HRD minister to design new vision for higher education along with 39 university VCs

September 9, 2014

HRD minister Smriti Z Irani will interact with the vice-chancellors of 39 central universities to discuss ministry’s new vision on higher education. For this, she will be in a retreat with the VCs in Chandigarh for two days, September 12-13.

Irani already had similar interactions with directors of IITs and IIMs. The minister is likely to stress on greater synergy between higher and school education. 

One of the key issues to be discussed will be the report by the AM Pathan committee that had prepared a single legislation to govern all central universities. Currently, each central university is governed by its own Act passed by Parliament. Pathan's report and draft bill was unanimously criticised within the HRD ministry last year. It was felt that the proposed legislation will not only take away the historical character of many universities but will also compromise their autonomy. The bill was also criticized for proposing a tedious process of governance. For instance, it had said the office of chancellor should be abolished and replaced by a Council of VCs (CVCs) to be headed by HRD minister. It had also suggested a separate recruitment board for appointment of teachers and non-academic staff in central universities. 

The ministry will also impress VCs about the need to get accreditation from National Assessment and Accreditation Council. Sources said, when it comes to quality, central universities cannot be getting different treatment than private universities. 

The retreat will see Irani insist on time-bound implementation of new government's emphasis on technology-enabled higher education. In this regard, implementation of SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) programme is high on priority. Under this scheme to be launched on September 25, professors of IITs/IIMs and central universities will offer online courses free. A small fee will be charged in case learner requires a verified certificate. In the first phase, IITs of Bombay, Madras, Guwahati, universities of Delhi, Manipur, Punjab and Banaras Hindu University will be offering varied courses. 

National E-Library platform will also be discussed with VCs. E-Library is Irani's pet scheme under which an online portal will be launched to democratize access to knowledge. Top class content from institutions such as NCERT, CBSE, IITs, IIMs and other central universities will be hosted on this platform. Also on the agenda will be the ministry's new UNITE (University Network Initiative to Enhance Education) programme that proposes to make 20 classrooms in 21,000 colleges wi-fi enabled and give 600 universities a full-campus wi-fi Local Area Network.

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