The University Grants Commission (UGC) and the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) appear to be heading for a confrontation over the latter's recommendation on the future of higher education.
Many UGC members were vocal in their opposition on Wednesday when the commission had called a special meeting to discuss the NKC's recommendations on the directions of HRD ministry. These were the first deliberations by a government body on the NKC's recommendations.
The knowledge commission had questioned the need for the UGC and other higher education regulatory bodies and had recommended an independent regulator in their place. A separate board for colleges and an increase in the number of universities to 1,500 were some of the recommendations.
The UGC members were most exercised over the proposal to dilute the role of the commission in higher education. "In the era of decentralisation, Sam Pitroda is talking about creating a super body at the central level. Bodies like UGC and AICTE have evolved in 50 years and have brought education to this fantastic level. Diluting their role is a most misconceived idea," said Professor Jalees Ahmed Khan Tareen, former Vice-Chancellor of Kashmir University and a UGC member.
Professor Khan termed the NKC recommendations as 'without any vision and prepared hurriedly,' and betrayed a lack of understanding of ground realities.
Another commission member Dr Sashi Rai was not willing to comment on the deliberations but described the two-hour long discussion as 'loud'.
"There was some opposition but all the recommendations were not rejected," she said. Professor DS Chauhan, Vice-Chancellor of Lovely Professional University, Jalandhar didn't oppose the recommendations fully. "Education cannot get autonomy like judiciary or the election commission as it has evolved through a different system in India," he said, while indicating at some positive aspects of the NKC recommendations
Now, the UGC will compile the views of its members and forward them to the HRD ministry. The ministry has issued similar directions on the NKC recommendations to other regulatory bodies like All India Council for Technical Education and National Council for Teachers Education.
The opinion of different bodies will form part of the HRD ministry's response on the NKC recommendations. The response will be then forwarded to the Prime Minister's office.