A single over-arching independent body in place of multiple higher education regulators to promote academic excellence and research was approved by Union Cabinet on Tuesday almost three years after the idea was born.
The National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), which will subsume existing regulators such as University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), will cover all streams of higher education except medical and agriculture.
Agriculture being a state subject cannot be covered under a Central law and Health Ministry opposed inclusion of medical in NCHER. The Cabinet recently approved a similar body for medical education.
The council will be 70 member body have representation from states and for professional bodies to decide on policy issues. The NCHER Bill proposes to have an 11 member executive committee to execute the decisions of the council.
The draft bill provide mandate to the council to bring reforms in higher education for setting up quality institutions across India with an aim to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 30 % by 2020 from 20 % in 2010.
There are over 11 million students pursuing higher education in more than 600 universities and 24,000 colleges. In the next five years, government expects new 700 universities and 10,000 colleges mostly by the private sector.
To achieve this, the council is expected to shift from multiple approval based approach to self-regulation based on accreditation. The new council would also prescribe academic and research quality norms from a university to a college for accreditation purpose
The council will also disburse the budget for higher education to institutions based on based on performance, in place of the existing demand driven practice. It will have powers to decide the curriculum of different streams of higher education and research.
NCHER will, however, not be a Constitutional status as recommended by Professor Yash Pal in his report in 2009 but would be an independent statutory body outside the purview of the HRD ministry. “It will be a body of academics for academics,” a government official commented.