University Grants Commission

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Autonomy for top colleges

Liberating India’s Best Colleges

Arvind Panagariya and B Venkatesh Kumar, February 15, 2018: The Times of India

With approximately one year left before voting for the next Lok Sabha elections begins, you would expect the government to be seized by populism. Not the Modi government. On the heels of a pragmatic Budget, the human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar has now announced the most far-reaching reforms in higher education. One of us (Panagariya) had lamented for long that the reforms in this important area had been cursed, with HRD minister after HRD minister failing to bring about fundamental change. Magically, Javadekar has broken that curse.

By way of background, during past several years, multiple commissions and committees have recommended reforms but failed to bring about any substantive change in the core regulations under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act. Undeterred, in June 2017, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) appointed a committee at the Niti Aayog to recommend how progress could be made in this important area. One of us chaired that committee while the other joined it as an invited expert member.

It is nothing short of a miracle that Niti committee was successful in forging a consensus around the reforms among its members, which included the top officials of Niti Aayog, HRD ministry, UGC and All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). The committee submitted its report to the PMO at the end of August 2017.

The announcement by the HRD minister has translated the recommendations by Niti committee into action in the areas of autonomy to universities and colleges. The far-reaching changes are contained in two separate Gazette notifications: Graded Autonomy Regulations (GARs) 2018; and Autonomous Colleges Regulations (ACRs) 2018. Recommendations by Niti committee in a third area, accreditation, have received approval by UGC but await a nod from the HRD ministry.

GARs break away from decades long tradition of one-size-fits-all regulations for our universities. Based on National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) scores, they divide universities into three categories: those receiving more than 3.5 in NAAC scores (Category I); those receiving NAAC scores above 3.25 but not exceeding 3.5 (Category II); and those receiving NAAC score of 3.25 or less (Category III). Category I universities also include universities listed among the top 500 in international rankings such as the Times Higher Education and QS. Universities in Categories I and II are granted considerable autonomy while those in Category III remain subject to existing rules.

Under GARs, universities in Categories I and II are entirely free to start new courses, programmes, departments, schools and centres and open constituent colleges within their geographical jurisdiction in self-financing mode. They are also exempt from UGC inspections, can offer courses in open and distance mode, build in an incentive structure to attract talented faculty from their own resources and engage in international collaborations including hiring foreign faculty. Decision making authority has been shifted from UGC to statutory bodies of the university such as the finance committee, academic council and governing board.

Category I universities will additionally automatically come under Section 12B of the UGC Act without a UGC inspection. They will also have the freedom to open research parks, incubation centres and university society linkage centres.

ACRs, the rules governing autonomy to colleges, extend autonomy to a larger set of colleges so that they may evolve into high-performing institutions, even independent universities. Historically, process roadblocks at the level of the affiliating university, concerned state government and UGC have discouraged colleges from seeking autonomy. Therefore, ideally, autonomy should be automatically conferred once a college is deemed eligible for it. But the existing technical difficulties forbid this path. Consequently, as a compromise solution, the new regulations make a conscious effort to minimise the roadblocks that the affiliating university, the state government and UGC can place in the path to autonomy once an eligible college applies for it.

Turning to accreditation, reforms recommended by Niti committee and approved by UGC propose to throw the door wide open to independent accreditation agencies. Despite efforts, NAAC and National Board of Accreditation have not been able to achieve the scale and credibility necessary to make a success of accreditation process. Many more entities and resources are required to correct this situation.

Under the reforms awaiting HRD ministry approval, an advisory council consisting of public figures and distinguished academics of unimpeachable integrity would be charged with empanelling the accreditation agencies. To ensure that universities and colleges are not able to influence accreditation agencies, they will be required to contribute the fees to a central pool from which the accreditation agencies would be paid.

Some would argue that we must grant autonomy to all institutions. An argument in favour of the graded autonomy in the initial round, however, is that the reform must gain credibility among stakeholders. This is best accomplished by producing success among the top-ranking institutions. There would be every reason to extend the autonomy to all universities and colleges over time.

