New Delhi, Sept. 17: The University Grants Commission, the country’s higher education regulator, today unveiled the draft of a common law to govern the 39 central universities that it controls.
The Central Universities of India (Teaching, Research and Administration) Bill, 2013, has been put up on the UGC website for suggestions from the public.
Its key provisions include the creation of a council of vice-chancellors to coordinate the activities of central universities, setting up of a teacher recruitment board that will set the standards for appointment of assistant professors, having an ombudsman in each institution to address grievances, external review of the institutions and periodic assessment of teachers’ performance.
A Delhi University professor, who asked not to be named, was sceptical. “A uniform law will not promote diversity and excellence,” he said. “The government should strengthen the UGC further, if required,” the professor said.
At present, there are 44 central universities of which 39 are regulated and funded by the UGC. These institutions have been created under 24 different laws and, therefore, follow varying administrative practices. While some universities have a three-member selection panel for teachers’ recruitment, others have a five-member body. Some have an ombudsman to address grievances of students on a range of issues from fees and scholarships to results and discrimination, but others do not.
The human resource development ministry had set up an expert panel to draw up a common bill to provide for uniform practices in all central universities. The committee submitted the draft bill earlier this month.
The proposed council of vice-chancellors will function like the IIT Council and will be headed by the HRD minister. At present, there is no agency to co-ordinate activities of common interest, such as entrance examinations or research.
The proposed council will also prepare a policy on service conditions for employees. However, its recommendations will be advisory and not binding on the institutions.
The vice-chancellor of the Central University of Kashmir, Professor Abdul Wahid, welcomed a common law. “There are variations in practices. Many institutions face procedural difficulties in setting up of selection panel. A common law will rule out such differences. If there is any other problem, the council of vice-chancellors can certainly discuss and evolve solution.”
According to the draft bill, the Union government will set up a Central University Teachers’ Recruitment Board to assess the suitability of candidates who have cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) for appointment as assistant professors. At present, anyone qualifying the NET becomes eligible for the post. The proposed recruitment board will add a layer of screening.
The Delhi University professor, who questioned the need for such a board, said: “At least 10 bills of the HRD ministry are pending in Parliament. This will be another addition. I do not see a future for this bill.”
The bill proposes that the universities create an internal quality assurance cell to monitor academic standards. The academic and research performance of each university will be also be subjected to external review. The review, in which students will participate, will assess the performance of individual teachers.
The President will remain the Visitor of the central universities but every university will have a chancellor, pro-chancellor, vice-chancellor, pro-vice chancellor, dean of faculties and registrar, the bill proposes.
Former UGC secretary R.K. Chauhan backed the bill. “Some central universities have executive councils comprising about 200 members. All these members do not contribute meaningfully,” he said.