National Education Policy – Higher Education Reforms 

Higher Education in India is up for an overhaul with the National Education Policy 2020 bringing in multi-dimensional changes – right from the regulatory framework to curriculum structure and research environment. 

First and foremost, the announcement of the much-awaited National Education Policy (NEP) has cleared the path for setting up a single regulatory body for country’s higher education. The regulatory body, that is to be named the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), will function as the single authority for all public and private educational institutions (except those involved in medical and law education). In addition to this, a National Research Foundation will be created to oversee all research activities to be carried out by the various academic institutions in the country. 

The NEP 2020 has aimed at almost doubling the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to 50 per cent by the year 2035, as compared to the current GER of 26.3%. It also has provision for greater autonomy to the academic institutions offering quality higher education. 

NEP 2020 – Highlights for Higher Education 

S. No.  NEP for Higher Education – Key Highlights 
1 Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education to be raised to 50% by 2035
2 Around 3.5 crore seats to be added in higher education
3 Undergraduate education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification at different stages
4 Academic Bank of Credits to be established to facilitate Transfer of Credits for lateral admission to other institutes
5 Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs and IIMs, to be set up as models of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country
6 The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education
7 Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body for the entire higher education system, excluding medical and legal education. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.
8 Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges 

Besides the above key changes, the NEP 2020 has proposed to set up an autonomous body – the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), to provide a platform for free exchange of ideas on the use of technology in order to enhance learning, assessment, planning, and administration.

The National Education Policy has also emphasized on setting up of a Gender Inclusion Fund which is aimed at creating an environment of equitable and fair quality education for girls as well as transgender students.  Also, as per the NEP document, Special Education Zones will be created for disadvantaged regions and groups which will make higher education opportunities more accessible for students.

Flexible UG Courses with Multiple Entries and Exits 

As per the NEP, the students will now have options of multiple exits during their UG programme. For example, a student can exit just after 1st year of graduation with a certificate in hand. If he/she opts to exit after the second year, an Advanced Diploma will be awarded for 2 years of successful completion of study. As usual, the 3rd year of UG completion will result in a Bachelor’s Degree and 4th year of UG completion will be awarded with a Bachelor’s of Research.

NEP 2020 – UG Exit Options 

Option No. Options  Academic Recognition 
1 After 1st year of UG programme Certificate
2 After 2nd year of UG programme Advanced Diploma
3 After 3rd year of UG programme Bachelor’s Degree
4 After 4th year of UG programme Bachelor’s with Research

Further, the credits earned at various levels will get credited into a digitalised Academic Bank of Credit. Students can use their earned credits to take admission in another institution to further continue their studies for the remaining year/s of their graduation courses. 

HECI – A Single Regulatory Body with 4 Verticals 

As per the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, a single regulatory body will guide Higher Education in India. The regulatory body named as Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will have 4 verticals to deal with different functions of higher education.

Serial No HECI Vertical  Function 
1 National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) Creating and Implementing Higher Education regulation 
2 General Education Council (GEC) Standard setting for academia 
3 Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) For funding academic and research activities 
4 National Accreditation Council (NAC) Accreditation to academic institutions

NEP 2020 – Focus on Research 

As per the National Education Policy, a central body named National Research Foundation will be created to build a strong research culture and research capacity across different domains in higher education.

To enhance both the quality and capacity of academic research, the government will establish multi-disciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). 

NEP 2020 – Greater Autonomy and Multi-disciplinary Approach 

The policy has envisioned phasing out the system of affiliation over the next 15 years and providing graded autonomy to colleges. Thus, over the coming decade, every college would develop into either an autonomous degree-granting college or a constituent college of a university.

Also, the policy aims at focusing on multi-disciplinary culture in institutions offering professional education. For example, stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will be helped to become multi-disciplinary institutions.  

NEP 2020 – Use of Technology in Higher Education

National Education Policy 2020 has emphasised the use of technology in multiple ways to enhance the teaching-learning experience and also to make quality education accessible for masses. As per the NEP document, the use of technology will be taken to the next level to “ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible.” This step carries special significance in the backdrop of the COVID 19 pandemic, forcing the majority of institutions to switch their teaching-learning mode from in-person offline method to virtual learning in online mode. 

To promote ‘Online Education and Digital Education’, a dedicated unit will be set up to facilitate building of digital infrastructure, digital content and also to look after the e-education needs at the level of both school and higher education.

Further, under the ‘Open and Distance Learning’ will be made more relevant with credit-based recognition of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to make these courses at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

The government will also set up an autonomous body – National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), which will work as a platform for free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, and administration.