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National Education Policy idea clashes with HECI’s sole regulator plan

While the NEP advocates a decentralised regulatory model with four autonomous bodies, the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) runs counter to the idea by seeking a single, centralised regulator.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 31, 2019, 08.07 AM IST
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The Union human resource development (HRD) ministry was planning to take the proposed HECI Bill to Parliament in the upcoming winter session .
NEW DELHI: The government’s long-pending reform to create a single higher education regulator has run into a principal conflict with the recommendations made in the new National Education Policy (NEP).

While the NEP advocates a decentralised regulatory model with four autonomous bodies, the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) runs counter to the idea by seeking a single, centralised regulator. The issue has now been flagged off and taken to the Prime Minister’s Office to see how the proposed HECI - for which a cabinet note has already been circulated - can be reconciled with the regulatory structure outlined in the NEP, EThas learnt.

ET has learnt that at a meeting held by the PMO this week it was agreed that the HECI Bill will have to be aligned with the new education policy. The Union human resource development (HRD) ministry was planning to take the proposed HECI Bill to Parliament in the upcoming winter session but it has now been put on hold, ET learnt.

Incidentally, the plan for a single regulator has been in the works for years now. The central government made a fresh bid to do so at the end of its first term but had to drop the legislation on it in 2018 due to strong political opposition to it. In its second term, it had reworked the bill to address the red flagged issues and was preparing to take it to Parliament for approval but fresh concerns have arisen following the submission of the draft new education policy in May this year.

The NEP envisages a National Higher Education Regulatory Authority (NHERA) as a sole regulator but also recommends a separate and independent General Education Council (GEC) to set academic standards and define learning outcomes; accreditation functions to be handled by the National Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC) and a Higher Education Grants Council is to allocate funds to universities and colleges.

The draft policy further emphasises a clear separation of functions to enable adequate focus on each essential role while eliminating conflicts of interest’ through checks and balances.

The HRD ministry’s HECI Bill, on the other hand, recommends a single regulator of higher education to set standards and norms for maintenance of academic standards and an overarching control over accreditation agencies. Only the funding powers are to be kept out of the HECI and vested separately in a Special Purpose Vehicle to ensure funding and regulation do not get mixed up.

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