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Draft of new education policy calls for overhaul of universities system

Experts say the proposals are forward-looking and ambitious, but changes will need to be monitored closely.

education Updated: Jun 28, 2019 18:42 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
(iStock)
         

There are some pretty revolutionary proposals in the new draft education policy shared by the Union Human Resource Development Ministry this month. These include an emphasis on liberal broad-based multi-disciplinary education, teacher and institute autonomy, a revamp of student support systems and the establishment of a National Education Commission.

The policy is set to give the Indian university system a significant makeover, with the government proposing that the bewildering multilayered system be replaced with a simplified one in sync with global practices.

Universities are currently classified as unitary universities, affiliating universities, deemed-to-be universities, central and state universities, which would all be bundled into a single category — higher educational institutions (HEI).

The new draft education policy underlines that a university has only one definition worldwide — a multidisciplinary institution of higher learning that offers undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programmes, and engages in high quality teaching and research.

“The present complex nomenclature of HEIs in the country as deemed to be university, affiliating university, unitary university, and so on will be phased out. Universities will be characterised only as public, private, or private-aided; and as multidisciplinary research universities or comprehensive teaching universities,” the draft suggests. “There will be an adequate time period provided for this transition… This time period may extend up to twelve years. Thus, there will be no affiliating universities or affiliated colleges after 2032.”

This would help simplify an education sector that is one of the largest in the world, and is far too convoluted in its functioning. India has over 50,000 institutes of higher education, including 907 universities. “Once the policy is implemented, all the institutions of education, both public and private, will be allowed to award degrees, even if they don’t have the word university in their name,” says Marie Fernandes, principal at St Andrew’s College. “This step, though very progressive, will however need active monitoring and resources.”

TOO AMBITIOUS?

As per the draft policy report, all higher educational institutions will become broad-based and multi-disciplinary. “The definition of universities will thus allow those that place equal emphasis on teaching and research as well as those that place greater emphasis on teaching but still conduct significant research,” the report states.

It goes on to add that all affiliating universities should be asked to transform into either comprehensive research or comprehensive teaching universities with multiple campuses.

“Universities will have no affiliated colleges,” says the draft. “All [currently] affiliated colleges, must develop into autonomous degree granting colleges by 2032, or merge completely with the university that they are affiliated to, or develop into a university themselves. These transitions will be a part of State level plans for developing the new higher education institutional architecture.”

Most colleges in India are affiliated to universities, which govern their courses and exams, and issue their degrees.

“Not being affiliated to a university will make the colleges and institutions step up their game because they will not have anyone to blame for a lack of quality education,” says Devang Khakhar, former director of IIT-Bombay. “The draft also suggests that the institutions that are not able to develop as capable of granting degrees will be turned into adult education centres, public libraries or vocational education facilities, so we can hope that the monitoring and ranking will be in place.”

That monitoring will be crucial. “Many may think that the draft policy is too ambitious, but at least we are beginning to have conversations about better educational infrastructure in the country,” says Biswajit Das, director of the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. “We are breaking away from the usual small-scale reforms to taking big steps to make education in India better. Many colleges in Delhi, for instance, have the capability to become good universities. They should be given a chance to offer more courses and grant degrees.”

First Published: Jun 28, 2019 18:42 IST

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