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Higher Education Policy

1. National Education Policy (NEP), 2019 has been recently prepared by the Kasturiranjan Committee.

2. The draft NEP recommends some of the most ideal ecosystems of higher education, financed by the government.

What are the features of NEP?

1. The national goal of higher education is to provide education to meet the requirements of the 21st century.

2. It is possible through the architecture of multidisciplinary universities and colleges imparting liberal education and training the minds of both in logical and effective domain.

3. All affiliating universities should be restructured into a system of research universities, teaching universities and comprehensive multidisciplinary colleges having degree-granting powers.

4. Restructuring of these into a single regulatory body, the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) which will be responsible for the standard setting of higher education such as general education or specialized fields like engineering, law, education, medicine, etc.

5. The four functions of governance, i.e. standard setting (regulation), funding and accreditation of all higher education institutions (HEIs), be it general or professional will be conducted by an independent body, that is, the Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog (RSA), NHERA, University Grants Commission (UGC) in a transformed role as the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC), and a revamped National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), respectively.

6. The General Education Council (GEC) shall develop the National Higher Education Qualification Framework.

7. The RSA, headed by the Prime Minister, will be the highest body responsible for giving overall direction to higher education.

8. All HEIs will be empowered to function autonomously with their internal bodies.

9. Establishment of the National Research Foundation, with an annual grant of ₹ 20,000 crore, for the promotion of research will be done.

10. Mission Nalanda will ensure that there are at least 100 Type 1 and 500 Type 2 HEIs functioning vibrantly by 2030, ensuring equity in regional distribution.

11. Mission Takshashila will strive to establish at least one high quality HEI in or close to every district of India, with two or three such HEIs in districts with larger populations, each with residential facilities for students.

12. Liberal arts education with multidisciplinary focus and with imaginative curriculum and pedagogy, to improve the quality of teaching and research.

13. Faculty recruitment and promotion should be rigorous and will be ensured at the level of the institution, with a provision of motivational input and merit-based career management.

14. An Institutional Development Plan and a Faculty Development Plan for transforming institutions.

15. Public and private institutions will be treated at par and there will be no private colleges whether education, engineering or medicine, as a single discipline university or college.

Which are the drawbacks?

1. It will be necessary to have all technical and professional colleges, vocational education and open and distance learning systems to be integrated within these multidisciplinary universities and colleges.

2. A specialized university or private and deemed universities have no place within this architecture.

3. All regulatory bodies in technical or professional fields will be restricted to the standard setting role of respective professions only, rather than a standard setting of higher education.

4. An increase of 10% in the public expenditure on education is expected as a result of restructuring.

Where the draft NEP would face issues?

1. The abolition of the affiliating system, rather than its reform, is not practical.

2. There are a huge number of state universities, and their restructuring will not be easy.

3. The idea of NHERA as the standard setting of all higher education will run into inter-ministerial conflict of opinions.

4. The idea of the RSA as the highest body, and a similar Rajya Shiksha Aayog, as the highest body in the state, with a vision to guide, coordinate and monitor higher education, with huge functional roles, may come into conflict with the autonomous role envisaged for the institutions of higher education.

5. The draft NEP tends to ignore the historicity of the development of institutions of higher education.

6. The teachers already recruited into the system will continue and defy the ideals set forth in the blueprint.

7. Making it all happen through the financing for higher education as envisaged in the blueprint is perhaps the most impractical aspect, judging by the past pattern of public expenditure.

8. The political role of a university or college has been ignored. There are vested interests, which may defy the ideal functioning of the university.

9. The role of state governments in agreeing to the blueprint of higher education as envisaged in the NEP will be crucial.

How the reforms must be structured?

1. Reforms must focus on granting some freedom to the state governments to correct the malfunctioning of the system wherever it exists.

2. HEIs should have the freedom to plan better and the faculty and students should have the freedom to create their own ecosystem through curricular change and ensuring its delivery.

3. Without too much of restructuring, the size of the affiliating university may be reduced.

4. The new universities may be provided with sufficient resources to develop.

5. The older universities may be supported through an infrastructure development plan.

6. Faculty shortage should be reduced and faculty development plan should be prepared and implemented.

7. The UGC should be provided autonomy, good leadership, and sufficient manpower to institute the process of consultation with the universities.

8. There may be some effort to standardize, but not too much.

9. Efforts for good governance of universities through a robust leadership building should be initiated.

10. The private players may be permitted, but the mushrooming of them should be curbed.

11. Technology should be used in all walks of higher education.

12. Role of central and state governments should be to fund higher education adequately, provide scholarships to students and act as a watchdog of higher education.

NEP must build bridges of trust and cooperation so that a diverse higher education moves for a better future in tandem.