The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has dropped the idea of creating a single regulatory body to replace the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a source close to the ministry has said. Instead, the standing committee of Parliament has published a notice, seeking public views on how to reform the UGC. This move of the committee has put to rest all speculation about the Centre creating a new, single higher education regulatory body in the country.

Sources said that the MHRD had planned to replace the UGC and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with a new institution tentatively christened as HEERA (Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency). The single regulator HEERA concept had the backing of the PMO and the Niti Aayog as well.

The sources said that though the government was keen on creating a well-structured single regulator for higher education, the prevailing “confusion over a policy decision” in the MHRD has prevented the government from reaching any substantive solution.

A source close to the MHRD told The Sunday Guardian: “The MHRD has dropped the idea of creating a single regulatory body to replace the UGC. The ministry will instead attempt to make some cosmetic changes in the existing regulatory bodies like UGC and AICTE during its remaining tenure.”

“The MHRD started working on a 40-point action plan for revamping the UGC, which it had announced in April this year. Also, the MHRD ministry has stopped any further deliberations on HEERA,” the same source cited above said.

“Both the UGC and AICTE have now been asked by the ministry to draw up a list of changes they need in their respective Acts and regulations in order to become more effective regulators,” the source mentioned above added.

However, teachers of Delhi University (DU) have blamed the MHRD of being “confused over the issue of UGC reforms”.

Rajesh Jha, executive council member of DU, said, “Confusion over UGC reforms is leading MHRD to nowhere. Initially, the Centre had proposed creating the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA), and it had gone on to announce as much in its 2017-18 budget. Later, the ministry proposed the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency in 2018 to replace the UGC, but none of these two proposals could reach the logical conclusion.”

The Modi government, however, is not the first to mull the creation of a single education regulator. Earlier, Kapil Sibal, the HRD minister in the United Progressive Alliance-II government, had also tried to bring a similar regulatory body to replace the UGC, but had failed to do anything on that front.

While the idea of UGC reforms is still in an incubation period, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday announced the qualification norms and policy for the appointment of university teachers. According to the new norms, a PhD degree will be mandatory for direct recruitment to the post of assistant professors in universities from 2021-22.