Higher Ed Round-Up - University Grants Commission (UGC), Fostering Reforms in Higher Education
Soon after Independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of Dr S Radhakrishnan to report on Indian university education and suggest improvements and extensions that might be desirable to suit the present and future needs and aspirations of the country.
In 1952, the Union Government decided that all cases pertaining to the allocation of grants-in-aid from public funds to the central universities and other universities and institutions of higher learning might be referred to the University Grants Commission (UGC). Consequently, the UGC was formally inaugurated by the late Shri Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Minister of Education, Natural Resources and Scientific Research on 28 December 1953. The UGC, however, was formally established only in November 1956 as a statutory body of the Government of India through an Act of Parliament for the coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of university education in India. The head office of the UGC is located at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi.
Fostering Reforms in Higher Education
With the announcement of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the challenges also have increased manifold as the Government expects the education sector to meet the aspirations of the policy within a stipulated time. However, as every good thing makes its way, all educational bodies (Central and State) are trying their best to implement the NEP effectively and efficiently at the earliest. UGC, being the apex body to look at the coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of university education in India, has raised to the occasion. One can see the results of the same through the announcements made by Prof Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, Chairman, UGC almost every alternate day.
To help the student community and other readers, we have collated the top ten latest and most important announcements by UGC. This article is a primer to the announcements by UGC on Higher Education reforms. (Links to the news articles given under the heading, sources):
- Tweaking the National Higher Education Qualifications Framework (NHEQF) - The UGC will alter the learning assessment parameters in the draft National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) to bring continuity with the National Skill Qualification Framework. The changes have also been aimed at networking it to fit in the four-year undergraduate programme.
- Comprehensive norms to reduce psychological distress among students - “The key challenge lies in creating institutionalised practices that can ensure protection to students from any threat and assault, physical, social, discriminatory, cultural, and linguistic causing distress among students”, says UGC.
- Relaxation of regulations to set up more open universities in India - According to this amendment, the requirement of 40 to 60 acres of land for setting up an open university has been reduced to developed land of just 5 acres. UGC Chairman, M Jagadesh Kumar, in a statement, said, “the idea behind this reform is to promote more institutions in distance/online mode education without being limited by the availability of developed land for the institution. Earlier, the minimum land required for such institutions was 40-60 acres which will be very difficult to procure in cities and hilly areas. This has now been reduced to 5 acres of developed land”.
- CET for admission to PG courses as well, but not a must – A Common Entrance Test (CET) will be held for admission to postgraduate programmes in 42 central universities from the upcoming academic year. The two-hour-long entrance test will be held in the last week of July, UGC chairperson Prof M Jagadesh Kumar said, as he launched the application window for the test which will be anchored by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
- Internationalisation of Indian Education – The UGC has said that it has reached out to eligible foreign universities for possible MoUs with Indian institutions. We have informed our Indian Ambassadors/Heads of Indian Missions abroad and Foreign Ambassadors/Heads of Foreign Missions in India about these new regulations, requesting them to pursue with the universities in their respective countries for collaborating with Indian universities, said the commission.
- Scholarship disbursal to be more student friendly – UGC officers met a group of PhD scholars from across India to seek their feedback on the new functionalities being introduced in the Scholarship and Fellowship Management Portal of UGC designed to make scholarship disbursal student friendly.
- Ease of PhD regulations to allow more foreign students, in Indian institutions – UGC chairperson, M Jagadesh Kumar told Deccan Herald that, the higher education regulator will announce revisions to PhD regulations soon. “UGC is going to announce revised PhD regulations and we will be creating supernumerary PhD positions. Each faculty member will be able to take two international PhD students under their guidance over and above the current limit prescribed by the regulations,” Jagadesh Kumar, said. Currently, foreign students can be admitted to PhD programmes of Indian universities only if vacant positions are available after trying to offer all the seats to Indian students.
- Immediate implementation of the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) - ABC, developed by the National E-Governance Division (NeGD) under the Digilocker framework, is a virtual storehouse that contains information on students’ credits. UGC has asked all higher education institutions to immediately register online on the Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) platform and upload the date of student credits earned during or after the 2021-22 academic year.
- The fee increases for UGC NET applications in 2022 - The National Testing Agency (NTA) has raised the UGC National Eligibility Test (NET) application fee for the merged cycles of December 2021 and June 2022. The application fee has increased by approximately 10 percent. The application fee for the general category or unreserved category has increased by Rs 100 to Rs 1,100. Meanwhile, the fee for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), Other Backward Classes Non-Creamy Layer (OBC-NCL) has been increased by Rs 50, making the fee for this year Rs 550. Lastly, the application fee for SC, ST, Persons with disability (PwD) and transgender has been increased by Rs 25, making it stand at Rs 275 now.
- More Cities Have Been Added to the list that conducts UGC NET Exam - The UGC NET 2022 exam will be held in 541 different cities. In comparison to the previous year, when the exam was held in 239 locations.
With the Government’s aspiration of making India ‘Vishwa Guru’, Indian Higher Education is up for revolutionary changes to complement this aspiration, student community should also join their hands and be ready for many more constructive changes from UGC and other policy-making bodies.
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