Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Scrapping of the University Grants Commission: A Welcome Move

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The NDA Government at the Center has taken a major decision: the scrapping of the University Grants" Commission. For over 60 years this large unwieldy body was running the Higher Education scene in India and the chaos in Indian  Universities is largely the consequence of the UGC pursing policies that ultimately proved self defeating. Set in 1956, the UGC was mandated to act as a funding agency for Indian Universities.Its original purpose was to ensure that Universities  received funds as per their allocated budget. At the time the UGC was established there were less than 50 Universities in India and the task of fund distribution was relatively simple. A fixed sum of money was apportioned to Universities and College and the bulk of the spending was on the six Central Universities which came directly under the Central Government. When Professor Nurul Hassan the Communist turned Congressman became the Minister for Education, the UGC began to acquire a stranglehold over the University and Higher Education Institutions all over India. By the simple expedient of tying financial assistance to policy initiative, the UGC became over the decades the sole arbiter of Indian education. It conducted the National Eligibility Test (NET), it granted Major and MInor Research Projects, it prescribed the Curriculum to Indian Universities in the form of its Model Curriculum, it set personnel policies for those employed in Universities and Colleges by prescribing norms and criteria for promotion. It was the UGC which came up with the horrendous system of API on the basis of the recommendation of the S P Tyagarajan Committee. In the name of encouraging Reseach, the UGC decided to introduce the Academic Performance Indicators (API) which in turn was pegged tom promotions. Teachers were made to perform like circus animals in order to acquire the required score. In the process, teaching suffered and research which was done was, at best of indifferent quality.

The proliferation of the ON line Journals which were on the approved list of the UGC spawned an industry of predatory journals and thanks to the wrong policies of the UGC India has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of predatory journals in the world.

All this will change under the new legislation which separates the role of funding and finance from that of the regulator. The new body which will be formed will look after the regulatory aspects of Higher Education and funding will be directly monitored by the MHRD. This will make the policy implementation simpler and there will be less scope for corruption. One of the lesser known aspects of Indian higher education is that it is one of the most corrupt in the world. Major Reseach Projects submitted for projects that run into crores are little more than recycled M Phil and Ph D theses. Same project is resubmitted several times and funding is generated. O f course, now the Turn-it In anti plagiarism test is being encouraged.

The UGC was averse to the participation of foreign universities in the higher education market. This will also change. Another important change is the growing importance that is being given to NIRF ranking. The NIRF ranking is now essential for funding and NAAC accreditation. These changes have improved the quality of Indian education. Though we have long ways to go.

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