Rear entry when front doors are wide open
By S Vaidhyasubramaniam
29th July 2012 12:00 AM
During the course of a highly spirited argument by a battery of senior advocates in the Madras High Court, a pithy observation stayed glued to my ears. A renowned advocate was articulate and put forward how the medicine called ‘deemed universities regulations’ is worse than the disease itself and how ill-timed it is when the power to regulate is litigated before the Supreme Court and high courts. I could not agree more with his observations and reflected on recent actions of MHRD in the name of improving the quality of higher education. Among the recent moves by the ministry, except for the CET for IITs and deemed universities/NITs, there seems to be a major surgical incision into the anatomy and autonomy of higher educational institutions when all that is required is a minimally invasive surgery.
When the Foreign University Bill is pending in Parliament, MHRD’s hurried move to rechristen and allow them as deemed universities was thwarted by the UGC. As an interim measure, the UGC resolved to allow top 500 foreign universities to operate in India with collaborative Indian partners. In the interest of higher education, it is also hoped that such collaborations are restricted to postgraduate and PhD programmes, the current twin-disease whose symptoms are tellingly pathetic in the UG education scene. Allowing foreign universities in UG education is a prescription worse than the disease. For foreign universities, it is honey-loaded pill, especially when they are relatively lesser known XYZ universities like Tri-Valley!
There is a recent mandate to all technical educational institutions to appoint an ombudsman. The Administrative Reforms Commissions recommendation for an ombudsman is an administrative law requirement for government institutions. The same for all private institutions seems to be legally untenable. Also, to consider approvals and recognitions based on compliance of the proposed ombudsman’s orders is colourable exercise of power. Approvals and recognitions are statutory provisions and cannot be outsourced through an ombudsman. On the other hand, statutory bodies like UGC, MCI, AICTE, NCTE, etc that do not have an ombudsman should first have one as the existing appellate authorities do not dispose appeals properly. The two main litigation issues that the proposed ombudsman will encounter are related to student admissions and faculty promotions.
On the first issue, almost every state has legislative enactments and the MHRD has statutory provisions to curb unfair practices. However, no form of action against erring institutions is being taken despite existing provisions. While the proposed Unfair Educational Practices Bill pending in Parliament is itself an arithmetic addition offering cosmetic support, the new ombudsman regulation is excessively superfluous and will only be abused than used. On the second issue, the lack of qualified faculty in higher educational institutions, including IITs, needs no over-emphasis. All institutions must be empowered to design their own recruitment and promotion policies which need to be reasonable and just. To burden them with antiquated norms like seniority-based promotions is akin to killing the spirit of performance-based promotions and accelerated increments that attract and retain quality faculty. The proposed ombudsman will only pave way for avoidable litigations that will not only dampen research and teaching productivity, but also create an atmosphere of unrest in campus. A litigating faculty may lose research or teaching productivity, their core competencies. Again, this regulation is at a time when the Educational Tribunal Bill is pending in Parliament.
The MHRD must allow statutory authorities to open the front doors, enter and clean the system than force back door entry in the form of regulations that are redundant.
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