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 in the winter session of Parliament.
It proposes to bring almost all areas of higher education — including technical, architectural and legal courses — under the ambit of a single umbrella body. Medical education, however, will not come under the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), according to the draft Bill.
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 Human Resource Development Minister. Instead, a new autonomous body will be created to supervise the doling out of funds to higher education institutions, according to a senior Ministry official.
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.
“We received more than 50,000 pieces of feedback when the draft HECI Bill was made public last year. We have taken into account the sense of the people, and have removed the proposal for an advisory board to the Minister disbursing grants,” a senior official told The Hindu on Wednesday. The Ministry’s five-year strategy plan, released in June, had recommended that fund disbursal be done by a special purpose vehicle. “It could be done by an SPV. It could be done by an independent body under the HECI itself. It will certainly be done by an autonomous body,” added the official.
Other changes include an increase in the number of State representatives in the HECI, to counter fears of states losing their autonomy. The new version of the Bill also removes the requirement that existing institutions must take permission from HECI for their current courses.
The new version of the HECI Bill will not be placed in the public domain before it is introduced in Parliament, despite several major changes from the original draft. “It is currently being circulated among the other Ministries for comment, and is likely to go to Cabinet in the second week of October,” said the official.