15 developments in Indian higher-ed regulation that caught our eye in 2014

Here is a look at all Higher-ed regulations that made news in 2014

1. AICTE’s powers restored by Supreme Court

The year started with news on All India Council for Technical Education’s (AICTE) struggle with getting its regulatory role restored and getting the powers back from University Grants Commission (UGC). It ended with AICTE getting the rights for approving new and existing engineering colleges with AICTE Chairman SS Mantha stating to the press “The court has extended its permission allowing AICTE to grant approval to technical education institutions in the country by one more year. The council will start the approval process for 2015-16 academic year soon.”

The Supreme Court had stopped the AICTE from regulating technical institutions in the country last year. The UGC then issued guidelines, banned new institutions and increased student intake seemingly taking over AICTE’s powers. The Supreme Court restored the power to AICTE later in the year.


2. UGC to extend college principals’ tenure to 10 yrs

The UGC may amend its regulations of 2010 on minimum qualifications for appointment of teachers and other academic staff in order to give college principals a 10-year fixed term in their offices instead of the present five year term. News in popular media stated that the commission approved the proposal to extend the tenure, to allow states and varsities to appoint more young people and give them enough time to work on transforming their institutions. However the 10-year term will be applicable to only those states and institutions where term of a principal is fixed.


3. NBA now autonomous

In March 2014 the country’s accreditation agency for engineering institutions National Board of Accreditation (NBA) was made autonomous.

The NBA was part of the AICTE previously and accredited programs. The government declared that it would restrain itself on doing professional work of accreditation and create only broad, enabling conditions. The government also stated that they may use private firms to assess and accredit educational institutes.


4. Dual accreditation for Tech institutes: UGC

At the time when UGC had taken over the charge of looking after technical institutions it had declared that technical institutes offering courses in engineering, pharmacy, hotel management, etc will require dual accreditation. The institutes will have to get approval from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and the programs offered will have to be assessed by the NBA. At the time this decision was made, the process of approval of new institutes, earlier done by the AICTE, had been merged with that of the affiliation process to be done by universities.


5. UGC proposes cluster colleges as alternative to deemed universities

In April 2014 the UGC announced that it plans to introduce cluster colleges as an alternative to deemed universities. After the 2010 court case that challenged the 2010 UGC regulations on deemed universities, no new deemed universities has been formed. UGC however wanted to get a few big universities to disaffiliate some institutions and give them independent powers to help them run more smoothly.

Large varsities like Osmania University with 900 affiliated colleges, Pune University with 811 and Tamil Nadu Teachers' Education University with 661 colleges are too big to manage properly. The UGC said that it wants to help them form groups of colleges under the same management to disaffiliate from the university. The cluster colleges will then be made into degree awarding institutions.


6. UGC, AICTE to govern distance courses

The UGC and the AICTE took over the Distance Education Council (DEC) of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

The new guidelines for the promotion and coordination of its programs came from the Prof NR Madhav Menon committee. The committee said that no stand-alone institutions will offer distance courses. These courses can now only be provided through state, central or deemed universities.

An order of the ministry of human research development dated December 29, 2012 gave the role of the DEC and all its responsibilities to the UGC and the AICTE.


7. AICTE, COA vie for control of B.Arch

In May a tussle between the AICTE and the Council of Architecture (COA) on who governs architecture colleges in the country came to the fore. The AICTE declared 116 architecture colleges as unapproved while the COA claimed that they are under its control.

AICTE put up a list of 116 unapproved architecture colleges on its website. These colleges had got approval from the COA, but the AICTE said that architecture is a technical program and colleges offering these courses should get prior approval from the council.


8. India now part of Washington Accord

In June India was declared as the 17th member of the exclusive Washington Accord. The membership means that there shall be equivalence of engineering degree programs and Indians can now practice engineering in other member countries. However India will have to sign the Seoul Accord to create similar equivalence of programs for IT engineers. Also the Washington Accord also does not mean that all engineering degrees by all Indian colleges will get equivalence with those of member countries. The NBA shortlisted around 220 engineering colleges as Tier-I institutes whose undergraduate engineering program is in tune with the Accord.

These Tier-I institutes will now have to apply afresh to NBA and only after extensive verification of their programs will be declared fit to be part of Washington Accord institutions.


9. UGC grants now with a deadline and penalty

UGC grants will now have a deadline for its utilization and a penalty of 10 per cent interest. If the grant is not used it will be taken back with the interest amount. The UGC warned colleges to use the funds within a year of its disbursement.

The conditions to release of grant will now be explicitly mentioned in the sanction order. UGC will also release funds in time so that colleges have sufficient time to utilize it within the financial year. Colleges often spend their grants at the last minute, buying laptops for administrative employees and installing cameras in classrooms and offices of principals. The utilization certificates of such purchases will no more be accepted and the colleges would have to pay for these purchases on their own.


10. NAAC becomes autonomous

In July 2014 the National Assessment and Accreditation Council started the process of attaining autonomy from the UGC. The decision to sever ties was taken at the NAAC's 66th executive council meeting.

The NAAC will function under the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry. The NAAC must now create new bylaws and amend its memorandum of association. The NAAC inspections which have been criticised with allegations of corruption will also be revamped.


11. UGC scholarships now open to third gender

The UGC will include transgender people as a separate category for its scholarship and fellowship schemes. Colleges have already recognized them and mentioned them in their application forms for gender choices.

The April 2014 SC judgment allowed an independent status for the third gender stating that eunuchs, apart from the binary gender, be treated as a third gender. This was done to safeguard their rights under the Indian Constitution and laws made by Parliament and state legislatures.


12. UGC bans all animal dissection

The UGC has completely banned the dissection of animals and experiments in zoology and life science departments. The ban earlier covered only the undergraduate level but will now cover the postgraduate level as well. Computer simulations, interactive CD-ROMs, films, charts have been recommended in place of experiments on live animals.


13. Smriti Irani looks to restructure UGC

The new HRD ministry on taking charge formed a committee in order to create a blueprint for restructuring the UGC in keeping with the BJP's promise to turn the UGC into a Higher Education Commission.

The UGC Act will be amended according to the committees’ inputs and recommendations. Former University Grants Commission Chairman Hari Gautam was chosen to head the committee whose members include CM Jariwala, former head and dean of law at Banaras Hindu University; Kapil Kapoor, former pro-vice chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University and the joint secretary of higher education in the ministry.

They will look into and evaluate the performance of the UGC in coordinating and determining standards of education. There shall be an audit of its regulatory reach with evaluations at UGC's regional offices and the inter university centers. They will also look into the relationship of the UGC with other regulatory authorities like the AICTE.


14. All India survey on higher education 2014-15

The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2014-15 an annual, web-based, pan-India exercise on the status of higher education since 2010-11 was launched in October. The survey aims to cover all the Higher Educational Institutions in India. In this survey data is gathered on several parameters like teachers, student enrolment, programs, examination results, education finance, infrastructure, etc. The survey helps in creation of a comprehensive database updated annually on the AISHE portal according to the information submitted by the institutions.


15. India adopts credit transfer system starting 11 November

India started a credit transfer system on 11 November, observed as the National Education Day. The credit equivalent framework was launched from the Class 9-12 level and is to extend to the PhD level in January.

The credit transfer system will help students who leave formal education for a job to resume studies. Universities directly under the union government have been told by the HRD ministry to adopt the credit transfer system.


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