To make these reforms permanent, the government will need to bring a new legislation to replace the UGC Act, 1956. Absent such legislation, the risk of a future government reverting to old rules remains. The new legislation would also provide the occasion to replace UGC by a less intrusive and more independent regulatory body.

2018: regulations notified

UGC paves way for autonomy to top colleges, February 15, 2018: The Times of India

The University Grants Commission has paved the way for top colleges in the country to get autonomous status that will empower them to start their own courses, award degrees, conduct examinations and make appointments, among other things.

The commission notified the regulations to this effect on Tuesday. It says colleges with a ranking of 3.51 and above in the National Assessment and Accreditation Council’s 4-point scale will be considered for grant of autonomous status for 10 years without an on-site visit by an expert committee.

With this, the institutions will get the freedom to start diploma (undergraduate and postgraduate) or certificate courses as well as new undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes without prior approvals from the university or the regulatory authority.

The colleges will also be allowed to restructure and redesign the syllabus to suit local needs. The autonomous status will empower the colleges to announce results, issue mark sheets, migration and other certificates. However, the degree shall be awarded by the university with the name of the college on the degree certificate.

The changes were contained in the HRD ministry’s gazette notification – University Grants Commission (Conferment of Autonomous Status Upon Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Autonomous Colleges) Regulations, 2018.

Under the provision of Section 2(f) of the UGC Act, colleges of any discipline, whether aided, partially aided and unaided/ self-financing are now eligible to seek autonomy.

Autonomous colleges need not pay affiliation fee to the parent university every year. One-time fee can be paid at the time of conferment of autonomous status. They shall also have complete administrative autonomy.

Colleges which have a NAAC score of 3.26 and above, up to 3.50 or a corresponding National Board of Accreditation score or a corresponding accreditation grade/ score from a UGC empanelled accreditation agency, too shall be considered for grant of autonomy for six years.

IIT-D, IIT-B, IISc and 3 others freed from UGC norms

Manash Gohain, IIT-D, IIT-B, IISc and 3 others now free from UGC norms, July 10, 2018: The Times of India

Government-run IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, were granted the status of “institution of eminence” along with three private players on Monday giving them complete freedom to run their academic and research programmes in a manner which would help make them among the best in the world.

The private institutes are BITS-Pilani, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Manipal and Jio Institute of Reliance Foundation, Greater Mumbai. A senior HRD official said another list will be announced soon.

The institutions are now free from the regulations of the UGC. While the government set a number of maximum 20 institutions to be given the status, the empowered experts committee (EEC) was not convinced by the 113 institutions’ application/ vision statement and thus forwarded lesser number of names. While MAHE and BITS-Pilani are well established institutions, the Reliance Foundation’s institution has been shortlisted under the “Greenfield” category, whose vision statement started with “to be the youngest global top 100 universities.” Autonomy comes with the status and the government institutions will get a multi-crore state funding. The institutes now have the responsibility to secure a place among the top 500 in a renowned global university ranking framework in the first 10 years and eventually be placed among the top 100.

V Ramgopal Rao, director, IIT-Delhi said: “In the interdisciplinary research we want to ensure that whatever we do will help the society.” Head of the EEC, former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami said: “We sent three private institution names and the number of government institutions were more. But the government chose to keep a parity and selected three each.” The institutions can now enrol upto 30% foreign students, are free to fix fees, for both domestic and foreign students as per internal policies, and would be exempted from any fee regulations which may be there in force.

National Assessment and Accreditation Council

National Assessment and Accreditation Council, a history; its criteria for assessment and its criticisms; The Times of India

Foreign universities

Rules on alliance with, revised: 2016

The Times of India, June 23, 2016

UGC rules on alliance with foreign univs revised

 The human resource development (HRD) ministry said UGC regulations on twinning arrangement with foreign educational institutions has been amended with a thrust on transparency and simplification. HRD minister Smriti Irani said the 2012 regulation did not result in enough foreign universities showing interest in having twinning arrangement with Indian counterparts. As per the amended regulation, Indian Educational Institutions (IEI) with `A' grade or threshold accreditation should have experience of six years or at least two batches passed out.

