Guwahati, March 7: Assam today took its first step towards opening the doors to private players in the higher education sector by tabling the Assam Private Universities Bill, 2007 in the Assembly.
The bill, tabled by education minister Ripun Bora, aims to introduce state-of-the-art facilities in education and training and create centres of excellence for research and development.
The government has justified the need for the proposed legislation on the ground that the economic growth of a state bears a direct relationship with technical prowess. It also said the existing technical institutions are inadequate to cater to the growing need of students of the state.
“A state with a higher growth potential in technical education attracts more investment in the manufacturing as well as service sectors. Our state has been trailing far behind the southern states as well as the national averages on this count. The two engineering colleges and seven polytechnics were established long ago. These are totally inadequate. The existing capacity of technical education in the state for degree as well as diploma-level courses is significantly lower than the national average,” Bora said.
“A huge amount of funds are required to establish such professional and technical institutions. The chief minister, while seeking vote-on-account for 2006-20007, invited private investment in higher education. It was, therefore, felt that a suitable legal framework should be put in place so that potential investors could plan and implement schemes with a comfortable degree of stability of government policy,” the minister said.
Though Bora could not be contacted, additional secretary for higher education R. Zaman told The Telegraph that the government had studied similar legislations in the states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Haryana in detail while preparing the bill.
Describing the initiative as a bold one, Zaman said the proposed act was a must if Assam wanted to stem the exodus of students to other states for professional and technical courses. It would also help existing institutions in the state to become more competitive. He clarified that the initiative did not involve any funding from the government.
“There will be no cost to the exchequer. The government will only help out with logistics like setting up of infrastructure. Moreover, the universities will not have a free run. To ensure that only institutions with a proven track record are allowed to set up shop, the government will act as a regulatory body. It will fix the fees and insist on a minimum capital fund of Rs 1 crore and a campus area between 30 to 60 bighas to make Guwahati an educational destination,” he said, adding several private universities were in touch with the government.