J&K: A flutter in academic circles

With the recent decision on several external universities operational in the state has created a flutter in academic circles. Disappointing and sometimes confused over the way the regulation system operates as plans being envisaged day by day.

THE RECENT decision of J&K government on the issue of study centres of several external universities in the State has created a flutter in academic circles. These universities with several centres imparting higher education in the fields of IT and Management in every nook and corner of J&K are now admitting students to courses like MPhil and PhD without even the requisite infrastructure.

The fate of thousands of students who have enrolled themselves in courses run by such study centers of private universities is now in the doldrums. One may get disappointed and sometimes confused over the way the regulation system operates. The regulation bodies are being set up, legislation is being enacted, and plans are envisaged. We shouldn't oppose the same but the question remain; why day and after the Government of India is doing so. Monitoring mechanism of the institutions of higher learning especially open and distance learning remained a major concern for government for effective functioning,quality assurance and decentralisation in accreditation procedures. The things being planned at central level by the perspective governments remained all along undecided and proved unbiased and non scholarly as the decisions and legislations being made were not enacted in action.

There is no unanimous legislation on educational monitoring. The accreditation system is absurdly poor. A license permit raj by the statutory bodies without teeths prevailed in the sub continent without knowing the needs and procedures of the institutions and stakeholders. I am not opposing here the All India Council for technical education which is likely to be scrapped by the Government of India. My point is that why the whole system of monitoring, accreditation and regulation is poor. I am speaking of the apex organisations like National Knowledge Commission (NKC) New Delhi, HRD Ministry, Councils and commissions at national level like UGC, NCTE, DEC and many other.

Why regulations are being changed day and after? why not the ministry of education is formulating its legislations at once in hand to maintain the standard and quality? Is this legislation which is being envisaged every week? Why day by day alterations? Is there not a unanimous declaration of all the people in the system? Why not an independent body which is acceptable to all at once. Of late, On the one week the Ministry is granting powers to Distance Education Council (DEC) to monitor and regulate the system of open learning and on the same issue the ministry is planning to set up national level Distance education regulator in the country to maintain and monitor the standards of open and distance learning in the country. Similarly, recommendations on the part of National Knowledge Commission on scrapping of AICTE and formulation of Independent Regulatory Authority on Higher Education (IRAHE). Secondly, the union cabinet very recently referred HRD ministry proposed legislation (distance education bill) to set up Independent regulatory body at national level. The proposed legislation was opposed by maximum people in governance like commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath besides others. If the ministry or government at central level is deciding to replace the traditional atmosphere then why too late ?

Infact, there is a mismatch among the country policy makers and other people in governance to regulate the whole system. Some people who are in governance but not in the system don't want to replace the existing system and some who are not in the system are favoring the immediate legislations,replacement and amendments in the existing laws. There is a crisis in the field and overregulation of the open and distance education. The country is lacking regulated colleges and universities located in small suburbs or hamlet. If private colleges are providing a poor quality of education, who is to be held responsible? Multiple regulatory agencies exist for different streams of education in the country.

UGC by virtue of the notice to public that the universities cannot have any study centers beyond their concerned states so all their Study Centers in state of Jammu & Kashmir automatically become illegal. It is important mention that these universities are having several centers imparting Higher Education in field of IT and Management in every nook and corner of state and some centers are admitting students to courses like M Phil and Ph D without much needed infrastructure.

UGC has further advised students and Parents to go through the website ugc.ac.in carefully before taking admission in any of the above. Ironically, Some of the varsities have opened study centres which are run by private individuals without the approval of UGC, and some of these institutions have started technical courses in engineering, medical and para-medical through distance mode, the Commission said, adding this has created a lot of confusion among students. The NKC agrees. The NKC working groups also comment on the reasons for this. the regulatory framework evolved over many years presents a number of procedural hurdles. Permissions and approvals are needed from the University that an institution wishes to be attached to, the government of the state where it will be located and regulatory bodies like the AICTE and MCI. The educational bureaucracy itself can be typically negotiated only with political influence, as is reflected in the large number of politicians associated with or promoting educational trusts.

I apt to ask that if we are living a knowledge based economy and are not having any regulation system on several modes of education at higher level. I wander why this happens? I am in fear why not the accountability in the system besides several policies and paper work done by the policy making bodies and the successive governments. Is education at higher level being commercialized ? or is this really a License raj being perpetuated by the accreditation agencies ? This question needs to answer immediately the people at the helm of affairs. At this moment, Privatisation of higher education is rapidly progressing in the country and the Planning Commission reports that in the period 2002-2007, the share of private institutions in higher education increased from a third to over half of all enrollment. And this trend, by all accounts, will continue into the future. but the sorry state of affairs is over regulation in the system.

Furthermore, the 11th Plan objectives of the HRD ministry are aimed at increasing the gross enrollment ratio (GER) in higher education from the present 10 per cent to 15 per cent by 2012 by establishing several institutions of excellence. For reaching the target we must change the accreditation process and decentralise the procedure of accreditation viz a viz monitoring. Suggesting a solution is rather an impossible task, for a person of my stature at least. But, I definitely feel that the new Single regulation body is need of the hour to guage the system rather then day by day legislation by the perspective governments. Only an independent regulation authority be mandated for monitoring and regulation otherwise owing to routine exercise the uthopia we search for will remain illusive.