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Punjab studying Andhra, MP models to regulate private universities

The move to set up a regulator has strong lobbies in support and in opposition, both within the government and outside.

punjab Updated: Nov 21, 2017 20:20 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Amarinder singh,private universities in Punjab,Andra Pradesh universities
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh (HT File)

To set up a state regulator for private universities, Punjab is studying models of other states that have withstood the scrutiny of law. The move to set up a regulator has strong lobbies in support and in opposition, both within the government and outside. To study the proposed legislation, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has set up a three-member cabinet sub-committee under health and medical education minister Brahm Mohindra.

Technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi and education minister Aruna Chaudhary are the other two ministers in the panel. Channi has been to Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh recently to study their models.

Among the many dont’s that Punjab advocate general Atul Nanda has suggested in his report in the issue, is to follow the models of these two states and not Himachal Pradesh. The legislation of both these states have been upheld by the Supreme Court while that of Himachal was struck down by its high court and the matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.

The Himachal Pradesh Private Educational Institute (Regulatory Commission) Act, 2010, had authorised its regulator to penalise educational institutions that fail to meet the laid down standards. The Tamil Nadu Private Colleges (Regulation) Act, 1976, too, was struck down on grounds that it encroached upon a Central Act.

Education falls in the concurrent list and the central laws prevail over that of the state, something the AG too has pointed out, saying the Punjab law should be in addition to — and not in derogation of central laws — to avoid conflict with central enactments. The Punjab Act may also need the consent of the governor and finally the President.

Ironically, the manifesto of the Congress seems to be self-contradictory, when it comes to regulating higher education in the state. It promises greater autonomy for state universities, while also promising to set up a regulator.

But Channi argues that the manifesto is clear on having a regulatory mechanism. “We are trying to make the act more broad-based. The commission will be both a regulator and a facilitator. Education cannot be treated as a business. They have to work in the interest of students and right from fees, admission to imparting skills, private universities have to comply by norms,” he says.

Funding under central mission

The anomaly in poll manifesto is just one of the Congress’ worries. The state has also to comply with the caveats of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), a centrally-sponsored scheme, which aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions.

“The first phase of RUSA-1 is over. Now, RUSA-2 will be implemented. It too has its own regulatory guidelines. We will have to adhere to them to be eligible for funding,” minister Brahm Mohindra says, adding that the committee will go by the majority opinion, while submitting its report to the chief minister.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 19:27 IST