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Updated: May 12, 2010 14:26 IST

Prospects are good but...

Nagesh prabhu
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SUCCESS FORMULA: A young population coupled with low-cost and quality human resources will see opportunities moving to India. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf
SUCCESS FORMULA: A young population coupled with low-cost and quality human resources will see opportunities moving to India. Photo: Mohammed Yousuf

Experts say huge investments may flow into the education sector but the system is not yet ready for it.

The last few years have seen a slew of new initiatives undertaken by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government towards reforming higher/university education. Two committees — National Knowledge Commission and the Yashpal Commission — have made a number of significant recommendations towards improving university education. The 11{+t}{+h} Five Year Plan has made a whopping allocation of Rs. 84,942.79 crore towards higher education and it set a target to increase the percentage of students going to higher education from the present 12 to 15 by the end of the Plan.

India's young demography coupled with low cost and quality human resources will see opportunities moving to India in a big way. Huge investment, both foreign and domestic, is likely to flow into the education sector in the coming days. As HRD Minister Kapil Sibal says, India needs 800 new universities and 40,000 colleges across the country not only to compete with the rest of the world, but also to take the percentage of graduates from the present 12 to 30 per cent by 2020.

Mr. Kapil Sibal points out that “The 21st century is likely to see investment in countries which are low-cost economy but high in human resources. The success that India has witnessed in the services sector will happen in the education sector…but the problem is that we are not ready for it. We have to ensure our systems are in place to take advantage of the opportunities. This is because the crowd is here, the market is here and the human resources is here and naturally the money will be here.”

Though the increase in share of private unaided institutions is a welcome development, experts have opined that the government needs to regulate the mushrooming deemed universities, engineering and management colleges “which are mere business entities dispensing very poor quality education.” Further, private institutions have improved access in a few select disciplines such as engineering, management, medicine, IT, etc. where students are willing to pay substantial fees.

According to Mr. Sibal, “We have to change the environment” for building centres of excellence. Noting that the academic world remains silent in the country, Mr. Sibal said “We would like to hear diversity of voices. You (academicians) need to participate and set up benchmarks for excellence.” He has also appealed to State Governments to set up a mechanism to improve academic climate and research in their universities. Recently, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj said the political interference will have to be toned down, which is crippling the system of state universities.

Four Bills

To improve the higher education system in the country, the UPA Government has introduced in the Lok Sabha a slew of legislative proposals providing for the prohibition of unfair practices in technical and medical educational institutions, the setting up of the National Educational Tribunal with a series of State Educational Tribunals to resolve disputes on service matters, the constitution of a National Accreditation Regulatory Authority and the Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, to enable foreign institutions to set up institutions.

The Prohibition of Unfair Practices in the Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010 bars accepting admission fee and other charges other than those declared by the institution in the prospectus. It prohibits admission without an entrance test that is required to be conducted according to the appropriate statutory authority. The Bill also prohibits capitation fee or demand by donation for admission and prohibition of advertisements not based on facts or are misleading. It provides for penalty up to Rs. 50 lakh for acts contrary to information in prospectus.

Tribunals

The Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010, provides for the establishment of the State Educational Tribunals and the National Education Tribunal. The tribunals will exercise power and authority on service matters of any teacher or any other employee of a higher educational institution, on matters relating to affiliation of any higher educational institution (not being an University) with the affiliating University, on matters relating to unfair practices by any higher educational institution and matters that might be assigned to them by any other law for the time being in force.

This Bill also makes the chairperson or members of a State Educational Tribunal and the National Educational Tribunal ineligible for a period of five years from the date they cease to hold office for further employment in any higher educational institution. It also provides for imprisonment for a term which might extend to three years or with fine which might extend to Rs. 10 lakh or with both in case of failure to comply with any order made by any State Educational Tribunal or the National Educational Tribunal.

The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010, postulates that every higher educational institution and every programme conducted by it should require accreditation in the manner provided in the proposed legislation. The authority is to promote the development and regulate the process of accreditation of higher educational institutions and to register and regulate the working of accreditation agencies, with only registered accreditation agencies undertaking accreditation of any higher educational institution or any programme of it.

Foreign institutions

The Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010, was introduced to regulate entry and operation of foreign educational institutions imparting or intending to impart higher education or practice of any profession, including award of degree, diploma and equivalent qualifications.

The Bill concedes that due to lack of policy or regulatory regime it was difficult to make “meaningful assessment of the operations of the foreign educational institutions.” It said the absence of such assessment has given rise to chances of adoption of unfair practices besides commercialisation of higher education in the country.

Accordingly, the Bill proposes that foreign educational institutions should not impart education in India unless they are recognised and notified by the Central Government as a foreign education provider and offer and impart education that is in conformity with the standards laid down by the statutory authority.

Corpus

Such foreign educational institutions operating in India should also maintain a corpus of not less than Rs. 50 crore or a sum notified by the Central Government.

The Bill gives the Centre the right to refuse recognition to a foreign educational institution as foreign education provider if it is not in the interest of the country in terms of sovereignty, integrity, security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or sensitivity of location of the foreign educational institutions.

The Centre can withdraw the recognition and rescind the notification of a foreign education provider on the grounds of violation of the provisions of the proposed legislation or the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, or any other law for the time being in force, the Bill says, and adds that on such withdrawal or revocation of notification, the Central Government should make alternative arrangements.

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