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Teachers call to reject new UGC regulations for privatising higher education

Priyata Brajabasi | Updated on: 6 June 2017, 1:12 IST

Delhi University teachers have criticised the University Grants Commission (UGC) for proposing regulations that aim to privatise higher education. They have appealed to the teachers' community to reject the 'draconian' move.

Aditya Narayan Misra, former president of the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) and chairman of the Academics for Action and Development (AAD), wrote a letter to various teachers' associations in the country, saying: “These regulations seek to implement the government's will to privatise existing public-funded institutions, and to encourage de-novo private institutions. In the garb of autonomy and freedom to open new departments/courses in self-financing mode, the present courses run by the colleges and universities are going to be decimated. The freedom, in fact, is a trap for self-destruction.”

The issue

The UGC has proposed the implementation of a new set of regulations, called UGC Categorisation of Universities for Grant of Graded Autonomy Regulations-2017, according to which all universities and colleges would be graded into categories I/II/III. The categorisation will be done based on the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) accreditation, and the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings.

Institutions having an NAAC score of more than 3.5, or NIRF ranking up to 50 for two consecutive years will be in Category I, while institutions having an NAAC score from 3.01 to 3.49 or NIRF ranking between 51 to 100 will be in Category II. The rest will fall in Category III.

What it means

Institutes in Category I, both public and private, will be allowed to start additional courses, both on and off campus, research parks, university society linkage centres, and incubation centres, either on their own or in partnership with private players, without the approval of the UGC, the regulations say.

This means that if institutions were to self-finance additional courses and centres, the funding for them would mainly have to come from students' fees.

The fees for higher education will automatically increase in both public as well as private institutions.

Speaking to Catch, Misra criticised the proposed regulations. “As the UGC isn't going to finance additional courses, the fees of even public institutions will soon be charging exorbitant fees like private universities and colleges,” he said.

Autonomous institutions will also charge a non-refundable processing fee of Rs 10,000, even if a student withdraws his or her admission.

They will also be exempt from UGC's regular inspections, and can collaborate with foreign educational institutions without the regulator's permission. Their performance will be reviewed based on self-reporting.

Rajesh Jha, joint secretary of DUTA, said: “Category I institutions would get autonomy without the visit of experts committees. In the name of autonomy, existing institutions will be converted into teaching shops to run market-friendly courses through their off-campus branches and distance education outlets."

He further added that the so-called autonomous institutions will have a market-oriented fee structure, with the amount soaring into lakhs.

The UGC has requested feedback on the proposed regulations before 15 June.

Potential impact

Privatisation of higher education and self-financed public institutions may impact its accessibility and affordability for some sections of society.

The government budget and expenditure on higher education will reduce, and assuring quality education will be the institution's responsibility, instead of the government's.

Even universities like Delhi University (ranked 15) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (ranked 5) will fall under Category I institutions, and might be forced to increase their fees to self-fund new courses and centres.

Ravi Srivastava, professor of social sciences at JNU, said this move would adversely affect quality and accessibility of higher education in the country.

“What this 'autonomy' actually does is cap government financing to public institutions. In state universities and education institutions in the country, self-financing has been going on for a while now, as they receive public funding to the extent of only 15%. The rest has to be raised by the institution on its own. They have, in turn, resorted to various sources of self-funding like giving temporary affiliations to private colleges, distance education, increasing fees and auxiliary fees like exam fees and processing fees.”

Misra said: “We consider education as an instrument of social change. We always wanted education to be accessible to all sections of society. In this given situation, education will become so profit-oriented that quality education will become a matter of the past.”

When approached by Catch, UGC members did not want to comment on the issue.

First published: 6 June 2017, 1:12 IST
Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Priyata thinks in words and delivers in pictures. The marriage of the two, she believes, is of utmost importance. Priyata joined the Catch team after working at Barcroft Media as a picture desk editor. Prior to that she was on the Output Desk of NDTV 24X7. At work Priyata is all about the news. Outside of it, she can't stay far enough. She immerses herself in stories through films, books and television shows. Oh, and she can eat. Like really.