Bangalore, July 1 (IANS) The proposed oversight body for higher education is a “welcome development”, says Pushpa Bhargava, former vice-chairman of the Knowledge Commission. According to him, the present regulatory system is so inept that it is easy for anybody to set up a private professional college in India and fool regulators by hiring professors for three days.
“All you have to do is to rent a building, write to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for recognition, and then hire an ‘event manager’ – the same guy who arranges weddings and conferences,” Bhargava, a renowned biologist, told IANS.
The AICTE, which is the regulatory body for professional technical education, takes a couple of months to send its inspection team to see if the college has the required infrastructure, staff and equipment, he said.
“During that gap, the events manager obtains on rent everything from equipment, tables and chairs, office staff, books for a library and, of course, professors who can spare three days to be present in the building when the inspection team arrives,” Bhargava said.
“After that, recognition follows and the college is free to enrol students charging heavy tuition fees.” Most private professional colleges are money-spinning factories, he said.
“The going rental rate for a professor in Hyderabad a year ago was Rs.30,000 per day,” Bhargava said, adding that he came to know about this racket when an event manager “asked me to suggest names of professors who could come for three days and make Rs.90,000″.
Private engineering colleges in India account for over 80 percent of seats – a jump from 15 percent in 1960, according to data from AICTE. Nearly 50 medical colleges in the private sector have received recognition in the last six years.
The National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) proposed by the Yash Pal committee will replace AICTE, the Medical Council of India and about a dozen other professional councils and regulatory agencies including the University Grants Commission of which Yash Pal was once chairman.
Bhargava, who was founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, says the Yash Pal committee’s recommendations should be put into action promptly. The challenge, he says, is to find the right people to run the NCHER.
But renowned chemist C.N.R. Rao, former science adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, says he is not sure whether creating one more regulator at the top will revitalize the higher education system or make it just more bureaucratic.
It will be all right if the proposed NCHER stays an advisory body, he told IANS. But if it is going to take on the role of regulating the entire stream of educational sectors from agriculture and medicine to technology and law “it is going to become a huge elephant and unmanageable”.
Rao said he had already expressed his concerns to Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and hoped to discuss with him the possible ramifications if the plan was implemented in haste.
Goverdhan Mehta, former director of the Indian Institute of Science and member of the Yash Pal committee, says the report released June 24 was the result of interactive meetings “with thousands of fellow academics and all stakeholders including private players”.