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Watch it, colleges! Big brother looms
Diktat to draw up student trip rules

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New Delhi, July 16: The Union government is taking on the role of big brother to universities and colleges, telling education regulators to draw up safety guidelines for them and to explore if the institutes can be ordered to keep parents updated like schools do.

The human resource development ministry has asked the higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), and the technical education regulator, the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), to frame guidelines to ensure students’ safety when they are on excursions or study trips.

The decision was taken after 24 engineering students from a college near Hyderabad drowned in the Beas in Himachal Pradesh last month. HRD minister Smriti Irani had then visited the site of the tragedy.

Former UGC chairman Yashpal has described as “ridiculous” the idea that the higher education regulators will set guidelines to check accidents.

“The respective university or college is supposed to frame guidelines to ensure safety of students,” he said.

The regulating agencies may issue an advisory to institutes to follow safety measures but the specific steps should be decided by the institutes themselves, Yashpal said.

The UGC and AICTE are expected to focus on ensuring academic standards in institutions, he stressed.

But the HRD ministry appears to believe in asking the regulators to micro-manage colleges. At a meeting called by the higher education secretary, the AICTE and the UGC were told to see if all universities and colleges can be asked to send updates on students’ performance in exams to their parents.

Yashpal questioned the rationale behind this move, too. “Concerned parents are anyway able to get details about the wards’ performance from the institute. Why should the institute send it to them?” he asked.

All 35,000 colleges in the country could be asked to set up their own websites and upload details like accreditation status, facilities and faculty — another proposal that was discussed at last week’s meeting.

This is to enable parents and students to take informed decisions while choosing an institution for pursuing higher studies, an official source said.

Out of 673 university-level institutions in India, only about 200 have valid accreditation from National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). Similarly, of the 35,000 colleges, about 5,000 are accredited.

The UGC has also issued a letter to all universities to put in place a proper grievance redress mechanism. Every university is expected to appoint a nodal officer who would be the point person to be contacted on any grievance such as harassment, discrimination or cheating.

The UGC will set up an online grievance portal where the students can register their grievances, which it will forward to the institute concerned for follow-up action.