Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bold plans announced by India's new HRD Minister

Kapil Sibal, the HRD Minister in UPA 2.0, has been going around saying a lot of things about his plans for India's higher ed system. These plans include allowing foreign universities to operate in India and replacing UGC and AICTE with a unified higher ed regulator.

Here's a report by Pallavi Singh about the regulator. This sentence, however, betrays the level of thinking that has gone into the flurry of policy pronouncements:

The ministry, headed by Kapil Sibal, will instead create an independent National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), which will take over the academic, accreditation and financial functions of the regulators.

My first reaction was to go "WTF?" How would the system become different if "academic, accreditation and financial functions" of the present regulators are bundled together into the exact same functions of the new mega-regulator?

Unless one is clear about which of the existing policies are dysfunctional, fancy talk about replacing one set of agencies with another is not going to help, because the new mega-regulator will likely have the same set of people running it.

Talking about one of the dysfunctional policies, and the kind of people who implement them, here's an example of what I'm talking about:

The committee has also suggested that for standardisation of fee, the state government set up a fee fixation panel which will consider all aspects of cost and the quality of education and suggest an ideal fee structure.

There is also another suggestion that the government may set up a national fee fixation committee which will suggest admission and tuition fee for the institutions.

However, the fee structure of each of the 125 deemed universities will vary from each other depending on their facilities.

"There cannot be a uniform fee structure. Depending on the quality and facilities, the fee will vary," Thorat said.

If the 'deemed' universities are private institutions that took no government help (like land, start-up grants, teacher salaries), and are expected to be self-financing, what good does a fee cap do?


  1. benza said...

    The basic idea to establish many universities in itself is praiseworthy.
    Let those that have the knowledge, such as you, make suggestions and see the idea is made a reality.
    It seems the Indian Govt has opened a website for people to make complaints and seek redress.
    Tell us of it please.

  2. Anonymous said...

    I agree...how is one regulator different from multiplicity of regulators ? It would be useful to know what are the areas that are being de-regulated by this merger ?
    Fees, program contents, quality accreditation, exams, faculty salary, permission to start new insti, programs/course etc. are still going to be handled by this new mega-regulator. Maybe some ease of handling from the govt./non-academic side. Is that it ? It is also not clear whether there is any path to qualify being quasi-autonomous as the IITS/IIMS/IISCs for the other instis.

  3. ankan said...

    Actually, one gets the impression from the articles that there is a move to lessen the regulation (although it does not come out explicitly). I believe this business of fixing fees will ultimately prove to be regressive.

    Let there be as much private investment in education as possible. Let the government drastically increase its investment in education. Let both public and private institutions compete! If there is enough supply in there (and in India no amount of supply is too much), we shall see both excellence as well as reasonable costs.

  4. Unknown said...

    Ch. Tripati Patra

    The 10th board exam. should be abolished or it should not be optional. The government should conduct the board exam. for 8th, 9th and 10th in indipendently. The award should be in gradation system. The award of 8th, 9th and 10th board exam. should be added and the final award should be declared. Also the course should be minimised in order to reduce the burden.The goverment should think about to abolish of ICSE Board which gives unnecessary presure to the student and parents. They have given more emphasis on number of courses which increase the weight of school bags of children. A St.-II studen everyday taking about 10kgs load of his school bag, although his weight is about 25 kgs.