New Delhi, Oct. 16: A battle has broken out over who will shape the education of the country’s future engineers and managers.
The University Grants Commission is locked in a turf war with technical education council AICTE, which has been stripped of its powers to regulate technical and professional courses run by around 11,000 engineering and management institutions.
The UGC has set up a committee to frame rules to standardise technical and professional education, upsetting the All India Council for Technical Education, left with only an advisory role following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
At a meeting chaired by higher education secretary Ashok Thakur last week, AICTE chairperson S.S. Mantha threatened to resign if the regulatory responsibility for technical education was handed over to the UGC.
The ministry, however, backed the UGC and asked the higher education regulator to go ahead with framing the regulations. “The AICTE chairperson is upset that the council is losing its regulatory powers. But technical and professional education is currently unregulated. The government cannot allow such a state of vacuum to continue,” said a senior official of the human resource development ministry.
The UGC’s action is in conformity with the court’s ruling that colleges need not seek approval from the AICTE to run technical courses. The court said the UGC was the regulator for such courses and the AICTE was only an advisory body.
Following the apex court’s ruling, the ministry had started the process of amending the AICTE Act to overrule the decision. The ministry also decided to bring an ordinance as Parliament is not in session.
But, in a U-turn, the ministry backed the UGC’s decision to frame the regulations, apparently because of the uncertainty over the passage of the ordinance.
Sources said the recent controversy over the ordinance on election reforms, which the government had to withdraw, must have also played on the ministry’s mind.
The official said there was no guarantee that the ordinance on technical education would be in place before the approval process for courses starts in December. “The ordinance has been sent to the cabinet but has not been taken up. You have to have some mechanism in place so that colleges get approval for running courses in the 2014-15 academic session.”
The cabinet is scheduled to meet tomorrow, but the AICTE ordinance is not on the agenda, sources said.
Even if the cabinet approves the ordinance, it has to be passed by both Houses of Parliament within six months from its promulgation.
It is against this backdrop that the meeting chaired by higher education secretary Thakur was held last week.
At the meeting, AICTE chairperson Mantha argued that the council had regulated technical and professional education for the last 20 years. So the ministry should focus on amending the AICTE Act to restore its powers.
UGC chairperson Ved Prakash argued that if the higher education regulator did not frame regulations for technical and professional education, it would be held responsible for violating the apex court’s directive.
At this point, Mantha threatened to resign, saying the AICTE, without any regulatory role, would be reduced to a defunct agency, sources said.
The AICTE chairperson later refused to comment on the controversy. “I don’t want to say anything. You ask the ministry,” he said.
The apex court’s ruling had come in April this year in a dispute between the Association of Management of Private Colleges and the AICTE. The court had held that affiliated colleges of any university need not take approval from the AICTE and that universities and the UGC were the appropriate bodies to regulate technical courses.
The court asked the AICTE to advise the UGC on quality standards. Following the court’s ruling, the AICTE has stopped the process of giving approval.
The court also ruled that MBA was not a technical course and the technical council’s permission was not required for running MBA courses.
The committee the UGC has set up has already held its first meeting and is expected to come up with the regulations by November. UGC sources said the affiliating universities would directly implement the regulations.