The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Liberalization breeds its own insecurities. Now that higher education in India has become part of a complicated global market, the Centre is beginning to feel the need to tighten its control over some of the new players in this field. A number of American, British and Australian universities are opening their branches here, and the Centre is planning to bring their functioning within the purview of an amended University Grants Commission Act. The prime keeper of this law is that officious ministry, human resources development, and its ideas of bureaucratic control of higher education has traditionally constrained and encumbered the running of educational institutions in India. The body which has directly sprung out of this particular act, the university grants commission, meddles with impunity with every aspect of Indian higher education, from syllabi and ideological orientations to teaching methods and the deployment of funds. Foreign universities have so far been outside this meddlesome bureaucratic control, and have also begun offering stiff competition to their indigenous counterparts. Hence, the need to make them part of new regulatory practices.

If the act is to be recast to fit the new higher education scenario, then it should do away with the UGC altogether. The business of higher education, foreign or home-grown, requires a kind of quality control and management with which the government should have as little to do as possible. Ministries and the politicians and bureaucrats who run them usually have very peculiar notions of academic excellence, and should not be complicating the education sector with unnecessary red-tape. It is of course true that any burgeoning market will bring its own irregularities and pitfalls. But governmental control and protectionism are not the solution. Rooting out fake universities and regulating quality and content are two very different forms of vigilance. Conflating them under a single regulatory law will only hamper the necessary independence of higher education from ideology and red-tape.

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