Govt withdraws bill on higher education, research

Govt withdraws bill on higher education, research

Government today decided to withdraw a controversial legislation which sought to create an overarching body in the higher education subsuming existing regulatory bodies such as UGC, AICTE and NCTE.

The decision was taken keeping in mind the objections of the Parliamentary Panel to various provisions of the bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 had sought to establish a National Commission for Higher Education and Research.

Its mandate was to determine, coordinate, maintain and promote standards of higher education and research other than agricultural education and minimum standards of medical education.

The bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2011 by then HRD Minister Kapil Sibal but failed to evolve a consensus as several parties raised objections to the provisions of the legislation.
Since then, it was put aside for passage of other crucial bills on reforms in higher education.
"The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today gave its approval for withdrawal of the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 from Parliament (Rajya Sabha)," a government statement said.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD had expressed its concerns on certain provisions of the bill more so on a provision to subsume University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE).

With the withdrawal of the bill, the government made its intention clear about strengthening UGC.

The government statement said a UGC review committee has been constituted recognising the need for restructuring the UGC and reshaping its educational leadership and regulatory role to address imperatives and challenges in the higher education sector in the country.
The committee would evaluate the performance of the UGC in coordinating and determining the standards of education in universities, conducting an audit of its regulatory reach and requirement of regulatory space for the UGC with respect to other regulatory bodies in the higher education sector.

It would also introduce a performance based system of release of funds and align it to the "Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) guidelines.

The Parliamentary panel had suggested that the regulatory bodies should instead be re-structured and strengthened, taking the long awaited corrective measures.

The report also felt that centralisation of powers instead of assignment of roles and functions to the state governments were detrimental to the federal nature of Indian polity.
"The performance of existing regulatory bodies should be reviewed to identify problems and areas of weaknesses in them and undertake necessary corrective measures as required," it said.

While the bill sought to set up NCHER subsuming existing higher education regulatory bodies such as UGC and AICTE and NCTE, the standing committee on HRD objected to it in its report submitted in 2012.

It had recommended that NCHER's role should be that of a facilitator and coordinator giving directions in which higher education should be steered.

It said UGC, AICTE and NCTE should be allowed to function under the overall supervision of NCHER.

Officials said a number of recommendations of standing committee has been accepted by the government.

The standing committee had recommended that the provisions that affect the autonomy of higher educational institutions should be reviewed and modified.

It had advised that universities should continue to have the power to enrol students for a new course or programme and had also said that that all members of NCHER should be full-time members.

The previous government had also decided to keep the regulatory body governing medical education out of its purview following stiff opposition from the medical fraternity.

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