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Friday, August 22, 2014

MHRD agrees with UGC

The media today is full of the latest development. Apparently, Ministry of Human Resources and Development is trying to see if IITs and UGC will have a meeting to sort out the matter. First the links to all the media reports in this regard:

IITs can grant only UGC recognised degrees - Hindustan Times

IITs need UGC nod to open new programmes - Mint

IITs told to toe UGC line on degrees - The Hindu

HRD Ministry sides with UGC in course clash with IIT Kharagpur - Economic Times

Big Brother UGC casts its eyes over IITs - Told torename course and change duration, tech schools citerules to assert autonomy - Telegraph


I think we must understand the ministry's compulsions. UGC Act is unclear whether it is purely a funding body or it can dictate terms to universities. It has been charged with maintenance of standards in higher education. But does that mean only advise and issuing best practices, guidelines,
or does it mean rules that must be followed by the entire higher education sector.

What is clear from the Act is that there is no distinction between the universities created by an act of parliament and universities created by an act of state legislature. So, if UGC can not dictate IITs, then it can not dictate any university (except through threats of funding cuts). And hence if MHRD were to accept the view that IITs are not under UGC because they have their own act, then MHRD would have to accept the view that no university in the country is under UGC because all other universities also have their own acts. And this is something MHRD and Governments who are so used to interfering in the autonomy of all universities can not accept. This is really a nightmare for them. 

So obviously the next best thing is to have a dialog between UGC and IITs and one can come up with a resolution which can maintain the relationship between the two in grey area. UGC can continue to claim that they can dictate to IITs (and hence to all the universities in the country) and IITs can continue to claim that they are independent of UGC.

The real issue is this. The parliament in its wisdom decided that universities must have autonomy to a very large extent, and they wanted only a regulator whose primary job will be to support higher education financially and of course, also act as someone who keeps a watch on the quality of education in the higher education sector. People who have manned UGC and also those who have manned MHRD never bought into the parliament's vision of universities being autonomous. These have mostly been power hungry people who have got used to a control regime. Autonomy is anathema for them. By destroying autonomy, they have destroyed the complete higher education sector, and yet they are not willing to change their mindset.

And frankly, IITians and all these academicians in ivory towers of Indian higher education do not help matters. You talk to a typical faculty member, and the comment is: "IITs should be autonomous, but others should be controlled otherwise the quality will deteriorate further." What is the evidence for that. Indeed, there is pretty much no university today which existed prior to UGC Act and which can claim that it is better in quality today compared to its pre-1956 status. Such statements only divide academia and give more power to bureaucrats, politicians, and regulators. If IITs try to fight their own little battles which cause inconsistency in the overall regulatory processes, some time those inconsistencies will be taken advantage of by those with control mindset. We have to think and act consistently. Either universities should be autonomous, or they should have some/many controls. But either way an IIT is just another university.

9 comments:

Ankur Kulkarni said...

Looks like the UGC virus is spreading to the last bastion of excellence in India. Is it time to give up all hope of revival of higher education in India? Or can we wait some more?

I had said this earlier: the UGC has become increasingly more brazen in the recent past. Something has changed. Perhaps the new government/minister, perhaps something else...

And our "minimum government" PM seems clueless about higher education and its needs, and the changing face of the UGC.

gautam barua said...

I think Dheeraj has interpreted the UGC Act correctly. This act states that all institutions created by an act of parliament (IITs, central univs) or a State legislature (State Univs) or deemed univs have to follow UGCs list of approved degrees. And now MHRD seems to say that the IIT Act does not override this (I agree). So the question we should now address is how does UGC decide what are the correct degrees and what is the duration of each and what is the elgibility? We should seek to change section 22 (3) of the UGC Act so that the list of degrees cannot be decided only by the UGC. But it is still not clear why Delhi's FYUP fell foul of UGC's notification. Since only the minimum duration is specified for a BSc why is a 4 year programme against section 22(3)? The bigger worry for IITs and others are: a) the dual degree programmes of 5 year duration, and b) entry of B.Techs into PhD programmes. We must work to overturn these clauses in the notification of the UGC. There is no need to change the Act for this.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Gautam, Delhi's FYUP had no legal problem. Indeed, UGC had approved it last year. But it got into political problem. After all the negotiated settlement with IISc is that they will give BSc after 3 years and BSc (Research) after 4 years. FYUP said that a student can get BSc after 3 years and BSc (Honors) after 4 years. If the word "Honors" was less acceptable than "Research" they could have negotiated a better word. But stopping the program for this seems irrational.

Madhavan Chalat said...

Just curious. Did the IIT Directors raise the issues with the UGC interference during the recent meeting with the President and the PM? What was HRD minister's response? Wondering if the UGC's been messing following her directions or if the UGC babus are taking an advantage of her inexperience and lack of higher ed.

Saurabh Joshi said...

Power struggle amongst government agencies will always be there. What mystifies me is that why doesn't IIX and other university fight a collective legal battle to settle these issues once and for all?

On one hand, government wants to welcome foreign universities with red carpet, but on the other hand all the freedom is being snatched away by red tape. Isn't it contradictory on part of the government? Shouldn't someone from the advisory committee of PM or HRD enlighten them about these issues?

prabha said...

UGC looking to the degree system may be good. At the same the deemed universities are exploiting the students circumventing the rules and becoming richer day by day. A board should be set up to monitor, policing this menace of deemed universities. As per UGC directive they are supposed to refund the money paid by students if they leave before starting of the course. Now Sastra Univerisity admits the students based on the Main score when the NIT(CSAB) had not stated even allotments. It is using the government run main exam marks trouble the students who are going to be selected in NIT. This is cleverly made such a way that course starting adjusted to July 7th. Wheres other NITs, deemed university like Amrita starts classes only in 1st August 14. Finally with same main score the students who area joins NIT been cornered and parents loose their hard earned money. Only they can pray to God.

Arjun said...

In my opinion, the interpretation of Prof Sanghi is inaccurate. The UGC can approve of degrees of Universities under it. It can only notify the degrees of others who are authorized under Acts over which UGC has no academic control. UGC has no right to approve the degrees given by IITs, whose power is given to them under IIT Act. The IIT Act gives power of duration, grant of degrees, courses of study to IIT Council and Board. UGC is in IIT Council. So since UGC has taken upon itself the duty of 'notifying' the degree nomenclature, it can notify what the IIT Council has on its records. UGC does not have the power to 'approve' the same as it imagines. If UGC has an issue with the degree nomenclature, it can place its views in the IIT Council where it is a member.

Pratiyush K Rai said...

@Dheeraj Sanghi and @Gautam Barua: Dear both Eminent IIT faculties , i think IIT-D and IIT-B director didn't kept their side as strongly as it was required and missed a golden opportunity where all three i.e.,The Visitor,PM and HRD minister were available to take a cognizance of IIT's Point , had Prof. S G Dhande would have been there then i think he could have made UGC to fall in the line likewise he did with Kabil Sibbal in 2013 on JEE issue and certainly saved JEE at that Point of time.

Dheeraj Sanghi said...

@Pratiyush, you may be surprised to know that Prof. Dhande is now a UGC Member.