The Union Cabinet has withdrawn a draft legislation that sought to create an overarching regulator for higher education, replacing the University Grant Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the National Council for Teachers Education and the Distance Education Council. The decision to scrap the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011, was arrived at a meeting of the Union cabinet in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2011 by then Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal and had sought to create a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), an independent statutory body in education similar to capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India. The proposed NCHER, which has now been scrapped, was to determine, coordinate, maintain and promote standards of higher education and research (university, vocational, technical and professional education), other than agricultural education and medical education.
This is the first instance of the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government scrapping an important draft legislation that was introduced in Parliament by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The Bill sought to give all powers related to higher education to the proposed commission even though education is a subject controlled by both the Union and state governments.
Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government thought it was not in sync with the federal structure of the country. Prasad said that the HRD-related parliamentary standing committee had expressed its reservation on the Bill. The standing committee had said the HRD ministry had not consulted state governments while drafting this Bill. It recommended that state governments be given a say in the formulation of any policy on higher education. It had also opposed the proposal to scrap UGC, AICTE and other regulators.