HECI Needs To Adopt A Different Approach To Revolutionize The Education Eco-System

As per the proposed Act, HECI will not have any funding powers but is expected to focus on Academics standards and related matters. It is not defined by where the funding powers will lie. Leaving them with a set of people instead of a central institution will not be the right thing and may lead to larger problems for many institutions.

Since the time the HRD Ministry has proposed the repeal of UGC and bring in another regulatory body namely HECI – Higher Education Council of India, many arguments have been doing the round in the Educational corridors on the merit/demerit of this change.

First and foremost, let’s understand how the two entities are different from each other. While UGC’s primary mandates were to provide Grants to central institutions and define & maintain standards of teaching, examination, and research, the proposed HECI is expected to specify standards for grant of authorization for starting its operations. Operationally, the HECI will be a lot more empowered to set and monitor high standards of education and penalize or even shut down the institution if they do not comply with the standards prescribed. The proposed HECI will have more power to ensure higher quality standards and will look at promoting the autonomy of institutions.  However, autonomy without responsibility and accountability will not serve any purpose. Excellence in academics, research, governance, and finances can only be achieved if autonomy is attached to responsibility and accountability. Also, making institutions autonomous will work only if there is a strong regulatory framework supporting it.

The interesting and most relevant change for the youth of our country is the fact that HECI is expected to bring in newer forms of learning, specify learning outcomes, define standards right from curriculum and content development to defining knowledge and skill outcomes for each of the programs. While this could lead to absolute micromanagement of the universities, it could also become another avenue for regulators to increase their power.

The HECI should look at focusing on creating a framework that not only defines and monitors standards but also gives flexibility to the institutes to create and upgrade curriculum as per industry needs, integrate learning with Online and On-the-Job skill programs to make more students Employable, provide Life Skills along with all programs and also provide multi-faceted learning mechanisms and placement linkages.

The proposed HECI is expected to recommend faculty-centric governance for institutions. Universities should have the responsibility, ownership, and flexibility to build their own governance structures. HECI can develop a framework, but should not micromanage universities on such aspects.

Another area that HECI is supposed to work on is specifying norms and fee structure for institutes. Again, recommending a framework is ideal, they should be allowed to define the bare minimum and maximum fees. Like in all cases, the markets should drive these factors and autonomous institutions should have the flexibility to define the curriculum, programs, fees, governance, etc.

Regulations made by HECI should be implemented in a transparent manner, monitor and rank institutes by their performance in areas such as academic excellence, research, industry linkages, and placements.

HECI should become a new entity with well-defined frameworks and outcomes. Only then will it be any different from the current UGC structure. Else, it will defeat the purpose of setting up a new entity.

We need to remember that whatever we do, it should be in the long-term benefit of our eventual stakeholder – the youth of our country. HECI must not just be ‘old wine in a new bottle’.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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