Friday, June 21, 2024
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Higher education regulator

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The Union Cabinet has approved a single independent regulator for higher education. The regulator is expected to push reforms and put an end to the stagnation in the higher education sector in India. Only medical and agricultural studies will be out of its purview. The proposed National Council for Higher Education (NCHER) will merge existing regulatory bodies like the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education. At present there is a multiple approval system under the plethora of regulators. That stifles innovation and discourages private sector participation and investment in higher education. The proposed NCHER has apparently been asked to develop a national curriculum. But such a curriculum should only be of a recommendatory nature. It will only replicate the old order if the curriculum is made mandatory, annihilating the innovative spirit.

Of course, the NCHER should tread softly if it is to be effective. Its focus should be on promoting academic excellence and ensuring institutional autonomy. Knowledge expert Sam Pitroda has been advocating it all along. The Authority should guarantee transparency in functioning. Market forces should be brought into play to throw up the best. It may be a good idea to introduce an accreditation based process of certifying Universities. Secondly, investors in higher education should be given the right to make profit which will stimulate their interest. The government proposes to incentivise the creation of seven hundred new universities and ten thousand new colleges in the next five years. The question is whether such multiplication of numbers is the road to reform.

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