Shaping the Concept of Higher Education

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2Dr Akhilesh Gupta
He obtained his M.Sc. degree in Physics from Lucknow University and PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from IIT, Delhi.

He joined India Meteorological Department in 1985 and worked there as Meteorologist until 1994.He then joined National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting where he worked in the field of location specific weather forecasting and numerical weather modelling and coordinated All India Agro advisory Service until 2006.
Dr Gupta worked in the Disaster Management Cell of Department of Science &Technology during 2006-07.He worked as Advisor to the Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences during 2007-09.
Before joining UGC, Dr Gupta was working as Head,Climate Change Programme Division of Department of Science & Technology,Government of India where in he was coordinating two National Missions on Climate Change under National Action Plan on Climate Change launched by the Government.

What steps is the UGC taking to bring about improvement in overall quality of education?
The University Grants Commission (UGC) is an apex regulatory body on higher education in the country. It came into existence on 28th December, 1953 and became a statutory body of Government of India by an Act of Parliament in 1956. The main objective of UGC is to work for the coordination, determination, and maintenance of standards of university education in the country. There are three broad goals of the higher education system in the country. These are: to ensure access or expansion (that aims to increase student enrolment), to impart quality or excellence in education and to provide equity to underprivileged sections of the society.

What steps is UGC taking to monitor the educational institutions?
UGC constantly monitors the educational institutions to ensure that there is no compromise in terms of quality of education. UGC is committed to maintain the standard of education in the country. In a renewed effort to accelerate the pace of several reforms in higher education, the University Grants Commission has taken a number of significant initiatives in the recent past with a view of bringing about improvements in higher education. These include-UGC (Prevention of Caste-based Discrimination/Harassment/Victimisation and Promotion of Equality in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012; UGC(Establishment of Mechanism for Grievances Redressal)Regulations, 2012; UGC (Mandatory Assessment and Accreditation of higher Educational Institutions) Regulations,2012; UGC (Promotion and Maintenance of Standards on Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Educational Institutions) Regulations,2012; UGC Guidelines on Students’ Entitlements and Obligations, 2012; Introduction of Bachelor Degree in Vocational Course under the National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF); Development of e-content in 77 Postgraduate programmes under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT); Restoration of the autonomy of Universities for seeking timely allocation of grants during the 12th Five-Year Plan;Innovation Universities; Joint Appointments; Anti Ragging Helpline and Web portal; Innovations and Reforms in the National Eligibility Test (NET); Introduction of Alternative modes of Experimentation on Animals in Life-Sciences; Introduction of Electronic Repository of Research Thesis and Synopses; Inputs for the National Mission on Teachers and Teacher Education.

Tell us about the interventions that UGC has made for the 12th Five Year Plan.
Some of the major interventions for the 12th Five Year Plan include, enhancing autonomy of universities through a mechanism of block grants for academic,research and innovations activities, differential funding provisions for under-graduate, post-graduate and Ph.D. students in an attempt to improve GER for higher education; performance linked funding based on designing appropriable ranking system for the universities;enhanced emphasis for support to state universities; on the excellence front, constituting empowered committees to create new schemes for knowledge generation through research; creation of expert subject panels to clear major and minor projects and for Quality Control Mechanism;overcoming near absence of good text books in Indian Languages and strengthening internationalisation of higher education including mobility of faculty and students. In discharge of its cardinal function of coordinating and maintaining standards of higher education,over the years, UGC has evolved a wide variety of programmes for realisation of the goals of higher education. Some of these have assumed ‘Flag-Ship’ status as they focus on individual students,teachers, researchers, socially vulnerable groups,thematic priorities in teaching and research and institutions of higher learning ranging from Departments and Colleges to Universities.

Several compensatory interventions for marginalised sections of the society for enhancing their participation in higher education have been a special concern of these initiatives with aview to promote social equity. Establishment of Inter-University Centres has provided a fillip to make high-end research facilities and support to the Indian higher education system. Recently,the UGC has decided to launch an inspirational intervention through the establishment of Chairs in honour of Nobel Laureates who have done our country proud. The UGC would endeavour to harness the indentified strength, channelise its resources and direct its efforts towards overcoming the perceived inadequacies.

