The recent developments at University Grants Commission (UGC) are hardly becoming of the apex higher education regulator of the country. Appointment processes for top positions at the Commission are currently dogged by controversies that hint at intense lobbying, politicking, ego battles and turf wars. The UGC chairman’s selection process scrapped once has had to start afresh, the vice-chairman’s appointment is mired in court battles and the secretary’s appointment process now threatens to divide the Commission into factions.
If its own house is in such a bad shape, one is forced to wonder how the UGC can be expected to regulate institutions of higher education and devise strategies to make them globally competitive.
Other education regulators have done no better — in 2009 the AICTE top brass was accused of rampant corruption by CBI; the Council of Architecture and the HRD Ministry are engaged in a battle for control for over six years now; and the National Council for Teacher Education that regulates teacher training courses had to be virtually taken over by the HRD Ministry to bring it back on track.
That the Kapil Sibal-led ministry has failed to help effect a course correction at an important body like UGC, rankles. The ministry in turn points at a leadership crisis and dearth of academic talent that is undoing bodies like UGC.
Compounding the crisis is the HRD Ministry’s stance on appointments. Prolonged delays in selecting heads of significant education bodies like NCERT, National Book Trust and UGC have undermined them and affected their functioning, conjuring at the same time the image of the ministry as a headquarters of sort.
A fresh start could have been possible with the recommendation made by both the National Knowledge Commission and the Prof Yash Pal-led committee to set up a single National Council for Higher Education & Research to replace multiple regulatory bodies like UGC, AICTE, etc.
It is a pity that the NCHER Bill along with a clutch of other education Bills promising reform and quality in higher education are languishing in Parliament for nearly two years now, and unfortunately stare at an equally bleak future.