The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 introduced in Parliament

The Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011 that seeks to establish the National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) has been tabled in Rajya Sabha.

The Bill seeks to promote autonomy of higher education and innovation and to provide for comprehensive and integrated growth of higher education and research keeping in view the global standards of educational and research practices, for which it will establish the National Commission for Higher Education and Research, a regulatory body for university education.

The Commission will have powers to take all measures necessary to spearhead the transformative changes in higher education. It will frame regulations and promote autonomy for institutional accountability, promote joint and cross-disciplinary programmes between and among institutions of higher education, to promote development of a curriculum framework with specific reference to new or emerging or inter-disciplinary fields of knowledge and to promote synergy of research in universities and higher educational institutions and with other research agencies.

The proposed law also provides for the establishment of a General Council, which is proposed to be a representative body with advisory and recommendatory functions, in addition to the powers to approve the regulations framed by the Commission. The Council will have, in addition to chairperson and members of the Commission, the heads of professional bodies, research councils and experts in all sectoral areas of higher education.

The Board for Research promotion and Innovation will formulate research and innovation policy for sustained global competitiveness, promote transformative and multi-disciplinary research in higher educational institutions, and facilitate the modernisation of research infrastructure in higher educational institutions.

The proposed law also has provisions for the establishment of a Higher Education Financial Services Corporation that will disburse grants to universities and higher educational institutions.

The proposed Act also seeks to establish Qualifications Advisory Council in Vocational Education.  This Council shall advise and make recommendations on qualifications framework in skill areas and define the competencies in such skill areas. It will also make recommendations on standards of academic quality and benchmarking such standards in programmes of study leading to the award of diploma in such skill areas. It will also  advise and make recommendations on norms for accreditation of higher educational institutions imparting vocational education in such skill areas.

HRD Ministry issues notification for minorities’ sub-quota in Central Educational Institutions

The HRD Ministry has issued a gazette notification for implementation of sub-quota for minorities within the 27% reservation for OBCs in all central educational institutions.

According to HRD Ministry officials, the 4.5% reservation would result in roughly 120 seats earmarked for minorities in the IITs while in the IIMs with a total intake of nearly 3500 students, 42 seats would go to students from minority communities.

The decision would cover admissions in technical institutions such as the IITs, IIMs, NITs and over 40 Central universities and educational institutions like National Institute of Design.

The Union Cabinet had on December 22 approved a sub-quota of 4.5% for minorities within the 27% reservation for OBCs, paving the way for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for minorities.

The decision will come into effect from January 1, 2012.

Engineering Colleges challenge AICTE Rule for Mandatory Purchase of Foreign Journals

Engineering college in Tamilnadu have moved the Madras High Court against a direction from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to about 5,000 such institutions in the country to pay between Rs 13 lakh to Rs 15 lakh as subscription to a foreign company for e-books.

It is mentioned in the petition that Council’s new approval process for the academic year 2012-2013 colleges made it mandatory for colleges to subscribe to e-journals of a particular foreign company and pay in foreign currency such as US dollar, Euro and British pound.

It further mentions that the institutions in the country would end up paying a total amount of about Rs 1,500 crore annually to the firm, the association pointed out that there were over 700 reputed e-journals, both Indian and foreign, available free of cost for research.

It is alleged that the AICTE has “arbitrarily” been insisting on purchase of selected foreign e-journals at an exorbitant cost, that too through a private agency.

During previous years, technical institutions had the option of subscribing to foreign e-journals through Indian National Digital Library in Engineering Sciences and Technology (INDEST)-AICTE Consortium, an initiative of the Union Human Resources Development ministry.

