Reforming the University Education System in India

The Supreme Court ordered the University Grants Commission (UGC) to review the 44 deemed universities. This has created a troublesome situation for the students enrolled under such institutions.

In June 2009, The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had empowered the UGC to review the maintenance of standards in these institutions. The UGC appointed different committees consisting of vice-chancellors, senior professors and nominees from various statutory bodies. These committees visited and scrutinised various deemed universities and submitted a report on each university to the UGC. The reports were accepted and sent for the follow-up actions. The MHRD has indirect approval of all proceedings, as the MHRD Secretary is represented in the UGC.

The Flawed reports: The Tandon Committee

While the UGC Act, 1956 gives the UGC power to review the functioning of universities, the MHRD infringed this power of the UGC, by forming the Tandon Committee in July 2009. The Committee directed the deemed universities to make an oral presentation for 20 minutes and interacted with them for about 10 minutes. The Committee considered 9 parameters for the review, and awarded scores of 5, 3, 1 and 0. [download Tandon Committee Report]

The Committee did not visit any university, and categorised the universities only on the basis of short discussions. It categorised the universities into: A (for universities scoring 30 or more); B (for universities scoring 18 or more); and C (for universities scoring less than 18).

There has hardly any transparency in terms of scoring system. The committee recommended withdrawal of the universities which were in the C category. As a result, such universities filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2009 challenging the constitution of the committee and the method adopted by it in awarding grades. The Supreme Court restored the status quo ante in its order in January 2010. Since then, the matter has been under hearing for over 20 times, with over two dozen interim orders, but without any conclusive decision.

The Thakur Committee

Based on the orders passed by the court in April 2011, the MHRD constituted the Thakur Committee, headed by the Secretary of the MHRD, Mr. Ashok Thakur, to individually review the 44 reviewed universities.

The Thakur committee found a fundamental flaw in the Tandon Committee’s scoring. The system of 5, 3, 1, 0 was found flawed. The committee recommended reducing the maximum possible score from 45 to 35. But it recommended retaining the lower limit of the score to 30 for A; 18 for B; and, less than 18 for C (as recommended by the Tandon Committee). This, however, surprised many.

Intervention of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court passed an interim order in January 2014, ordering the review of the 44 C category universities and made clear that the MHRD is not bound by the UGC review findings. This decision has an important implication, for it reduced UGC, from the status of a statutory body, to an advisory body.

There is a need for an overhaul of the system of education in India. The Supreme Court has been prolonging these issues for years, without any conclusive points.

MHRD should review the categorisation of the universities, as many of the universities have been placed in category A, erroneously. While the Tandon Committee has expired, its report is still used to provide recognition to the universities.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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