the cooperation of Chairpersons of regulatory bodies in higher education such as the AICTE and the NCTE. Moreover, the Chairpersons/Vice-Chairpersons and members will be scholars of eminence and stand in the field of academics and research, possessing leadership qualities, proven capacities for institution building and deep understanding of issues of higher education policy and practice”, he said.
The minister further said that an Advisory Council will be there to render advice to the HECI on matters concerning coordination and determination of standards in the country.
“This will be represented by the Chairpersons / Vice-Chairpersons of State Councils for Higher Education and chaired by the HRD minister”, he said, adding, “The Commission will also specify norms and processes for fixing of fee chargeable by higher education institutions and advice the Central Government or the state governments, as the case may be, regarding steps to be taken for making education affordable to all.”
The Commission will monitor, through a national data base, all matters covering the development of emerging fields of knowledge and balanced growth of higher education institutions in all spheres, especially in the promotion of academic quality in higher education.
The HRD Ministry has asked educationists, the general public and other stakeholders to give comments and suggestions before 5 pm on July 7 on the draft, which has been released on its website.