Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

AICTE has only an advisory role

In a landmark judgment, Supreme Court has ruled that AICTE has only advisory role and is not a controlling authority over affiliated colleges. In an earlier judgment (TMA Pai case), the Supreme Court had held that universities are autonomous and AICTE can not control them. The new judgment has essentially enlarged the scope of the previous judgment by ruling that affiliated colleges are part of the university.

This means that a college does not have to seek approval from AICTE for starting its courses, it only needs to do so from a affiliating university. So, now onwards, AICTE can no longer be blamed for starting excessive number of engineering colleges. I foresee that all technical universities will compete with each other in affiliating as many new colleges as possible. So we are in for a quicker growth of technical education, not necessarily the need of the hour of the country.

Of course, I am happy with the judgment since I believe that education policies need to be decided at the state level and not at the central level, even while admitting that this may lead to many technical universities competing with each other in reducing the quality of education. And my contention is that a central body like AICTE had no teeth anyway, and the quality of technical education can not go any worse than what it is right now. Those universities who will compete for poor quality will be taken care of by the market place, and the market place is a better regulator than a single central regulator.

But the happiness may be short lived. My reading of the judgment is that the parliament is free to legislate an act which curtails the autonomy of universities, given that some aspects of the technical education is in the union list of 7th Schedule (Item 66), and in general the higher education is in the concurrent list of 7th Schedule (Item 25), and hence a central act where it is in conflict with a state act will have precedence over the state act. So a university set up by a state act will be subservient to anything set up by parliament, if the act so dictates.

AICTE will surely go for a review petition, and if it does not win back its powers through the review petition soon enough, the pending NCHER bill in the parliament will be taken up, suitably modified, and quickly passed to bring back control in the hands of a central regulatory authority.

Also, the Supreme Court ruling clearly states that while AICTE has only an advisory role, UGC can play a more important role, and that AICTE can give its advice to UGC on how to control the universities (not just affiliated colleges). So I suspect that UGC will now become more pro-active in "controlling" technical education in the country. So some of the freedom won by this court ruling may soon be curtailed through other mechanisms.

Let us enjoy the little freedom that higher education got yesterday, while it lasts.