Niti Aayog Suggests Less Regulation, More Focus On Autonomous Governance In Higher Education

The Niti Aayog, in its recently released "Three-year action agenda", has said that less regulation and more focus on autonomous governance, transparency and outcomes are critical components of a vibrant and successful higher education sector.

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Niti Aayog Suggests Less Regulation, More Focus On Autonomous Governance In Higher Education

Niti Aayog Suggests Less Regulation, More Focus On Autonomous Governance In Higher Education

New Delhi:  The Niti Aayog, in its recently released 'Three-year action agenda', has said that less regulation and more focus on autonomous governance, transparency and outcomes are critical components of a vibrant and successful higher education sector, and these ideas should be the basis of our strategy in higher education. The document also said that the country has made significant progress in increasing enrolment - the GER in tertiary education has risen from 20.8% in 2011-12 to 24.5% in 2015-16 and is more than double what it was only 10 years ago. However, it said that, we need to drive higher quality in the system.

To give an indication of the magnitude of the challenge, the document quoted an assessment of 150,000 engineering graduates by Aspiring Minds in 2016, which found that only 18% of engineers were employable in the software services sector in a functional role, only 41% in non-functional Business Process Outsourcing and only 4% in software engineering start-ups.

The NITI Aayog report listed five major actions to be completed over the next three years, which are; Designation of World Class Universities, Autonomy for top colleges and universities, Reform of the regulatory system - A tiered system of universities, Establish system of project/researcher specific research grants and Increased focus on vocational and profession led education.

NITI Aayog has recently released the 'Three Year Action Agenda' which offers proposals for policy changes within a relatively short period.

Designation of World Class Universities

For designation of world class universities purpose, the report suggested to Identify 20 universities (10 public and 10 private) that can be immediately moved out from the regulatory system.

"Creating world-class universities requires autonomous governance, focused funding, and oversight based on independent outcomes like world rankings.   Instead, we should adopt the tiered funding model for public universities whereby the two best public universities are provided significantly higher funding (with commitment to deliver correspondingly large improvements in performance) than the remaining eight chosen public universities," it said.

Autonomy for top colleges and universities

"More established colleges should be brought under the autonomous colleges scheme to take them out of the centralized control of their university and provide greater flexibility in academic matters," it suggested about giving autonomy to top colleges and universities.

Selectively, the report asked the stake holders to offer colleges with postgraduate teaching, excellent track record and commitment to promoting excellence in teaching and research the option to convert into unitary universities.

"This will allow the colleges to develop their brand name and compete more effectively for good students and teachers. The Presidency College, which recently converted to Presidency University, offers a good example in this respect," it said.

Reform of the regulatory system

The report also said that the UGC's position as an overarching regulator of every aspect of higher education from student fees to curriculum to teaching and course hours keeps India's higher education system from responding to the changes and challenges that it faces in a fast evolving world.

"Various professional councils further complicate the regulatory environment in higher education," it added.

The report proposes to introduce a system of regulation that focuses on information disclosure and governance rather than micro management of universities.

As it was reported earlier about the new sets of draft regulations uploaded by University Grants Commission (UGC) in its website, the Niti Aayog report also suggests to introduce a tiered system whereby the top research-focused universities, which promise to compete globally, are given full autonomy and promised additional resources based on significant improvements over time.

Project / researcher specific research grants

"A system of public funding for research in specific areas of public importance has driven much of the innovation in science and technology in other countries. A similar system should be set up in India with funding to specific scholars, thus, providing both maximum flexibility and accountability for results," it said.

It also asked to adopt another model that is the 'prize' system with funding going to research/innovation groups that deliver solutions to clearly specified problems.

Increased focus on vocational and profession led education

The report suggests to establish and promote norms/standards and/or outcome based certification for institutions that focus on skills and trades closely tied to employment.

"We should also include vocational subjects in mainstream universities to allow for greater acceptance and utility for vocational learning. We can focus more in particular on those skills that are expected to be in high demand from the public sector in the coming years," the Niti Aayog report said.

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(This article was first published on August 29, 2017)

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