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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Hindu Editorial: It’s Time To Replace The UGC Act

Mahendra Guru
The Hindu Editorial: It’s Time To Replace The UGC Act

Title: It’s time to replace the UGC Act 

(The stage is set for a long overdue overhaul of higher education in India) 

The Prime Minister’s vision to create 20 institutions of eminence and the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s reforms push have set the stage for an overhaul of higher education in India that is long overdue. The HRD Ministry first saw the passage of the Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017, which will extend greater autonomy to the IIMs. 

It followed this up with reforms in the rules and regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC), giving autonomy to India’s best-ranked universities and colleges. Subsequently, the Union Cabinet approved the continuation of the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan, which has been working quietly to improve the quality of higher educational institutions in the States through outcome-based grants. 

The time is now ripe for another change: to replace the UGC Act, 1956, with a new law that should respond to the current needs of higher education. 

Categories of universities 

The new Act should establish a higher education regulatory commission (HERC), which will subsume the functions of all the three existing regulatory agencies under the HRD Ministry. Recognising the critical role of States in higher education, it should further establish an advisory council consisting of representatives of all States and the Central government. 

In addition, it must have as members leading educationists from diverse fields. The council should advise the HERC on all matters, though the final decision-making power needs to be vested in the Commission and its different bodies. 

The UGC recently issued new rules and regulations under which it divided universities into three categories: I, II and III. Category I and II universities were awarded autonomy, with Category I universities receiving greater autonomy than Category II. Under the Act, we propose merging Category I and Category II universities under the recent rules into a single category. 

Tasks of the Commission 

If this reform is adopted, a major function on which the UGC currently spends a vast amount of time will be eliminated from the responsibilities of the HERC. This will leave the HERC with two major tasks: decisions on the disbursement of funds and accreditation. To fulfil the first function, the HERC should have a finance board. To discharge the second function, it should have an accreditation board. 

Both these boards should have full autonomy in discharging their functions. 

The HERC should have the power to review whether the entering institution has genuinely fulfilled all the entry criteria, and in cases of deviations from the criteria, to close it down. 

The Commission in cooperation with the accreditation board will have the responsibility to draw up standards and a grading system for colleges and universities. 

The Commission in cooperation with the finance board will also develop guidelines for funding universities and colleges. 

Entry of foreign institutions 

The Act should lay down a clear path for the entry of foreign institutions. The top 200-300 institutions in the world, according to generally accepted rankings, may be allowed entry as Category I institutions. 

Finally, the Act must also chart a path to integrate teaching and research. The separation between teaching at universities and colleges and research at research councils has not served the cause of either higher education or research well. 

Title: At home and in exile 

(We need to adequately plan for internal migration due to climate change) 

At the height of the Syrian and Rohingya crises, much of the world’s attention turned to forced displacement and refugees. Both exemplified the typical conditions under which people are forcibly displaced: war, political persecution, economic instability and repression. Still, most of the world’s migration is internal, i.e. within the same country. Among the tens of millions displaced in 2015, 21.3 million were refugees, but 40.8 million were internally displaced. 

With climate change, however, its worsening slow onset effects such as droughts, effects from sea level rise and water shortages will cause many more to leave their homes and move to safer places. 

Why people move 

In “Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration”, a recent report by the World Bank, it is estimated that in Latin America, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa over 143 million people would be forced to move within borders by 2050 as a result of slow onset climate events alone. 

In the worst-case scenario, about 40 million of these migrants would be in South Asia, which is the most populous of the regions studied, with a number of climate change effects anticipated. 

South Asia is characterised by rain-fed farmland in large parts of the region. With variability in the monsoons and warmer temperatures, crop failures will lead to migration from the Gangetic plains and from the rice-growing northeast of Bangladesh and the inundated coasts. 

In the pessimistic scenario, the numbers forced to move internally in South Asia are expected to increase six-fold between 2020 and 2050 and will continue to rise beyond 2050 without appropriate climate action. 

Even in the inclusive development and climate-friendly scenarios, tens of millions will be forced to migrate. While people normally gravitate to big cities, those along the coast such as Mumbai, Chennai, Chittagong and Dhaka will themselves be vulnerable to storm surges and other effects from sea level rise. 

The poor would be the worst affected by these slow onset events and most of them would migrate out of rural areas to nearby urban settlements, which would be cities and the peri-urban surroundings. 

Such “hotspots” of in and out migration would be stressed for natural resources, public services and livelihoods. In India, areas between Chennai and Bengaluru have been highlighted in the report along with those around Mexico City, Guatemala City and Nairobi. 

What can be done? 

ü What kind of policies are needed? Reducing GHG emissions is of utmost urgency, although that seems to be taking place at a pace determined by geopolitical as well as local initiatives.

Vocabulary words: 

Adequately (adv) = To a satisfactory or acceptable extent (पर्याप्त रूप से) 

Exemplify (verb) = Be a typical example of (उदाहरण देना) 

Persecution (noun) = Oppression, mistreatment (अत्याचार) 

Onset (noun) = Start, beginning (शुरुआत) 

Groundswell (noun) = An increase in a particular opinion among a large section of the population 

Anticipate (verb) = Expect, predict (प्रत्याशा करना) 

Inundate (verb) = Flood, overpower (सैलाब करना) 

Gravitate (verb) = Move towards to be attracted to a person or things 

Inquisitive (adj) = Curious, interested (जिज्ञासु) 

Overhaul (noun) = A thorough examination of a system 

Eminence (noun) = Reputation, importance (श्रेष्ठता) 

Clutter (noun) = Chaos, disorder (अव्यवस्था) 

Subsume (verb) = Include or absorb something 

in something else (किसी नियम के अंतर्गत करना) 

Curriculum (noun) = Syllabus (पाठ्यक्रम) 

Accreditation (noun) = An official certification that a school or course has met standards set by external regulators (मान्यता) 

Ramification (noun) = A complex or unwelcome consequence of an action 

Conversely (adv) = Introducing a statement which reverses one that has just been made or referred to (विपरीततः)


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