Friday, December 06, 2013

UGC issues new draft guidelines to regulate technical colleges

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has come up with new draft guidelines to regulate thousands of technical colleges including engineering and management schools in the country, further eroding the authority of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The move has come nearly seven months after the Supreme Court questioned AICTE, a once-powerful regulatory body that used to control every aspect of India’s technical education for the last three decades, about its power to regulate these institutions. The apex court had ruled on 25 April that colleges affiliated to universities don’t fall under the purview of AICTE. 

Though the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had suggested promulgating an ordinance to restore the powers of AICTE, the Union cabinet has not decided on it. “It has become imperative for the universities and UGC to evolve a suitable methodology to ensure that existing technical/engineering colleges affiliated to universities do not dilute standards of technical education imparted by them,” the UGC notification said. Mint has reviewed a copy of the notification. “They (regulations) shall apply to all colleges offering technical education and seeking approval and/or already approved/affiliated to the Universities in India established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act,” said the draft regulation.

Though UGC may put in place guidelines to regulate more than 11,000 engineering, management, architecture and pharmacy schools in India that are operating this year under a regulatory vacuum, the regulator and the universities’ capacity to do the job is suspect, some experts and academics said. At least one million students graduate from professional colleges in India every year.

Since UGC will not regulate the institutions directly, the new guidelines will be implemented through the more than 600 universities it controls. It means there will be no uniformity in regulations and a greater chance of deterioration of quality, said experts.

“The draft regulation gives minimum guidelines, but it will depend on individual universities’ interpretations of the rules. It will have negative impact on quality of education imparted,” said Raju Davis Parepadan, Chairman of the Kerala-based Holygrace Academy. “We want a national body for regulation rather than individual universities regulating technical colleges affiliated to them. There will always be a chance of corruption and it will hurt the education sector in general and good players.”

In the absence of a national body, AICTE authorities said educational reforms will take a back seat. “You may see colleges flouting norms more often. The e-governance structure is in place with us, which may not be the case with many universities. This will create problems for stakeholders,” said a senior official with the regulator, requesting anonymity. AICTE Chairman S.S. Mantha had told Mint in an interview on 12 November that the body is better suited than UGC or any other education body to oversee technical education in India.

According to the new draft guidelines, all technical colleges will need approval on an yearly basis by applying to the university they are affiliated to. Every university shall maintain a list of unapproved colleges offering programme(s) in technical education based on the information received and verified by the university and shall also inform UGC and the general public about the same from time to time. New applicants can not open a college without proper infrastructure and a number of colleges can join hands to open a technical campus.

Any college found flouting rules may face cancellation of approval or even criminal proceedings. Once disapproved, the college cannot apply for fresh approval for the next two years. Every new applicant needs to deposit Rs. 5 million with the affiliating university for each stream or school it wants to open. The bank deposit will not earn any interest for the college but for the affiliating university for 10 years. 

Besides, a new college promoter needs to have an operating fund of at least Rs. 10 million for an engineering college and Rs. 5 million for a management school. A college not having a director or a principal for 18 months may lose its approval, and all schools have to return the admission fee if a student opts out of admission from a technical college. The college promoter needs to operate as a trust, a society or a Section 25 company: in all three cases not-for-profit.

It is unclear whether autonomous business schools offering postgraduate diplomas is management can continue offering the courses or need to convert them to MBA degrees. The country has more than 3,000 such colleges. UGC has asked all stakeholders to give their view by 9 December, following which it will notify the final rules.

Source: Mint, December 6, 2013

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