The Government of India has been taking a number of steps to bring improvement in the Gross Enrolment Ratio. Please provide us your views on this.
Higher education in India has reported an impressive growth since independence. However, the last decade has witnessed an unprecedented expansion of higher education sector. This decade was marked by an exponential increase in the number of students enrolling into higher education; a quantum jump in the number of institutions including universities; and a substantive increase in public funding. The University Grants Commission has been contributing immensely to this growth in the higher education through various policies, programmes, academic reforms and administrative and financial support to the institutions.

UGC has been working ceaselessly with the challenge of providing equal opportunity for quality higher education to ever-growing number of students while maintaining equity with the societal and sectoral diversity of the country. The other challenges include; reinvigorating institutions,achieving excellence of international benchmarks and extending frontiers of knowledge. Keeping these challenges in mind, the UGC aims at achieving rapid expansion for deepening excellence and providing equal access to quality higher education during the 12th Five Year Plan. There has been an unprecedented growth in the number of institutions in recent years. From nearly 250 Universities in 2000-01, today we have as many as 700 degree awarding institutions in the country. Similarly there has been a three-fold increase in number of colleges in the country from about 12,000in 2000-01 to over 36,000 now. The number of students enrolling to higher education has also witnessed exponential growth during last decade.This increase was also nearly three-fold from nearly eight million in 2000-01 to over 20 million now. There has been substantial progress in terms of overall Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in the country during past 5-6 years. GER has increased from about 11 percent in 2005-06 to about 19percent in 2012-13.

Considering the present trend both in terms of increase in number of institutions and students, country is likely to touch a GER of 30percent by the year 2020. There have been some concerns about lower student enrolment in certain fields of higher education as compared to others.These fields include Veterinary Science (0.14percent), Agriculture (0.48 percent) and law (1.84percent). The UGC is endeavouring to promote students opting for such areas to achieve higher enrolment in such fields. There has also been considerable increase in number of teachers in higher education in the country. There has been over two-fold increase in the number of teachers from nearly four lakh in 2000-01 to over nine lakh now.

“Ragging is a menace; it must be addressed immediately by the education fraternity”

In your opinion what are the specific steps that can betaken to ensure that quality of education being offered in private institutions is up to the mark?
We have UGC (Establishment and maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulations,2003, which helps in regulating educational standards in private universities. Private universities are generally established by a separate State Act.A private university is a unitary university having adequate facilities for teaching, research, examination and extension services. A private university established under a State Act is expected to operate ordinarily within the boundary of the State concerned. However, after the development of main campus, in exceptional circumstances, the university may be permitted to open off-campus centres, off-shore campuses and study centres after five years of its coming into existence. All the private universities are expected to conform to the relevant provisions of the UGC Act, 1956, as amended from time to time. However since these private universities are established through state act, it is the state governments concerned that also need to ensure that the quality of education being offered in their universities is up to the mark. UGC is in the process of bringing a new Regulation on Private Universities.

What initiatives UGC is taking to ensure equity in higher education in the country?
India is a young country, as 50 percent of the population is less than 25 year old; nearly 65 percent population is below 35. The true potential of the youths who dominate Indian population can be harnessed only through access to higher education.However, this effort will remain futile unless the social equity is nurtured adequately. Despite considerable efforts that are put in, the real potential of our youth belonging to the vulnerable sections of the society remains untapped. The UGC has always been giving considerable emphasis to greater participation of Scheduled Castes (SCs),Scheduled Tribes (STs), Minorities, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Persons with Disabilities and Women in higher education. Some of the notable schemes of the UGC for nurturing societal equity for various beneficiary categories include Indira Gandhi PG Scholarship for Single Girl child, Residential Coaching Academics for Minorities, Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowships for SCs and STs, and Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minorities,Post-doctoral fellowships for SCs, STs, and Women, etc. Through these schemes, the UGC has supported nearly 19 lakh students from as many asover 6500 institutions involving an expenditure of`4684 Crores in the recent past.

