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September 13, 2009

National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER)

The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry will soon introduce three major Bills for reforms in higher education. The Ministry has already circulated a draft Cabinet note for creation of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) for approval from the Union cabinet. The proposed NCHER will replace bodies like UGC and AICTE and whose mandate will be to act as an apex body for higher education and research. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already supported the NCHER concept. The other Bill is for determining a system for entry of foreign education providers in the country and seeks to allow entry of foreign universities while ensuring that the foreign institutions offer quality education to students in India. This apart, the HRD Ministry has also prepared a Bill providing for having educational tribunals for redressal of disputes. Along with these Bills, the HRD Ministry has started a review of the standards of the deemed universities, a report of which will be submitted by the end of this month. All these are welcome developments but for the fact that the existing top educational institutions in the country — IIMs and IITs — are still crying for greater autonomy and the kind of faculty absorption and retention one witnesses in world-class institutions like Harvard and MIT. Also, though the country needs many more IIMs and IITs, it is not clear how they will maintain the standard they are known for till date; any compromise on quality will defeat the very purpose of establishing new IIMs and IITs. This is not all. How will the HRD Ministry ensure that meritocracy is not hijacked by the retrogressive caste-based quota policy? The task is onerous. THE SENTINEL

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