The HRD Ministry introduced the draft bill on creation of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) that will replace existing statutory bodies like University Grants commission (UGC), All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council of Teachers Education (NCTE).
Under criticism from his Cabinet colleagues, Union Human Resource Development Minister, Kapil Sibal sought to clarify that the final decision on the proposed National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) remained with the government at the “highest level” and that the decision would be “acceptable” to the Ministry. The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Bar Council of India oppose the idea of transferring medical and legal education to the Human Resource Development Ministry, which is piloting the legislation and which has set up the task force on the draft NCHER bill. The task force decided to set up an ‘informal’ committee of four eminent persons. It will study the drafts of the NCHER and National Council for Human Resource in Health (NCHRH) bills to ensure there was no overlap. The committee will comprise Srinath Reddy and Ranjit Roy Choudhary (both members of the NCHRH task force) and M.K. Bhan and Syeda Hamid (both members of the NCHER task force.)
Mr. Sibal said the inputs received at the consultation would be taken into account while finalizing the draft NCHER bill before it was placed before the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) next month. After the CABE approved it, the draft Bill would be sent to the government. Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has come under criticism from his own colleagues in the Congress for his “proposal of transferring medical education” from the Health Ministry to the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). The task force that is finalizing the regulatory commission has been constituted by the HRD Ministry. Mr. Sibal wants to create a new national body to control and supervise the departments of higher and technical education.
Norms of NCHER
The draft NCHER bill says that the proposed body will specify norms and standards for grant of authorisation to a university or a higher educational institution to commence its academic operations.
No university or institution empowered by or under law to award any degree or diploma established after the coming into force of this Act shall commence academic operations unless it is so recognised, it said. The new institution will furnish documents on accreditation when applying for authorisation.
However, a university or institution deemed to be university existing before the commencement of the Act shall be deemed to have been authorised under it, unless revoked.
The NCHER will maintain a national registry with names of eligible persons for the post of vice chancellors. In case of vacancy, the NCHER will suggest five names from the registry for the post.
Members of NCHER
The NCHER will have seven members, including the chairperson. The chairperson and other members will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of a selection committee headed by prime minister.
Other members of the selection committee shall be the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, minister in charge of higher education and minister in charge of medical education.
The chairperson and three other members shall work whole-time and get salaries. They should be scholars with standing in the field of academics and research. The salaries and allowances of the whole-time members other than the chairperson shall be the same as of an election commissioner.
Besides, there will be a collegium which will aid, advise and make recommendations to the Commission for coordination, maintenance of standards in and promotion of higher education and research.
The collegium shall recommend names of eligible persons for inclusion in the national registry of prospective vice chancellors to be maintained by the NCHER.
The NCHER shall recommend five names form the registry for appointment to the post of vice chancellor of Central universities or head of such institutions.
When called upon by the states, it will recommend five names for the vice chancellor for the state university. No person shall be eligible for and qualified for the post of VC unless his name is included in the registry.
Authorization of Universities and Colleges
The draft bill says that an institute or university will apply to the commission for grant of authorisation for starting operations.
It will furnish all documents and an assessment report from a registered accreditation agency. The commission shall examine the application and the assessment report to ensure that it complies with the norms of the academic quality specified under regulation for grant of authorisation.
Within 30 days of the application, the commission shall decide to declare its intent to grant authorisation if the application complies with the norms of academic quality. Or else, the Commission will reject the application.
After it gives its intent, the commission will issue a public notice on its website, inviting comments and objections. Within four months of receipt of application, the commission will issue authorisation to such institution or university. When it will reject the applications, it will give reasons for that in writing.
The commission shall validate periodically the standards and academic quality of such institutions. The commission may revoke the authorisation in case of wilful or continuous default of provisions by the institute. However, it will give a notice to the institute before taking such an action.
Objectives of National Commission on Higher Education and Research
The Commission shall:
- Be responsible for comprehensive, holistic evolution of HE sector;
- Strategize and Steer the expansion of higher education;
- Ensure autonomy of the universities and shield them from interference by external agencies;
- Acts as a catalyst and also as a conduit to encourage joint/crossdisciplinary programs between and amongst Universities and Institutes;
- Spearhead continuous reforms and renovation in the area of higher education;
- Establish robust global connectivity and make it globally competitive while creating our own world class standards;
- Promote greater engagement and enhancing resources to State universities with an aim to bridge the divide between the State and Central universities;
- Ensure good governance, transparency and quality in higher education;
- Connect with industry and other economic sectors to promote innovations;
- Devise mechanisms for social audit processes and public feedback on its performance and its achievements; and
- Devise mechanisms for social audit processes and public feedback on its performance and achievements.