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ARTICLE: National Council for Higher Education and Research
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 05:43

‘UNIFIED REGULATION’


NCHER Gets Cabinet Nod

 


The Union Cabinet recently cleared the creation of the National Council for Higher Education and Research and the same was presented in the Rajya Sabha of the just concluded winter session of the Parliament. Under the aegis of the bill, the Government wants to simplify and consolidate the regulation part of the higher education so that duplicity, overlap and ambiguity can be prevented.

The HRD ministry has decided to set up a 70-member Council with representatives from each state to ratify each and every decision taken by the NCHER. The NCHER will not cover agricultural and medical institutes, but will liaise with the National Council for Human Resource in Health.

The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 that seeks to establish NCHER which would be an overarching regulatory body for university education.

The existing regulatory bodies, including the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education, would subsequently be scraped. While there is no provision for protecting the Chairperson or members of the UGC once the Bill is passed, the services of officers and employees of the existing regulators would be protected.

Finer Details of the Bill:

  • The Bill seeks to promote autonomy of higher education and innovation, and provide for comprehensive and integrated growth of higher education and research keeping in view the global standards. For this, it will establish the NCHER.
  • The Commission will facilitate determination, coordination, maintenance and continued enhancement of standards of higher education and research other than agricultural education and matters pertaining to minimum standards of medical education as they are the subject of the proposed National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH).
  • The NCHRH Bill, 2011, piloted by the Health Ministry, was tabled in the Upper House, recently. The NCHER will consist of a chairperson and six members, one of whom will be the chairperson of the NCHRC, who will be appointed by the President on the recommendations of a search-cum-selection committee headed by the Prime Minister with the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of Opposition and the Ministers for medical education and higher education.
  • The Commission will have powers to take all measures to spearhead the transformative changes in higher education. It will frame regulations and promote autonomy for institutional accountability, and promote joint and cross-disciplinary programmes among institutions of higher education – to promote development of a curriculum framework with specific reference to new or emerging or interdisciplinary fields of knowledge and to promote synergy of research in universities and higher educational institutions and with other research agencies.
  • The legislative proposal provides for establishment of a General Council, a representative body with advisory and recommendatory functions, in addition to powers to approve the regulations framed by the Commission. The Council will have, in addition to the chairperson and members of the Commission, the heads of professional bodies, research councils and experts in all sectors of higher education.

 

HIGHER EDUCATION BILLS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

THE PRIVATE UNIVERSITY FORUM

Three proposed Bills pertaining to higher education are unconstitutional, as Parliament lacks the legislative competence to enact them, according to the Association of Self-Financing Universities, New Delhi. The body has appealed to the Union Government to put on hold this legislation and hold talks with higher education institutions and other stakeholders on how to deal with the issues they seek to address.

The opposition is also due to the fact that it takes away the Constitutional Federation of Governance. In this regard, the Bills are the Educational Tribunals Bill, 2010 that was passed in the Lok Sabha and is pending in the Rajya Sabha, the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill, 2010, and the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2010.

The former Chief Justices, A.S. Anand, M.M. Punchhi and K.N. Singh, who were approached by the Association for their opinion on the validity of these Bills, especially in the light of appropriate entries in the Union and State Lists in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, reckoned that “Parliament does not have the legislative competence for matters of universities in view of clear exclusion of universities from Entry 44 in List I (the Union List) and express inclusion in Entry 32 of List II (the State List).”

While Entry 44 in the Union List deals with “Incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, whether trading or not, with objects not confined to one State, but not including universities,” Entry 32 in the State List refers to “Incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations, other than those specified in List I, and universities, unincorporated trading, literacy, scientific, religious and other societies and associations, cooperative societies.”

 

With Education demography maturing in India, a lot of interdisciplinary freedom would be called for by students community. Coupled with this a lot more students would continue with their higher studies. And to all these, a recent development where mid-term executives also take a ‘break’ from their job to get into educating themselves.

This all calls for a creative legislation rather a unified legislation from the side of government and NCHER is a right starting move.

 

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