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The University Grants Commission (UGC) is a statutory organization established by an Act of Parliament in 1956 for the coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of university education. It also advises the Central and State Governments about the necessary steps to be taken for the development of higher education.

India has seen a phenomenal growth in higher education since the inception of UGC. The number of universities within the country has got multiplied forty times, and student enrolment has increased a hundred fold. While all this happened, UGC has been a mute spectator to the plummeting quality of education across our nation.

A high-power expert committee headed by the former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian was formed by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development. The committee’s focus has been on “improving the quality of education and restoring the credibility of the education system.” It’s report; however, suggested that the existing National Policy on Education, 1986 is obsolete.

It examined thoroughly the past, present and future role of UGC. The organization has not succeeded in ensuring quality education, confirms a report by The Hindu. The report was submitted to the MHRD on 27th May 2016 and hasn’t yet been made public. It is currently under examination by the ministry.

Here are a few observations made by the committee:

  • UGC has been unable to implement effectively its regulations aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education over the years.
  • There are widespread irregularities in the approval of institutions and courses.
  • There are serious concerns about the quality of education provided by a large number of colleges/universities.
  • The credibility of the UGC has been dented by approvals given to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities.
  • The UGC does not have an adequate number of well-trained and qualified personnel.
  • It has recommended that the law that set up the higher education regulator UGC be allowed to lapse.
  • It is recommended that once the new higher education management law is introduced, which the Committee suggested should be very soon, the UGC Act should be allowed to lapse.”

This brings us to the inevitable question: has the UGC failed to adapt itself to the changing dynamics of global education? When important policy decisions are made without extensive research and consultation with the stakeholders, they are certain to breed discontent and contempt. Instances of delay in fellowships and scholarships are omnipresent, which place students and researchers in a fix. It also lowers the standards of quality of our institutions. Lack of staff to discharge its duties is also a major concern.

In recent years; however, UGC has reduced the time lag for granting application to seven months instead of the normal six-seven years. We simply don’t know if its dissolution will be a panacea for our higher education woes. A widely-consulted view needs to be taken into account before scrapping or renaming regulating bodies and even creating new ones.

It is indeed obvious that the current education policy is outdated, and there is a need for a new education roadmap for the 21st century India. To face the challenges and compete with the students of foreign universities, we certainly need to revamp our higher education.

According to QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings released last month, India ranks 24th in the higher education system strength out of the 50 countries evaluated. Interestingly, along with countries such as the US, the UK and Germany, the traditional leaders in higher education, Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Japan have also figured in the top 10. It might be worthwhile for UGC to explore how quality standards are maintained elsewhere to accomplish the same in India.

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