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An ambitious blueprint for reform of the Indian higher education sector was recently proposed in a report by the high-powered Yashpal Committee, entitled ‘Renovation and Rejuvenation in Higher Education’. The Human Resource Development Minister, Kapil Sibal, has allegedly said that the Indian government will try to implement the Yashpal recommendations within 100 days, given the urgency of the matter.
The report recommends granting full autonomy to universities and scrapping a cluster of powerful bodies - the University Grants Commission, the All India Council for Technical Education, the National Council for Teacher Education, and the Distance Education Council. It advises for this plethora of higher education regulatory bodies to be replaced (under an Act of Parliament) by a super regulator: a seven-member Commission for Higher Education and Research (CHER). It also recommends, obviously with a view to buffer the new regulator against political and other pressures that the position of chairperson of the CHER should be analogous to that of election commissioners.
The committee, whose report is expected to serve as a template for measures to clean up the mess in higher education in India, has also recommended that Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management be turned into universities.
There is a long way to go from rhetoric to action, they say, but the Indians seem determined to do as they promised.