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UGC versus States

UGC versus States

CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

The recent battle between UGC and some states over the issue of examination of final year college students has exposed the fraught nature of centre state relation in the area of higher education.

TUSSLE BETWEEN STATES AND UGC

  • Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Maharashtra and some other states cancelled the final year exams for college students and declared to award grades and degrees based on in-semester performance.
  • According to UGC, this was the dilution of standards and ordered the universities to hold exams online, off-line or blended before September 30.
  • UGC also termed this the violation of the laws and encroachment on the legislative field of coordination and determining the standards of higher education.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONAL

  • Education is part of Directive Principles of state policy, Fundamental Rights and Schedule VII of the Constitution.
  • The Indian constitution in its original enactment defined education as state subject. Under Article 42 of the constitution, an amendment was added in 1976 and education became a concurrent list subject which enables the central government to legislate it in the manner suited to it. Provisions related to education are laid in all the three lists.
  • List-I Union List: 7 subjects are related with education. These are:
    • Entry13: Participation in international conferences, associations and other bodies and implementing of decisions made there at.
    • Entry 62: National libraries and national organizations come under this entry.
    • Entry 63: Central Universities comes under this.
    • Entry 64: Institutions for scientific and technical education financed by the government of India wholly or in part.
    • Entry 65: Consists of Union agencies and institution for a) Professional, vocational or technical training, including the training of police officers; or b) The promotion of special studies or research. c) Scientific or technical assistance in the investigation or detection of crime.
    • Entry 66: Arrangement, for higher education and research comes under this entry. It contains coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institution.
  • List-II State List: 2 subjects are related with education in this list:
    • Entry 11: Contains university education.
    • Entry 12: This contains library, museum and other memorable historical places which are not approved or we can say which are cared by both centre and state.
  • List-III Concurrent List: Following 6 subjects are related with education.
    • Entry 25: Technical, medical and university education which is not related with centre list (63-66), so centre and state government both can make laws on it.
    • Entry 26: According to this, centre and state government both can take necessary steps for the development of law, maintenance of health and of other professional education.
    • Entry 39: Newspapers, books and printing presses.
    • Entry 47: Fees in respect of any of the matters in this List, but not including fees taken in any court.
    • Entry 10: Trust and Trustees.
    • Entry 28: Charities and charitable institutions, charitable and religious endowments and religious institutions.

UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION (UGC)

  • It was established in 1953 and became a statutory body through an Act of Parliament in 1956.
  • It is the apex body that, along with the All India Council for Technical Education, the National Council for Teachers Education and the Distance Education Council, regulates universities and colleges across India.
  • It is not just responsible for providing grants to universities, colleges and researchers but also coordinates university education, decide and maintain education standards, monitor development and advise central and state governments on how to improve university education.

MAJOR CONCERNS WITH HIGHER EDUCATION SYSYTEM

  • The present system is not scientific based and has excessively bureaucratic national system of accreditation and rankings for institutions.
  • The system does not deal with practical knowledge and social problem of the society. Every state has different problems and culture and yet the case study on local problems has been absent in the curricula.
  • If states innovate, the MHRD is more likely to steam-roll it. It was witnessed in Maharashtra, where its innovative programme, Unnat Maharashtra Abhiyan, linking colleges with district administration was refused support by the MHRD.
  • Centre has more control over the system. It decided the curricula, the teachers and their salaries.
  • Most Regulations of the UGC or MHRD do not apply to Central institutions such as the IITs or IISERs. They soak up most of the Funds and prestige and yet their output is not commensurate.
  • Qualifying exams like UGC-NET, JEE, NEET and GATE adversely impact the overall development of the youth. These intervene in the state’s ability to provide doctors and engineers from the local population and distort the meaning and practice of science.
  • It is an elite centralized system which is not accountable to meaningful jobs or welfare within the states.

Issues and Challenges with HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Outdated and rigid curricula, absence of employer engagement in the course content and few opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.
  • Pedagogy and assessment are focused on input and rote learning.
  • Teacher vacancies: High student-teacher ratio, due to the lack of teaching staff and pressure to enroll more students.
  • Lack of research capacity and innovation: Divide between research and teaching; lack of early-stage research experience.
  • An ineffective quality assurance system and a complete lack of accountability by institutions to the state and central government, students and other stakeholders.
  • Lack of employable skills:  Lack of employable skills in students of technical education has been observed. 

CRITICISM OF UGC

  • UGC is first name to criticize when we talk about the reform of higher education. Though the number of students enrolling in colleges and universities one cannot deny the facts that UGC is responsible for the falling standards of higher education.
  • It failed to attract world class faculty to Indian universities.
  • It instituted a flawed system of rewarding research, the Academic Performance Index, based on the number of citations an article gets and the journal in which it is published.
  • It is usually locked horns with different departments and states on different issues of education.

Way Forward

  • There is a need to give space to the state on the matter of the education. The standards must be based on any study of what the states need.
  • Conducting exams during a pandemic should be a decision taken by the states and UGC should not term it as a legislative encroachment.
  • Students should understand how their future is bogged down by a higher education system and a scientific bureaucracy which is structurally flawed.
  • States should create a system which opens up professional opportunities, standards and training for the youth to serve community and achieving excellence through relevance.

Source: Indian Express