When the Berlin Wall was built by East Germany in 1961, it was tellingly visible that it was built to be demolished and not to stay as walls are supposed to prevent unauthorised immigration and cannot prevent people from emigrating from their own territory. This fundamental logic shook the foundational stones of the Berlin Wall in 1990 that resulted in a unified Germany.
Likewise, academic walls built to prevent progressives to emigrate into an orbit of academic excellence are built only to be brought down. Unlike a brick and mortar wall, antiquated academic policies are legacy walls built by rules and regulations. It requires a cerebral effort to bring down the academic wall.
This cerebral effort from Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes from a series of transformational disruptions catalysed by the HRD Minister, of which three in higher education requires immediate three cheers.
The passage of the IIMs Bill highlights the government’s intention to grant administrative, academic and financial autonomy to the Indian Institutes of Management. It demonstrates the genuine intention of the Ministry of HRD to not interfere with the functioning of India’s premier management institutes.
The Institutions of Eminence (IoE) regulations is another example of germinating world class institutions with policy fertilisers. Though the eligibility criteria requires a rethink, the intent of the government to churn out world class institutions in a period of 10 years is laudable.
As we begin to think that the present form of IoE regulations requires some changes, the MHRD’s alternate solution comes out of the blue through the visionary UGC Graded Autonomy Regulations. Very rarely in the academic circles of policy making has a statutory regulations been notified and consequential action plan put into motion with such speed.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) under its new chairman put in place a system of categorising universities into Category 1 and Category 2, ensured notification of the Graded Autonomy Regulations (GAR) in record time, called for applications and by the time you read this article would have released the list of Category 1 and 2 universities and autonomous colleges.
While the GAR is an attempt to transparently cherry-pick the best from the rest, universities must be mindful of the responsibility that they have to undertake under this new avatar. An avatar is always to eliminate the bad for good and this new avatar under the GAR regime hopefully generates lots of good to a starving higher education eco-system that gets a new life through this landmark policy.
The transformation in the policy thought process has managed to demolish obstructionist walls.
Previously, Indian universities were asked to run a 110-mt hurdle with their hands tied to their back as foreign universities were almost allowed to operate in India without ensuring a domestic level playing field. This government has demonstrated the confidence in Indian universities to compete globally and has provided the much needed freedom to progress and elevate the status of Indian institutions globally. This shall go a long way in boosting the confidence of Indian institutions and that is why there is no hesitation that these three laudatory policies need to be welcomed with three cheers as they wipe many academic tears.
Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University