Yashpal committee suggests new apex body for higher education

Deepa Kurup

Stop licensing deemed universities; strengthen under-graduate programmes

BANGALORE: The creation of a National Commission for Higher Education and Research that will subsume as many as 13 existing professional councils and regulatory agencies, including the University Grants Commission, the Medical Council of India and the AICTE, is a key recommendation of a committee headed by well-known educationist Yashpal. The 43-page final report by the “committee to advise on renovation and rejuvenation of higher education in India,” will be handed over to the Ministry of Human Resource Development MHRD after its formal adoption on June 22, a committee-member told The Hindu.

The concept of the Higher Education Council, proposed in its interim draft released in March, was expanded to bring research bodies and laboratories into its ambit, and a draft legislation for constitutional amendment was included.

The proposed autonomous statutory body will comprise six members and a chairman appointed by the President. State Higher Education Councils, along the lines of those existing in West Bengal, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, will form the second tier of the system.

Accreditation norms

Taking a firm stand against the liberal granting of deemed university status by the UGC in recent years, the Committee recommended that approvals for deemed universities be stopped forthwith. Further, all existing ones must submit to new accreditation norms within three years failing which they will lose their deemed tag.

There has been considerable misuse of Section 3 of the UGC Act that frames the guidelines for according deemed status, the report states. “In the last five years, 36 institutions, excluding RECs, have been notified as deemed universities, raising concerns that a majority of these institutes are not established with any educational purpose,” the report states. From 1956-90 only 29 institutions were permitted, whereas 63 institutes have been granted deemed status in the last 15 years.

The committee has stressed the need for more attention to under-graduate programmes and a multi-disciplinary approach to learning.

The IITs and IIMs, “which are bright spots in the otherwise dismal higher education scenario” should, while keeping intact their unique features, expand their academic reach to include the humanities and arts, and function as full-fledged universities.

The committee recommends that all research bodies connect with universities in their vicinity, and all universities combine teaching and research.

Pointing to the practice of private managements running educational institutions as profit making enterprises, the committee stressed the need for “different layers of institutions” in the sector, including state-run, private and those established under public-private partnerships. “To make all of them work efficiently and serve overall national goals is the framing of rational and consistent ground rules overseen by a transparent regulatory mechanism,” the report states.

On the contentious issue of the entry of foreign universities, the committee strikes a cautious note. “Giving an open license to all and sundry, carrying a foreign ownership tag to function like universities in India, most of them not even known in their own countries, would only help them earn profit for their parent institutions located outside or accrue profit to the shareholders. Such institutions must give an Indian degree and be subject to all rules and regulations that would apply to any Indian university,” the committee states.

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