The NDA government is preparing for another major overhaul of the long-debated rulebook and regulations for the country’s 126-odd ‘deemed-to-be universities’-the third such exercise since 2016.
This round of review, however, could have existential implications, as people in the know said it is aimed at aligning deemed varsities with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which has clearly recommended against multiple nomenclature like “deemed”.
In a recent review, education minister Dharmendra Pradhan is learnt to have asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to ensure that the “deemed to be university” institution and process is in full alignment with the NEP 2020.
A high-powered committee has accordingly been set up to comprehensively overhaul the ‘Deemed University’ regulations of 2019.
Apart from government officials and university vice chancellors, this committee is learnt to have brought in former TCS chief executive officer S Ramadorai on board. He has also served on the board of several higher education institutes. The committee is expected to deliberate on all aspects related to ‘deemed to be universities’, but aligning them with the NEP 2020 will be the key idea, those in the know told ET on condition of anonymity.
NEP 2020 advocates restructuring of higher education and recommends that the present “complex nomenclature of HEIs in the country such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university’, ‘unitary university’ shall be replaced simply by ‘university’ on fulfilling the criteria as per norms”.
The nomenclature itself, however, is knotted in rulebooks and changing it will probably require a couple of amendments–Section 23 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 prohibits the use of the word ‘University’ except by institutes set up through acts of Parliament or a State Act.
On the other hand, Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956 allows for conferring the ‘deemed to be university’ status and degree granting powers on an institute. This nomenclature has also been a subject of court cases, academic debate and several committee discussions.
The very idea and system of deemed varsities, in fact, has been a hotly debated and considerably politicised one. While UPA 1 was rocked with allegations of then education minister Arjun Singh doling out the status to many under qualified institutes, his successor, Kapil Sibal, ordered a review through the Tandon Committee, which found 44 of the 126 deemed universities to be seriously deficient and worthy of being ‘blacklisted’.
Stringent regulations were brought in 2010 following the Tandon Committee report, but they were challenged in courts. With the BJP coming to power in 2014, the regulations were again overhauled in 2016 under Smriti Irani as minister, and some relaxations were brought in the 2010 regulations. However, a second revamp was effected when the education ministry portfolio shifted to Prakash Javadekar.
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