India’s New Innovation Universities Bill

Higher education in India is notorious for its lacks, in terms of both inaccessibility for a large majority of the country’s youth as well as for its deficits in quality. The National Knowledge Commission and the Planning Commission therefore proposed the creation of fourteen new Research and Innovation Universities in India. Following this recommendation, the government has drafted a Bill which aims to define what a “world-class” university entails and how it would need to function. The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, provides for the setting up of new universities by the Union government, or by private bodies — domestic or foreign — or to classify some of the existing universities as research and innovation universities.

According to the Bill, “acclaimed” Indian institutions with 25 years standing or foreign institutions with 50 years standing, or private bodies — registered societies, trusts or companies registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act — “with proven record in innovations,” termed as “promoters” can set up innovation universities. A large part of the Bill refers to private universities and only a small section (Chapter VII consisting of seven clauses out of a total of 45 clauses) refers to public-funded universities. There is not much difference between entirely publicly-funded universities and other universities, private or foreign.

Each university is now set up through legislation by Parliament in case of Central universities or by State Assemblies in case of State universities. The present “umbrella” Bill allows setting up of any number of innovation universities without any separate legislation for each university. Once the Bill becomes an Act, such universities can be set up through executive orders. In a sense, the Bill minimises the role of Parliament.

While this seems a commendable and possibly transformative move, it may be problematic, as the author of this recent Hindu article cautions:

The Innovation Universities Bill is yet another Bill that shows the government’s reluctance to look at whole higher education as an integrated holistic system, and its unwillingness to take an active role and responsibility in the development of higher education and reiterates its unflinching faith in the unregulated private sector.

He goes on to write that the Bill is too open-ended, and that

these universities are viewed to be so special and distinct that they are above any law of the land; they do not come under the purview of any public body. Neither the existing rules of the UGC or any other public body in higher education nor the provisions of any of the Acts/Bills under process are applicable to these universities. These universities are not to be touched by Bills such as the NCHER Bill, the Educational Tribunals Bill, the Bill prohibiting unfair practices, and the Foreign Universities Bill, pending in Parliament.

Read the rest of the article here.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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1 Response to India’s New Innovation Universities Bill

  1. B M Naik says:

    The existing institutions with standing of 25 years or more, to my mind, should be deleted. The reasons are, old habits die hard. Such universities tend to do what they did in past 25 years. IITs were born afreash, not granted to any experienced institute. So they are successful in becoming world class. Secondly, world best professors, from India or abroad should be associated to create such universities. Then only the win. New policies and practices grow where people are innovative, creative. Only such people be appointed. Research and academic programs should be conducted in partnership with world best universities. Exchange of faculty should be the main stay. Frequent exchange to share best policies and practices should be adopted.
    To begin with best professors any where in the world should be identified and identified to create academic culture in new institutions in each branch of study. May be we appoint 20-25 mentors world best professors in university on their terms and conditions. This is the only way to create world class universities.
    If we do not do this we will fail in our mission. we will create only mediocre universities.

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