Issues

Aiming at access, equity, quality

Enhancing equity: The UGC has proposed 20 women’s universities during the 12th Five Year Plan period.  

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has recommended enhancement of the triple objectives of access and expansion, equity and inclusion, and quality and excellence in the higher education sector under the 12th Five Year Plan.

In its 12th Plan document compiling significant ideas on possible strategies for the Plan proposals submitted to the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, the commission has proposed the Mission Mode National Programme of Enhancing Access.

“Rashtriya Uchch Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), similar to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), may be launched during the 12th Five Year Plan in order to attract a large number of youth coming out of expanded secondary education. Autonomous colleges which are identified as Colleges with Potential for Excellence (CPE) by the UGC and having a student strength of more than 3,000 can be converted into universities/PPP [public-private partnership] mode deemed to be universities,” says the document compiled by a team led by UGC Chairman Ved Prakash.

The document suggests that colleges which have received ‘A' grade accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and which have proved their sustainability for two consecutive periods of accreditation may be upgraded into unitary universities. This may be done for all eligible Central and State government-funded institutions.

“Increasing the intake capacity of the existing colleges and universities will certainly be more cost effective to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and it will drastically reduce the unit cost per student. For enhancing participation in higher education, the underutilisation could be because of lack of resources, infrastructure, and faculty or it may be a conservative approach maintained by the institutions not to increase quantity on the assumption of likely lowering of standards,” it says.

The top priority and thrust in the 12th Five Year Plan may be on capacity building and optimum utilisation of land, space, and faculty by fixing the minimum student strength and land area ratio for colleges and universities. This may also help the universities and colleges attain this critical mass and decrease the unit cost of education in areas of shared use.

To utilise optimally the enormous infrastructure and facilities which remain unused for an average 16-18 hours a day, a proposal has been made to introduce the shift system in colleges, effectively supported by separate qualified teachers, and evening postgraduate degree and diploma programmes in university departments for candidates in employment, which, besides enhancing enrolment, will provide opportunities to the working class for improving their academic and professional qualifications.

The UGC document recommends introduction of integrated programmes of five-year duration during the 12th Plan in the universities with a provision of lateral exit. This will not only enhance the GER but will also ensure better human resource and increase the potential of producing good researchers and teachers by exposing them to the university academics early.

Key recommendations

Some of the other key recommendations for enhancing access include:

A major amendment to the UGC Act may be needed to bring the targeted 20,000 government and government-aided colleges as against the present 6,811 colleges under Section 12(B) and make them eligible for funding by the UGC. This is needed in the 12th Five Year Plan for the 50 per cent increase in the intake proposed to reach the desired GER.

All government and government-aided colleges affiliated to various Central and State universities, after getting authenticated intimation from the State government concerned, should be automatically brought under Section 12(B) of the UGC Act, making them eligible for Union government grants through the UGC. A similar procedure can be adopted for all new public universities established by the Act of the State governments.

Establishing 1,000 polytechnics and 374 model colleges in low GER districts: The nature of the model colleges can either be general arts and science colleges or professional colleges or community colleges as per the requirement of the districts identified for the project.

In addition to the already proposed and partially implemented 374 model colleges scheme, a new scheme of constituent colleges has been proposed for the 40 Central universities in the country, with 20 colleges each in the respective States to be located in the district headquarters, taking the total to 800. This will balance the regional distribution of colleges based on the population density of the youth in the 18-23 age group.

Twenty women's universities have been proposed, facilitating the entry into higher education of women even from a very traditional background and rural and suburban areas. The Union government may have to fund their establishment during the Plan period and the State governments may provide the land and help to establish such universities.

The 20,000 government and aided colleges recommended to be brought under Section 12(B) of the UGC Act during the 12th Plan may be clustered to create 400 “college cluster universities.” These universities shall have to be created by the State through State legislation based on a model Act to be prepared and provided by the Union government and the UGC.

The 12 Plan document has recommended stepping up capacity and improvement of infrastructure which can attract and facilitate the retention of students from rural and backward areas as well as differently-abled and marginalised social groups to enhance equity and inclusion in higher education. The working group that prepared the document suggested introducing proactive measures through proper implementation of the reservation policy for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Castes, and the disadvantaged.

Other recommendations include increasing the incentives offered to differently-abled students as well as those from the marginalised sections so that they can participate in higher education and strengthening measures to increase the achievement capacity of students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and those from the marginalised sections so as to reduce the drop-out rate and improve performance.

To attract more girl students from the States where the rural or urban GER for girls in higher education is lower than 5 per cent of the male GER, a new scheme of women's higher education stipend (Mahila Uchha Shiksha Britti) may be introduced. This stipend may be awarded to girl students from rural and/or urban areas, as the case may be, who score higher than a certain grade in earlier public examinations and having family incomes less than a specified level.

The UGC has recommended the establishment of a national accreditation authority for specific disciplines to identify the top 50 universities and top 50 colleges for special funding by various governmental agencies and industry to enhance quality and excellence in higher education.

Brain gain policy

Stating that the 12th Five Year Plan should envisage effective implementation of the brain gain policy, the vision document points out that it must envisage newer initiatives to attract quality faculty, coupled with mobility across the regions, to meet the national-level teacher requirements. An accepted national policy for student-teacher ratio should be strictly adhered to in all colleges and universities. The ban on teacher recruitment by some State governments should be immediately lifted and also aided colleges should be allowed to fill the vacancies without hurdles.

During the Plan period, at least 20 new faculty development centres should be established by the UGC with special mandate to offer discipline-wise specific refresher programmes and ICT-linked teaching-learning-research training programmes that will continuously engage teachers in updating them.

The document has recommended the movement of faculty from one institution to another for a period of six months to two years and it should be facilitated through appropriate provisions and guidelines from the UGC. Appointment of overseas faculty as visiting faculty at par with local faculty in terms of remuneration and appointment of experts from industry in universities and colleges should be facilitated through special schemes.

Student mobility as an integral component of quality enhancement can be facilitated by opening up admissions to minimum 20 per cent of the seats to students from other States. This will benefit all the States and naturally promote student mobility. Recruitment of faculty should not be entirely from the products of the same university.

On the contrary, at least 20 per cent of the faculty should be from other States.

The UGC is hopeful that the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Planning Commission will take cognisance of the recommendations made in the document and provide necessary financial allocations for their effective implementation during the Plan.


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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 3:24:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/issues/Aiming-at-access-equity-quality/article13387328.ece

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