According to reports, the Modi government is all set to scrap the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and replace them with one higher education regulator with a legislation. The regulator has tentatively been christened as Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA).
The decision was reportedly taken at a meeting on education, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in early March.
A committee which has Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Higher Education Secretary KK Sharma as members, among others, is reportedly working on to prepare a detailed blueprint of HEERA. Work is on at a rapid pace to frame the HEERA legislation, sources in the government are quoted as saying. The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry and Niti Aayog are working in tandem to frame the new law.
The new regulatory legislation is likely to be short and clean and will outline minimum standards focused on outcomes. It will eliminate overlaps in jurisdiction and do away with regulatory provisions that may no longer be relevant. Since the separation of technical and nontechnical education is out of sync with global practices, a single regulator will bring in transparency and greater synergy among institutions.
“Though HEERA aims at putting an end to the inspector raj and harassment regime of the UGC and AICTE, the new body will be empowered to take strong penal action whenever necessary,” said a senior government official.
Since the process of replacing AICTE and UGC with HEERA – though a legislation – will take time, amendments to existing rules are considered among other options as interim reform measures.
It could be noted that the idea of replacing multiple regulatory authorities in education sector with a single and streamlined regulator has been mooted since long. Even during the UPA dispensation, several committees including Hari Gautam Committee, Yashpal Committee and even National Knowledge Commission had recommended the same. But the recommendations were never executed.