Sibal picks grey areas to push his reform agenda
Unable to get key education Bills passed in Parliament, and concerned over delay in fulfilling the commitments he made abroad, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is now trying to consider the ‘grey area’, to identify possibilities within existing laws to pursue his education reforms agenda.
The minister, in a hurry to push through his reforms, had introduced four key education reforms Bills in Parliament on a single day in 2010. All of them are still pending in Parliament.
Sibal has failed to convince Parliament on the need for early approval of the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill, 2010, Educational Tribunals Bill, National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutional Bill and Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions, and University Bill.
Almost after his every visit to the US, Sibal claimed that many foreign universities were interested in setting their campuses in India and were eagerly waiting for the passage of the Foreign Educational Institution (Regulation of Entry and Operation) Bill. He also assured them that the Bill would be passed soon. Similarly, Sibal also assured that India would soon join the Washington Accord with full signatory status in order to help Indian engineering students and professionals to have global recognition.
At present, India is a provisional member of the Washington Accord, which is an international agreement among bodies responsible for accrediting engineering degree programmes. However, the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, introduced in 2010, is still pending in Parliament.
As things didn’t move before his impending visit to Washington for the Indo-US Strategic Dialogue this month, Sibal wanted to rely on the ‘grey area’ to identify possibilities within existing laws to allow twinning programmes and joint degree programmes between foreign and Indian educational institutions. For this purpose, the HRD Ministry has asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to consider possibilities within the existing laws of regulating and allowing the foreign educational institutions. Though there is a possibility of allowing foreign educational institutions to enter as ‘deemed universities’ under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, Sibal himself is against the concept of ‘deemed university’.
After taking over the HRD Ministry, Sibal had announced that the concept of the deemed university would be abolished. The issue of deemed universities is under the consideration of the apex court. However, the UGC could offer little help to Sibal by opening the doors for foreign educational institutions to start dual degree or twinning courses with Indian higher education institutions.
As per the data available with the HRD Ministry, 631 foreign educational institutions were operating in the country in 2010. Of these, 440 were functioning from their home campuses, five opened their own campuses, 60 had programmatic collaboration with local institutions, 49 were operating under twinning arrangements, and 77 had arrangements other than twinning or programmatic collaboration. Sibal’s predecessor Arjun Singh also tried to allow foreign educational institutions as deemed universities, but failed to do so due to strong opposition to the move.