The taskforce advising the Union government on the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill allayed the State’s fears that the proposed Bill would lead to an over-centralising of powers in higher education.

At the national consultation held at Anna University on Wednesday, the task force said the proposed Bill would provide more autonomy to universities and remove the centralised powers vested with bodies such as the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

M. Anandakrishnan, member of the task force, said concerns had been raised about the national registry of persons eligible and qualified for appointment as Vice-Chancellors. He said the registry would be a mechanism for appointment of people of proven quality. It would eliminate the scope for use of money or political power in these appointments and create norms for Vice-Chancellors.

The names would be suggested by the State government and the NCHER would vet them. If there were specific concerns, they would be addressed through specific provisions, he said.

Other questions raised including the composition and strength of the commission and other bodies would be taken note of by the task force, he said.

He clarified that the National Testing Scheme mooted by the Union government would be implemented only after studying the situation in different States and after taking the welfare of students into consideration. But a uniform testing system would help students who were faced with hundreds of tests conducted by different institutions, the members said.

On the consultations held in Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram, Mr. Anandakrishnan said, “constructive suggestions” were offered in Bangalore where more than 80 per cent of the participants expressed support for the Bill. In Kerala, there was concern that the States’ autonomy would be eroded but there were no serious reservations about the Bill’s provisions itself, he said.

Goverdhan Mehta, another task force member, said most Vice-Chancellors in Tamil Nadu universities had reflected the State government’s views and some were strongly opposed to the Bill while others were only mildly opposed to it.

S. Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean – planning and development, SASTRA University, said his university welcomed the Bill. But he said there were some concerns relating to the provisions to be made for deemed universities. He also asked why medical education had been left out of the ambit of the Bill.

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