The Centre has amended parts of the draft bill that proposed to replace the University Grants Commission with a “Higher Education Commission of India”. Instead of itself taking charge of issuing grants to higher education institutions, the Centre will now propose creating an independent body of experts for the purpose, the Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday.

On June 27, the Ministry of Human Resource Development had floated the draft legislation and sought public opinion and suggestions. The ministry had said that unlike the UGC, the new commission would focus only on academic matters, while the ministry would issue grants. This had led to criticism from stakeholders and some state governments.

The government has now amended the draft based on over 6,000 suggestions and comments it received as feedback, an unidentified official from the ministry told the Hindustan Times. “The proposal to give this power [of issuing grants] to the HRD Ministry has been dropped and this power will be given to an independent body,” said the official. “This would be a body of experts and will operate in a transparent manner by being completely online.”

The deadline to send feedback is July 20. The government has, however, incorporated major changes in the revised draft already, and is likely to get Cabinet approval soon and table it in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament, according to the newspaper.

The ministry had said the draft law – Higher Education Commission of India (Repeal of University Grants Commission Act) Act, 2018 – intends to reform the regulatory systems for more autonomy and to “facilitate holistic growth of the education system” to provide better opportunities to students more affordably.

Other changes

In the revised draft, the government has also altered the provision of having an advisory council chaired by the HRD minister. Experts and some state governments had said this would have led to politicisation. The revised draft proposes that existing bodies such as the Central Advisory Board on Education will advise states.

The government has also accepted the feedback that having secretaries in the search-and-selection committee to appoint members of the new commission could lead to bureaucratisation. The provision has been amended, and the committee will now comprise “reputable academicians under the chairmanship of Cabinet secretary”, the official told the Hindustan Times.