The ALL INDIA FORUM FOR RIGHT TO EDUCATION, with its office in Hyderabad, has given a response to the MHRD Draft Bill for repeal of UGC Act 1956 & setting up HECI (Higher Education Commission of India). The same is being shared for our reflection on this important issue, as the Church in India continues to be one of the significant agencies of contributing to the advancement of education in India.
20 July 2018
Response to MHRD Draft Bill for repeal of UGC Act 1956 & setting up HECI (Higher Education Commission of India).
For the last 60 years the UGC was taking decisions related to allocation of funds, deciding course structure, monitoring quality and giving clearance for setting up new campuses. But now, as has become common practice, MHRD Minister Prakash Javadekar has tweeted that “In a landmark decision, a draft Act for repeal of #UGC & setting up #HECI (Higher Education Commission of India) has been prepared,” in accordance with the “commitment of the government” to reform the regulatory mechanism to provide “more autonomy” to higher education institutes to “promote excellence” and “facilitate holistic growth of the education”.
The MHRD Note further proclaims that “Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has embarked a process of reform of the regulatory agencies for better administration of the higher education sector.”
What are the changes sought to be introduced through the proposed Bill, which the Minister incorrectly refers to as an Act even though it has not been placed before or passed yet by Parliament?
- HECI will not determine, allot and disburse grants to Institutions of Higher Education (IHE); these will be directly handled by the MHRD;
- All new courses will henceforth have to be approved by HECI;
- HECI will have the powers to shut down and initiate criminal action against IHE that fail to act according to its decisions;
- HECI will be advised by an overarching Advisory Council with Minister and Secretary MHRD as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson respectively and its `advice’ will be “implemented” by HECI;
- Overriding the specific Central and State Acts establishing universities and the other related legislations of states, the HECI Bill, if passed, will legislate on a concurrent subject thereby encroaching on the rights and powers of the state governments and jeopardising constitutional federalism. According to the Article 246 read with Entry 32 of List 2 and Entry 44 of List 1 in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India, the “Incorporation, Regulation and Winding up of a University is an exclusive domain of the State Government” and the Union Government cannot legislate on these matters.
The direction of the changes is significant. On the one hand the HECI will have punitive powers to `discipline’ IHE, and on the other hand the Central government’s role in the composition and the day-to-day functioning of the HECI will be enormously increased.