A high-power committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, tasked with drawing a blueprint for a new national education policy, has recommended that the law that set up the higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) be allowed to lapse.
The committee’s report, submitted recently to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, says the UGC has been unable to effectively implement its regulations aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education in the country over the years.
The panel has instead suggested an alternative arrangement for a pruned UGC.
“The UGC could be revamped, made considerably leaner and thinner, and could be the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function,” it said.
The UGC’s mandate includes overseeing disbursal of grants to colleges and fellowships to students, and recognising and monitoring institutions.
“The Committee was informed that there are widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses. There are serious concerns about the quality of education provided by a large number of colleges/universities; it is the responsibility of the UGC to monitor standards of education in higher education institutions and the UGC has not succeeded in ensuring this. The credibility of the UGC has been seriously dented by approvals given to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities,” says the report.
The Subramanian Commission report, of which The Hindu has a copy, refers to a recent “expert committee’s” examination of the working of the UGC.
“An expert Committee recently has examined thoroughly the past, present and future role of UGC; the report is under examination by the Ministry. It is understood that the report had concluded that the UGC does not have the adequate number of personnel, of requisite quality, to be an effective regulatory force in the higher education sector,” says the TSR Subramanian Commission report, referring to the recent Hari Gautam committee report. “It is recommended that as the new overarching higher education management law is enacted, which the Committee suggests should be very soon, the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse.”
The panel also suggests an alternative arrangement of a pruned UGC. “The UGC could be revamped, made considerably leaner and thinner, and could be the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function.”
“This is one of a series of reforms that need to be undertaken, including improvement of quality, recruiting better faculty, improving research, etc. See the reforms as a whole,” a member of the Subramanian . Veteran educationist Krishna Kumar said the Yashpal Committee of which he had been a member had suggested subsuming of various authorities like UGC and AICTE — the technical education regulator — within a bigger platform providing interaction between different areas of knowledge.
The Subramanian-panel, however, believes that specialised functions should be undertaken by specialised bodies, a member of the panel said.Top UGC officials were not available for comment.