People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 29

July 19, 2009

YASH PAL COMMITTEE REPORT

 

Prescriptions Not For Renovation

And Rejuvenation Of Higher Education

 

Vijender Sharma

 

THE Yash Pal Committee was constituted as a Review Committee to review the functioning of UGC/AICTE in February 2008. Later on in October 2008, its name was changed as the Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education, but with no change in its terms of reference. The committee has submitted its report to the minister of human resource development, Kapil Sibal on June 24, 2009.

 

This report has gone much beyond its terms of its reference and is a self contradictory document. Some of its recommendations are no different from those of other committees which lead to high fees and privatisation and commercialisation of higher education.

 

ON STATE

FINANCING

 

A university is perceived as a means to “overcome caste and class hierarchy, patriarchy and other cultural prejudices and also as a source of new knowledge and skills, a space for creativity and innovations.” Therefore, the committee stated in its report that higher education “was and continues to be considered a national responsibility and the State has to make necessary provisions to realize its potentials.”

 

However, recognising that the cost of providing quality education is increasing and the State cannot walk away from its responsibility of financing higher education, the committee recommended that “imaginative ways will have to be devised to find complementary sources of funds. Universities and other academic institutions should be able to hire professional fund raisers and professional investors to attract funding from non-government sources.” (emphasis mine)

 

The ‘imaginative ways’ of fund raising and the need to have fund raising officers have been suggested in detail by the infamous concept paper for the Model Act for all the universities issued by the UGC in October 2003. The ‘imaginative ways’ and other provisions contained therein actually meant privatisation and commercialisation of higher education (See People’s Democracy dated December 21 & 28, 2003, and July 25, 2004). Under strong opposition of the students and teachers, the proposed Model Act concept paper was withdrawn, but various government committees continued to recommend the same. Once this recommendation of the Yash Pal committee is implemented, the provisions of the Model Act would get revived.

 

No student should be turned away from an institution for want of funds for education. However, the committee noted, “Absence of differential fee has led to subsidisation of a segment of student body that can afford to pay for its education. There is no reason why both these two categories of students be placed on the same level when it comes to financing their education.” Differential fee structure has been opposed by students all along. Today a large majority of students cannot afford the present fee and 90 per cent of our youth (17-23 years age group) are outside the universities and institutions of higher education. Even out of those students who took admission at Class I, only 16.6 per cent (2005 figures) reach Class XII. If no student is to be “turned away from an institution for want of funds for education”, then the education has to be entirely funded by the State.

 

The committee further opined thatGuaranteed student loans at low interest rates for those who can take loans and free education for those who cannot afford it at all will be necessary to educate India.” If loan is to be taken, at howsoever low interest rate, for paying fees and other charges, then the structure of ‘fees and other charges’ will not be same as it exists today even in central universities like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. These will include many more types of expenses which are presently borne by the State, raising the actual charges to be taken from the students several times over. This recommendation of Yash Pal Committee is contrary to its intention.

 

PROFESSIONAL AND

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION

 

At the undergraduate level students should be exposed to various disciplines like humanities, social sciences, aesthetics etc., in an integrated manner. This should be irrespective of the discipline they would like to specialise in, whether general or professional higher education like medicine, engineering, etc. Therefore, the committee recommended that professional institutions, including IITs and IIMs, should be returned to universities in a complete administrative and academic sense by abolishing intermediary licensing bodies. Such a measure will open the possibility of new kinds of course-designing for professional learning in all fields from management and architecture to medicine and engineering. Whether the IITs and IIMs should be returned to universities or not requires an intense, informed debate. The role played by them cannot be undermined.

 

The committee has made a very important recommendation about vocational education which has remained under-developed as it is perceived to be largely for the poor, who either cannot afford academic education or who pass out of poorly-equipped and uninspiring schools with low marks. Students who go for vocational and technical education after completing higher secondary education are deprived of any possibility of pursuing higher education after completing their vocational or technical training. Therefore, the committee recommended that this sector should be brought under the purview of universities and necessary accreditation to the courses available in polytechnics, industrial training institutions (ITIs), etc. should be provided. Additionally the barriers to entry into universities for students going through vocational training should be lowered to enable them to upgrade their knowledge base at any stage of their careers. This has been a longstanding aspiration and demand of the students studying in ITIs and polytechnics. This recommendation, if implemented, will certainly help these students wishing to return to universities and institutions of higher education for degree programmes without wasting the time they spent in these institutions.

