More Autonomy for Universities under HRD’s Carrot and Stick Approach

Performing universities will finally get greater autonomy and poor performers will get funding cuts under the new Carrot and Stick approach introduced by the Human Resource Development Ministry. Universities will be segregated into three categories, based on their performances in several criteria including research, industry-income, and teaching-learning environment.

“We are looking to classify universities into three categories and this is not based on NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) grades,” HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said.

India presently accommodates 759 universities which include 47 central universities, 350 state-run universities, 239 private universities, and 123 deemed-to-be universities. 37,000 or more colleges are affiliated to these institutions. The performance of a university directly affects the education outcome of a large section of the affiliated colleges. A large section of these universities are being shabbily-managed and none of them make it to the top 200 universities list in global rankings. “What we are trying is to improve the quality and will do what is required to improve the education outcome,” Javadekar said.

Sources explained that while the ministry is contemplating “maximum autonomy” for top performers in the classification list, the category-C universities, owing to their lack of performance, will see substantial fund cuts. A move that is aimed at “waking them up from the slumber” as “Many government colleges and universities are not up to the mark” a ministry official quoted.

This is an attempt to bring such universities and colleges upto speed with the fast-paced developments in the education sector around the globe. Government-supported universities and colleges at the central and state level get funds from the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The official who refrained from being named mentioned that the plan is already being considered and that a conclusive decision on the same will be taken soon. According to the plan, the top performers will get maximum autonomy-as much as 90%, the colleges and universities in the B-category will get 50% autonomy and the ones in C-category will be subjected to immense regulation and scrutiny over a prolonged period.

Greater autonomy may, in the long run, also include decisions in course structure, course fees, research partnership and little interference in the regular academic and administrative operations of said institutions. On the other hand, for the ones under greater scrutiny, there will be regular audits, more scrutiny by regulators such as UGC and All India Council of Technical Education and restrictions on the introduction of new courses and expansion of existing ones.

“By giving quality institutions after due scrutiny more freedom will bring more quality players to the space and thus more investments. It will be good for government, private players and the students at large,” said Vineet Gupta, pro vice-chancellor of Ashoka University.

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