Joint degrees will not be allowed. However, name of foreign educational institution can be indicated on the degree. Prescribing of cre dits from foreign educational institutions shall be issued by them and when jointly signed by IEI shall form part of the transcript. To maintain academic credibility, a minimum duration of collaboration has been specified under one semester for PG degree and two semesters for UG degree.

Irani also announced a scheme for state universities for which professors from universities like Cambridge, Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia, GeorgiaTech, University of California Berkeley will be invited to spend a year to help them improve curriculum and pedagogy . This is being done under Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan.

2016, evaluation boycott by teachers

2016, Existing teaching hours at selected Delhi University colleges and in select faculties, as well as the hours stipulated by the UGC in 2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 12, 2016

The Times of India, June 12, 2016

Manash Gohain

DU teachers are going to continue their evaluation boycott and then decide on future action at the general body meeting that day. The DU Teachers' Association (DUTA) decided to step up their agitation despite an “assurance“ from the UGC that there will be no change in the workload for the teachers.

Teachers seem to have a point, as according to the new UGC calculations there will not be enough workload even for the permanent teachers, leave alone the need to retain the ad-hoc teachers -who are close to 40% to 45% of the total workforce in the university.

So far silent on the issue, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) too expressed solidarity with the protesting teachers' on Saturday .However, ABVP called upon DUTA to resume evaluation in the interest of the students.

The teachers, apart from the rollback of the UGC's new rules on workload, are also demanding a complete rollback on the academic performance indicator scheme of 2010 for promotion and recruitment of teachers.

Explaining the drawbacks of the new rules on workload and kind of job loss it will bring in, Abha D Habib, physics teacher at Miranda House, said that based on UGC's new formula her department would need just 10 teachers in the current semester and the department had 13 permanent teachers. Therefore it would also directly impact the seven ad-hoc teachers, as they won't be required.

“We would need just 13 teachers. In many places, we will find that even permanents will become surplus,“ Habib added.

Another teacher of Hansraj College explained the situation for the English department there. Mithuraaj Dhusiya said that as per the new scheme of workload total direct teaching hours is 136 hours and teacher requirement is eight and there are 12 permanent teachers working in the department at present.

ABVP , which is the latest group to join the chorus for a rollback, said that the UGC notification is a regressive provision. Vinay Bidre, national general secretary of ABVP said: “We stand in solidarity with the teachers and demand an immediate rollback of the provisions. At the same time, the future of students is at stake due to the boycott and we appeal to the teaching community to resume evaluation.“

Judicial verdicts

UGC: institutes can’t keep students’ original papers

The Hindu, December 9, 2016

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has brought out an elaborate sets of rules to put an end to “coercive and profiteering” practices by educational institutes regarding verification of certificates during admission, and remittance of fees and refunds.

Attested copies

As per the new rules notified by the UGC, no higher education institute can insist upon a student to submit the original academic, personal certificates and testimonials like marksheets, school leaving certificates and other such documents while submitting the admission form.

The institutes can physically verify the original documents at the time of admission and return those immediately, though they can keep attested copies, the new norms add.

The institutes can charge fee in advance only for the semester or year in which a student is to engage in academic activities.

“Collecting advance fee for the entire programme of study or for more than one semester or year in which a student is enrolled is strictly prohibited as it restricts the student from exercising other options of enrolment elsewhere,” the norms say.


If a student chooses to withdraw from the programme of study, the institute will have to follow a four-tier system for refund of fees remitted by the student. If the withdrawal notice is served 15 days before the formally-notified last date of admission, not more than 10 per cent of the aggregate fees as processing charges from the refundable amount can be deducted.

As per the new norms, as the day for admission nears or passes, when the notice of withdrawal of admission is served to the education institute, the amount that can be deducted from the refundable deposit will also increase.

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