 

ON STATE UNIVERSITIES

AND COLLEGES

 

“The development of all young people, be they in state-run institutions or central institutions, is a national responsibility and there cannot be any discrimination between the two. All the facilities given to central universities should be made available to the state universities. To achieve this, state governments would need to significantly enhance their support to the universities while the centre should make matching incentivising allocations available in a sense of a joint national enterprise.” Qualitative development of the colleges should be the priority. The committee stated that money needs to be made available for the qualitative development of colleges.

 

The state governments have been demanding increased funds for the development of their universities and colleges. The UPA government should make funds available to states for expansion, development and strengthening of higher education.

 

ON PRIVATE

HIGHER EDUCATION

 

The Yash Pal committee has noted all the ills of private higher education institutions which we have also been highlighting in these columns and demanding a comprehensive legislation to bring them under social control. The committee noted that there had been no guidelines to assess the competence of private investors to run technical institutions.

 

The committee forthrightly reports, “In many private educational institutions, the appointment of teachers is made at the lowest possible cost. They are treated with scant dignity, thereby turning away competent persons from opting for the teaching profession. A limited number of senior positions are filled at attractive salaries, especially from other reputed institutions, mainly for prestige. Otherwise, there are many terrible instances of faculty being asked to work in more than one institution belonging to the management; their salary being paid only for nine months; actual payments being much less than the amount signed for; impounding of their certificates and passports; compelling them to award pass marks in the internal examination to the “favorites” and fail marks for students who protest illegal collections and so on.”

 

The illegal capitation fees range from: Rs 1-10 lakh for the engineering courses; Rs 20-40 lakh for MBBS courses; Rs 5-12 lakh for dental courses; and about Rs 30,000-50,000 for courses in arts and science colleges, depending on the demand.”

 

It recommended “very tight regulations” but not encompassing all aspects.

 

The CPI(M) and other Left parties have been demanding a comprehensive central legislation to regulate these institutions in relation to fees, course content, infrastructure, academic standards, management, examinations, etc. The draft of such legislation, though very weak in its purpose, was issued in 2005. Despite repeated demands from the Left, the UPA refused to take it up. It is high time that the UPA government brings such a legislation.

 

ON DEEMED

UNIVERSITIES

 

The committee expressed its concern on the spurt in the number of newly established educational institutes as deemed universities. “Between 2000 and 2005, 26 private-sponsored institutions got the deemed university status. Since 2005, the number of private deemed universities has increased to 108. By a notification of the UGC, it is no longer necessary for them to use the adjective “deemed” and they all call themselves simply universities. In Tamilnadu alone, the number of private deemed universities has increased from 18 in 2007 to 35 in 2008 and many are in the queue. Though, the deemed universities do not have affiliating powers, many of them have a number of campuses spread throughout the country.”

 

 “Between 1956 and 1990, in 35 years, only 29 institutions were granted the deemed university status. In the last 15 years, 63 institutions were declared deemed universities and particularly in the last 5 years, 36 institutions, excluding RECs, have been notified as deemed universities. …. the majority of these institutes are not established with any educational purpose, and they end up only deluding the students. (emphasis mine)

 

The committee revealed that “some of the private universities were professional colleges that got approval from the regulatory bodies for university status. Immediately thereafter, they started admitting five to six times their intake capacity, without a corresponding increase in faculty strength or academic infrastructure. The classes and laboratories were conducted at strange hours like a factory production operation.” Some of these universities offered to “give ‘guaranteed’ degrees at any level, including PhD, for a price.”

 

In view of considerable misuse of the provision for Deemed University status, the committee recommended that “the granting of such status should be put on hold till unambiguous and rational guidelines are evolved. The institutions, which have somehow managed to secure such status should be given a period of three years to develop as a university and fulfill the prescribed accreditation norms failing which the status given to them would be withdrawn.”

This recommendation is not enough. The democratic movement, involving students, teachers, parents and intelligentsia, has been demanding scrapping of the deemed university status granted to private institutions and reverting them back as affiliated institutions.

 

(To be continued)