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The Big Picture – Should UGC be scrapped?
A report of the committee set up by the HRD Ministry after NDA government came to power has
recommended the scrapping of the University Grants Commission. The committee headed, ironically, by
the former UGC Chairman Hari Gautam has concluded that the commission has failed to fulfill its
mandate and any attempt to reshape or restructure it will be futile. The UGC was formed through an Act
of Parliament in 1956 and its mandate is to provide funds to universities apart from maintaining
standards in institutions of higher education. 44 central universities, 326 state universities, 130 deemed
universities and 205 private universities come under the UGC. Now, the committee has suggested the
scrapping of the UGC and has asked to set up a new National Higher Education Authority in its place.
Along with its recommendations, the committee has also presented a draft bill for setting up of the
authority, noting that the present body has not only failed to fulfill its mandate but also has not been
able to deal with emerging diverse complexities. The mandate given to the committee was to analyze,
review and recommend to the ministry, the architecture required. The committee has suggested that
categorisation of universities should be replaced with an efficient model, a national research aptitude
test for admission to Ph.D and a single tenure of VCs, besides scrapping a criteria that requires 10 years
as professor to be eligible for VC.
The Committee says that UGC has deviated from its core goal of being a watchdog for ensuring
excellence in education. It has also accused UGC of indulging in favouritism. The panel has raised
questions about selection criterion for UGC members saying that at times even businessmen have made
the cut. It has pointed out different lacunae in activity of the UGC chairman. It has mentioned working
structure of UGC as extremely ad-hoc where there is no coordination between different wings which
leads to wastage of man and money power.
Few months ago, the government had struck down a bill that was prepared by the UPA government to
set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as an overarching body. The
cabinet had in September last year decided to withdraw the NCHER bill that envisaged the proposed
body as a super regulator. The New government argued that the parliamentary standing committee on
HRD had not supported the bill. The House panel had said the proposed NCHER might not be able to
frame a comprehensive policy for the entire country. It suggested that the existing regulatory bodies like
the UGC and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) be strengthened instead.
Some experts say that scrapping is not a solution. Instead, the institution should be strengthened and
made to work properly. Meanwhile, the government has said that it has no plans to scrap UGC and the
recommendations are yet to be understood and analysed before any decision is taken in the matter. The
UGC has been created by an Act of the Parliament and cannot be unilaterally scrapped.