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Bill sets tougher varsity entry rules

New Delhi, Dec. 28: The government today introduced a bill to set up an overarching body in higher education, taking a step towards its promise of an apex regulator that would subsume existing ones and set tougher conditions for starting new institutions.

Tabled in the Rajya Sabha by human resource development minister Kapil Sibal, the Higher Education and Research Bill seeks to set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), which would regulate all streams of higher education except medicine and agriculture.

The proposed entity will subsume existing regulators like the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE).

The bill includes a provision that makes it essential for any new institution central or state to seek approval from the NCHER for enrolling the first batch of students. The condition will also apply to private institutions.

The approval would be given only after the institute gets accreditation from the proposed National Accreditation Regulatory Authority.

The government has introduced a separate bill for creating this authority, which will give accreditation on the basis of infrastructure facilities and faculty available at the institute.

By linking approval to accreditation, the government, sources said, wanted to make it clear that new institutions could enrol students only after they fulfilled basic infrastructure and faculty requirements.

So far, there has hardly been any such condition for state governments to open new institutions. As education is on the concurrent list of the Constitution, states have been enjoying full freedom to start new universities without seeking approval from the Centre or any central regulatory body.

A statement issued by the HRD ministry said: “These provisions have been made on account of the experience of the government that some institutions open and enrol students without having the basic minimum infrastructure and facilities, and later when stringent action is taken by the regulatory agencies to close down the institution, students are made to suffer for the actions of the managements.”

The NCHER will frame guidelines for funding universities, deemed universities and undergraduate colleges. The proposed legislation will repeal the UGC Act 1956, AICTE Act 1987 and the NCTE Act of 1993.

The NCHER will work in collaboration with the proposed National Commission for Higher Education in Health to prepare research framework in medical education.

The bill was moved two-and-a-half years after the President’s June 4, 2009, address to Parliament declared the government’s intent to establish an overarching body in higher education to reform the current regulatory structure.