Its mandate will be to resolve issues arising out of provisions mandated by regulatory bodies
After lack of consensus stymied its efforts to create a single regulator through an Act of Parliament for all streams of higher education, the Human Resource Development Ministry has now set up an over-arching body though an administrative order.
The essential mandate of the Higher Education Apex Coordination Committee (HEACC) will be to resolve issues arising out of “varying and sometimes conflicting regulatory provisions” mandated by regulatory bodies and professional councils that have come up to maintain standards in specialised areas.
The HEACC will be unlike the National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) — which was envisaged as a super-regulator by dismantling the University Grants Commission (UGC) — or the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) or the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). The office order makes it clear that it will not impinge on the authority or functioning of statutory regulatory bodies or professional councils.
The six-member body will be headed by the HRD Minister and will include the UGC and the AICTE chairpersons, besides the president of the Council of Architecture. It will be serviced by the UGC and will meet once every three months.
Watered down version
That the HEACC is a watered down version of the NCHER is evident from the fact that the order borrows heavily from the Statement of Objects and Reasons of The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011. The Bill was introduced in Parliament and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which raised questions about some of its provisions, especially the States’ concerns at their autonomy and jurisdiction in higher education and the practicality of an over-centralised jumbo body.
As the Health Ministry opposed the HRD Ministry’s bid to extend its mandate to health education and the Bar Council of India was worried that the NCHER would encroach on its control over legal education, the attempt to set up the super-regulator was given up earlier this year.
Since then, the HRD Ministry has been working on a coordination mechanism for the regulators within its purview.