Business Schools send Notice to AICTE on CMAT and GMAT

Prominent Business Schools have sent a legal notice to All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) seeking clarification on CMAT and inclusion of GMAT Examination amongst the list of exams approved for PGDM admissions.
The notice takes reference of the interim order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of AICTE Vs EPSI which reads, “The PGDM Institutions are at liberty to draw students, who have participated in the five National level entrance tests (CAT, MAT, XAT, ATMA, JMET) of State level entrance examinations, if any, conducted by the States.”
It is mentioned in the notice that despite the order of the Supreme Court, AICTE has issued advertisements and press releases, which suggests that CMAT is mandatory examination and which are entirely contrary to the interim order of the Hon’ble Supreme court.
The B- Schools have further questioned inclusion of  GMAT in the list of approved tests for PGDM admissions. It is mentioned that pending litigation before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, such announcements are in violation of the interim order of the Supreme Court.
Eventually, the notice has sought AICTE to clarify that CMAT substitutes only the State Government Examinations; and, that 5 Private examinations (CAT, MAT, XAT, ATMA and JMET) are in vogue and are the only other modes of admission to PGDM courses in India, and that GMAT is not recognized for PGDM admissions for the year 2012-2013.
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The National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) regulator gets cabinet approval

The National Council for Higher Education and Research (NCHER), which will subsitute existing regulators such as University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and will cover all streams of higher education except medical and agriculture. This single independent body in place of multiple higher education regulators has been approved by Union Cabinet.

The council will be 70 member body have representation from states and for professional bodies to decide on policy issues. The NCHER Bill proposes to have an 11 member executive committee to execute the decisions of the council.

The draft bill provide mandate to the council to bring reforms in higher education for setting up quality institutions across India with an aim to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to 30 % by 2020 from 20 % in 2010.

The council is expected to shift from multiple approval based approach to self-regulation based on accreditation. The new council would also prescribe academic and research quality norms from a university to a college for accreditation purpose.

The council will also disburse the budget for higher education to institutions based on based on performance, in place of the existing demand driven practice. It will have powers to decide the curriculum of different streams of higher education and research.

Business Schools object to CMAT by ACITE

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) had announced launch of its own examination, Common Management Admission Test (CMAT), from February 2012. The Management Institutions have objected to AICTE’s move to make CMAT mandatory for all post-graduate diploma in management (PGDM) institutes.

This July, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in an interim relief to B-schools, allowed AICTE to conduct its own all-India entrance test. This however, was allowed in addition to the existing five national tests, namely: Common Admission Test (CAT), Management Aptitude Test (MAT), Xavier Aptitude Test (XAT), AIMS Test for Management (ATMA) and Joint Management Entrance Test (JMET). JMET, used for admission to the B-schools run by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has since been scrapped. IITs would now be using CAT to admit students to their B-schools.

The B-Schools, which are petitioners before the Hon’ble Supreme Court have spoken in Media that unless the existing matter is resolved by Supreme Court, AICTE has no right to say CMAT will be the only test for 2012. B-schools also say they have already registered themselves with either CAT, ATMA or XAT for the academic year 2012-14.

The AICTE plans to conduct CMAT in 61 cities in the last week of February, 2012. AICTE advertisement in news papers states that CMAT scores would be used for allotment of seats in PGDM institutions for 2012-14 admissions.

Research Grant for Assistant Professors – Scheme of UGC and MHRD

 

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have launched a scheme to attract young talent towards research through start-up grant for newly-hired faculty. “The MHRD/UGC empowered committee, spearheading to strengthen basic scientific research in universities and colleges, has found it desirable to launch a scheme on research start-up grant for newly-recruited faculty at the assistant professor level,” reads the notification issued by the UGC.

Terms for Grant:
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A: A grant of Rs 6 lakh will be given by the UGC under this initiative.

B: All teachers hired at the level of assistant professor against the permanent post, in basic science, engineering and technology departments, are eligible to get financial support under the scheme.

C: The grant has to be utilised within two years of approval.

D: The assistant professor will send the utilisation certificate along with statement of expenditure through the university/college.

The eligibility criterion include
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A: a PhD degree and

B: at least two published research papers in approved/cited journals.

C: The assistant professor will have to apply within a period of six months from the date of joining.

Content of Proposal for research
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The proposal, to be sent to the UGC, must include among others:

A: Details of origin of the research problem,

B: Its significance and potential to contribute in the field of social relevance or national importance,

C: Year-wise plan and targets to be achieved.

Procedure
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The empowered committee of the MHRD/UGC will select the candidates on the basis of ‘expert appraisal’