In the winter session of Parliament, a Bill that aims to create a single regulator for higher education, replacing the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), is likely to be introduced. It proposes to bring almost all areas of higher education — including technical, architectural and legal courses — under the limits of a single umbrella body.
According to the draft Bill, medical education, however, will not come under the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). According to a senior ministry official, the new version of the legislation has also removed a controversial proposal to move grant disbursal authority from autonomous bodies and bring it directly under the control of the HRD Minister. Instead, a new autonomous body will be created to supervise the distribution funds to higher education institutions.
Union HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had informed the Parliament in July that the HECI will promote the quality of academic instruction, maintenance of academic standards and encourage autonomy of good performing educational institutions for free pursuit of knowledge, innovation, skills and entrepreneurship. “The aim is to be inclusive and offer opportunities to all, and also provide for comprehensive growth of higher education and research in a competitive global environment,” he had said.
UGC and AICTE are autonomous bodies which oversee the accreditation, regulation and maintenance of teaching, examination and research standards for universities and technical education institutions across the country. These academic functions will now be moved to the new HECI, as proposed in the draft Bill. However, AICTE and UGC are also responsible for disbursing public funds to Universities and colleges. The earlier version of the HECI Bill, introduced in June 2018, had envisaged these responsibilities being handed over to an advisory board under the HRD Minister.
The earlier draft bill had proposed HECI to control academic matters while an advisory board under the HRD minister would have been in charge of issuing monetary grants to universities. There was opposition from various student groups about handing over the financial control to the Ministry.