We are currently having lot of discussion on allowing foreign universities. What is your view on allowing foreign universities to function in the country?
Since there is a bill pending with parliament on this issue, no decision has been taken by the government on allowing foreign universities to open their campuses in India. However, we have UGC (Promotion and Maintenance of Standard son Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Educational Institutions) Regulations,2012. Under this regulation, foreign institutions can have collaboration, partnership or twinning arrangement with any Indian educational institutions.For this only those foreign institutions which are accredited with the highest grade in their homeland will be allowed to have twinning arrangement with those Indian Institutions which are accredited by the nationally recognised accrediting agencies with a grade not less than B or its equivalent in respect of institutional accreditation or a threshold level of accreditation in respect of program accreditation, as the case may be.

Ragging is a big problem that continues to be there in our higher education sector. What steps is UGC taking to stop ragging in universities and colleges?
India is a country with diversified culture and people. Ragging is a phenomenon that must be curbed at every place of learning. We have framed UGC Regulations on curbing the menace of ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009,in order to prohibit, prevent and eliminate the scourge of ragging in Indian Universities/Colleges/Institutions. The above regulations are mandatory and all Institutions should take necessary steps for its implementation under intimation to the UGC. Students in distress owing to ragging related incidents can access the Toll Free Helpline set up by UGC.

How UGC is planning to facilitate use of National Knowledge Network which connected the Institutes supported by UGC?
UGC has set up an Inter University Centre called the Consortium for Educational Communication,popularly known as CEC. The CEC has been established with the goal of addressing the needs of Higher Education through the use of powerful medium of Television along with the appropriate use of emerging Information Communication Technology (ICT). Realising the potential and power of television to act as means of educational knowledge dissemination, UGC started the Countrywide Classroom Programmes in the year1984. Media centres were set up at various universities for production of educational programmes.In fact, the CEC has been setup to serve as a nodal agency to coordinate, guide and facilitate such educational programme production through its Media Centres.

Climate is an area of interest for you. During the course of your career you have contributed a lot in climate related research. Please tell us about the climate change in perspective of India?
The climate change that we are referring to in today’s context is the one caused by man-made activities in terms of uncontrolled industrialisation,modern transport systems and advanced house-hold appliances which led to unprecedented increase in the emission level of green house gases. This increase in greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere during past a century has resulted in increase in temperature of the order of 0.74 deg C. The Government of India has launched a National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in2008 which outlined as many as eight National Missions on Climate Change. The NAPCC has been built around India’s civilisation legacy and also keeping in mind India’s development agenda. India’s climate change programme aims at achieving sustainable development through appropriate adaptation and mitigation measures without compromising on sustained economic growth. Unlike developed countries which are expected to introduce capping to their emission level, India’s mitigation policy aims at achieving reduction of emission through the process of avoidance.There are four main components of India mitigation initiatives. These are: promotion of energy efficiency in all sectors, introduction of mass transport system, greater use of renewable sources of energy and focussed R&D on clean energy areas. Climate change research in India needs to be focussed in S&T Capacity building in the key areas. The country needs to build strategic knowledge system so that new knowledge generated could be used for policy formulation both at national level and also for the purpose of international negotiations.

What role can universities play in environment conservation?
Environmental conservation is not just a subject of education alone. It is linked to India’s civilisation ethos. India is one of the few countries in the world which has been traditionally following the path of environmental conservation and preservation. There is need to build the subject of environmental conservation in the curriculum so that students are made sensitive to these concerns.There are already a number of universities in India which have departments or Centres focusing on earth and environmental sciences. It is expected that more and more universities and institutions may start setting up such centres in future when the climate change may become more relevant in the time to come especially when its impact would be felt in terms of increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events and on socio-economic sectors like agriculture, water and human health.

University GrantsCommission (UGC)
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.Consequently, the University Grants Commission (UGC)was formally inaugurated by late Shri Maulana Abul KalamAzad, the then Minister of Education, Natural Resources and Scientific Research on 28December 1953.The UGC, however,was formally established only in November 1956as 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. In order to ensure effective region wise coverage throughout the country, the UGC has decentralised its operations by setting up six regional centres at Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore. The head office of the UGC is located at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi,with two additional bureaus operating from 35, Feroze Shah Road and the South Campus of University of Delhi as well.

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