Eminent educationists have welcomed the idea of the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) replacing all higher education regulatory/monitoring bodies, under an Act of Parliament, to infuse vibrancy into the system.

Addressing the media after a Round Table discussion on ‘Whither Education', here on Sunday, four resource persons constituting former Vice-Chancellors of Bharathidasan University P.S. Mani Sundaram, A. Gnanam, and C. Thangamuthu, and present Vice-Chancellor M. Ponnavaikko told presspersons that multiple regulatory bodies had ruined the university system, and that NCHER provided hope for restoration of autonomy to universities.

The purpose of the round table discussion organised by P. Gnanadurai Michael, Consultant for Asia (Retd.), CBM International, and K. Thiruneelakantan, Deputy Registrar (Retd.), Bharathidasan University, was to arrive at the right direction for higher education after evaluating the prospects and consequences of the NCHER in the wake of political opposition to it in a few States, including Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Lack of co-ordination

Most of the 18 participants comprising representatives of higher education, school education, industry and media, and medical field acknowledged that the multi-regulatory system involving the University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education, Medical Council of India, Bar Council of India, Dental Council of India, Pharmacy Council of India, National Council for Teacher Education, and Distance Education Council has resulted in lack of co-ordination among the statutory bodies regarding approval, accreditation process, and degree durations. They were in favour of the NCHER for promotion of autonomy of higher educational institutions for free pursuit of knowledge and innovation, facilitating access, inclusion and opportunities to all, and providing comprehensive and holistic growth of higher education and research in a competitive global environment.

“We will make a strong recommendation to the Ministry of Human Resource Development favouring the NCHER,” Prof. Manisundaram, who chaired the discussion, said. The main feature of the draft bill is that NCHER (consisting of seven members – a Chairperson and six other members – appointed by the President on the recommendation of a selection committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Union Minister in charge of Higher Education) will keep a National Registry of eminent academicians eligible to be considered for the post of Vice-Chancellors of universities.

Analogous to ECs

The position of Chairperson of the proposed Commission will be analogous to that of election commissioners.

The resource persons also emphasised on doing away with the affiliation system. “Only India is continuing with the affiliation system,” Dr. Gnanam pointed out. Prof. Ponnavaikko spoke in favour of universities starting undergraduate programmes, making the most of the infrastructure facilities, alongside concentrating on research. Autonomous colleges of universities could function as stand-alone institutions for undergraduate education, and award degrees.

The rest of the affiliated institutions can be monitored by forming Undergraduate Board of Studies at the level of each State till they (the colleges) gain confidence to stand on their own, Dr. Thangamuthu said.

He advocated a composite character for university, endorsing the view of Mr. Gnanadurai Michael that separate universities for Engineering, Medicine, Law, Agriculture, Education, Physical Education etc., have compartmentalised higher education leaving no scope for multi-disciplinary approach.