In a shocking and abrupt decision, the MHRD has proposed to dangerously dismantle the University Grants Commission (UGC) by repealing the UGC Act of 1956 and replace it with Higher Education Commission of India (HECI). The proposed HECI will only focus on the questions of academic standards of the university, while the Government will take charge of the grant giving function.
Dangerous Move to Scrap UGC and End “Grants” in Higher Education:
This move is not just a plain and simple restructuring, the dangerous agenda of the Modi Government is very clear from the nomenclature itself. University “Grants” Commission (UGC) will be replaced by Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), and the new body has no grant giving power. So the Government is actually absolving itself of its responsibilities of funding in higher education through autonomous institutions like UGC.
But this is nothing new for the ruling regime. Earlier also, the BJP Government has tried its’ best to scrap bodies like UGC and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and snatch their grant giving powers by creating a body a called Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA). The HEERA formula was successfully resisted by student-teacher community, but this new proposal is a cunning move towards the same direction. A ministry of finance notification of 13th January, 2017 and other notifications by the MHRD and the UGC have also stated that the government will provide only 70% of the required fund to the central universities. The remaining 30% will have to be generated by the universities themselves. The state governments have been told that the centre will only provide 50% of the required funds for state universities. Though the massive students – teachers’ protest resisted the 70 – 30% formula for the time being, the Modi Govt is leaving no stone unturned for fund cut in higher education. And now, it wants to do away with the UGC, the funding agency itself!
Design to Increase Political Interferences in Campuses:
The Government claimed this new change will result into more autonomy and less interference in the educational institutions. Nothing can be more absurd than this! If the Government solely controls the grant giving power replacing the UGC, it will surely result into more direct political interference in our campuses.
Further, the new regulator will have the power to order closure of “sub standard” institutions. But in reality, there is no action against the actual “sub standard” institutions. We have seen how private engineering colleges are flourishing with the Government blessing though lakhs of seats remain vacant every year. The power to order closure of educational institutions is merely a tool to for political vendetta against certain universities.
We must ask why this arbitrary step?
Does it aim to solve the severe problems plaguing our higher education system – fund cut, scholarship cut, seat cut and decimation of social justice? No, not at all! It is just a “demonetization type shocker”, which has become the hallmark of Modi Government, is to desperately create the impression that the Government is doing something novel. But the reality is to implement one anti-student, anti-people policy after another. And the MHRD has ridiculously given only 10 days for feedback, which shows how desperately the Government wants to push this dangerous policy.
The proposal of dismantling UGC comes in the long list of vicious assaults on higher education by Modi Government in the last four years – blatant attempts to scarp non-NET fellowship in 2015, shameful discontinuation of the CSIR funding, massive research seat cut, attempt to scuttle biannual NET, hyperactivity to stop fellowships for marginalized communities and the dangerous “autonomy” scheme and 70 – 30% funding formula. The latest proposal of destruction of the UGC will lead to massive fund cut and dangerous political interference in our campuses. We must resist this anti-student, anti-education proposal.