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 â€” domestic or foreign â€” or to classify some of the existing universities as research and innovation universities.
According to the Bill, â€œacclaimedâ€ Indian institutions with 25 years standing or foreign institutions with 50 years standing, or private bodies â€” registered societies, trusts or companies registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act â€” â€œwith proven record in innovations,â€ termed as â€œpromotersâ€ 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 â€œumbrellaâ€ 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 governmentâ€™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.