Regardless of the repeated calls for reforms in regulatory bodies, two recent developments — elevation of RA Yadav as head of the All India Council of Technical Education and UGC secretary Raju Sharma’s arbitrary dismissal — are indicators of unending turmoil in higher education.
The National Knowledge Commission had sounded the first warning by terming the AICTE and the UGC, along with other regulatory bodies like the Medical Council of India, as stumbling blocks in the expansion of higher education.
To curb the government’s interference and make regulation transparent, it had recommended the setting up of the Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education with private participation. It’s been over a year, but there has been no forward movement on the issue.
The HRD Ministry told Rajya Sabha this week the matter was under consideration. But, fact is its minister Arjun Singh was critical of the NKC’s proposal and had, instead, suggested a Higher Education Commission, an idea that got a thumbs down from the PMO.
In this backdrop, Yadav’s appointment as chairperson of AICTE, the body accused of nepotism and corruption, shows that despite’s the Prime Minister’s repeated calls, reforms wouldn’t be easy in the higher education regulatory mechanism.
While Yadav’s highly questionable action in drawing money from both Delhi University as well as the AICTE at the same time has been resolved, the impropriety inherent to it cannot easily be wished away. But issue was brushed under the carpet to nominate him AICTE chairman.
Likewise, Raju Sharma’s sacking has not done any good to the UGC’s image. In certain circles, the development is seen as proof of its reluctance to have a senior IAS officer — Sharma was a joint secretary level official — looking after the Commission’s daily affairs. Removed on technical grounds, Sharma was always considered an outsider in the UGC, a body of academicians.
These events imply the NKC and Planning Commission’s vision of reforms has evoked stiff resistance from the very quarters that need to translate Manmohan Singh’s call into action.