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What is the ‘Higher’ in Higher Education?

The education which students usually pursue after the higher secondary and secondary schooling is termed as higher education. Throughout one’s school life, all kinds of subjects are a part of the curriculum. Such exposure in itself builds a wholesome knowledge which helps to inculcate the essential cognition ability to know, learn and analyse. Higher education is a step ahead which allows a student to select a particular stream of knowledge which interests her/him and in which a career can be carved out. There has to be a specialisation so that one can master that particular subject and contribute to the greater good of the society. What is ‘higher’ in higher education is that it allows one to understand one’s respective bent of mind and formulate a career option respectively.

What does Higher Education comprise of?

India is a diverse nation and education is the basic necessity. However, the dissemination and the introduction of higher education options in such a diversified nation wherein there are differences in classes and castes, it becomes difficult to decide the grounds on which higher education can be made available to the greatest of the masses. The higher secondary and the secondary education can be availed without hassle. Regarding higher education, courses like Graduation, Post Graduation and Research studies are the primary options which students tend to aspire to. From the kinds of subjects, the availability of suitable and respective teachers and mentors to the level of competence required for such courses are some of the issues which are essential to be regulated. The Central Government provides grants to the UGC and establishes Central Universities/Institutions of National Importance in the country. The Central Government is also responsible for declaring an educational institution as ‘Deemed-to-be University’ on the recommendations of the UGC. At present, there are central, state and deemed to be universities.

Difference between Primary and Higher Education

As mentioned earlier, while primary education which comprises the entirety of schooling and of secondary education, higher education includes graduation, post graduation and research studies. The former foregrounds our lives to certain morals, values and belief systems. Children are sent to schools so that they behave in an indeed desired fashion and follow the behavioural paradigm. This means that the primary level of education prepares us to become responsible individuals who have access to not only to all subjects but also to the attainment of intellect and wisdom. Such an experience further helps in the pursuit of higher education. At this level, students have made their base strong and are in the process of strengthening the superstructure of specialisation.

Governance of Higher Education

Dr S. Radhakrishnan said, “The most important and urgent reform needed in education is to transform it, to endeavour to relate it to the life, needs and aspirations of the people and thereby make it the powerful instrument of social, economic and cultural transformation necessary for the realisation of the national goals. For this purpose, education should be developed to increase productivity, achieve social and national integration, accelerate the process of modernisation and cultivate social, moral and spiritual values.” In the light of this statement, the higher education sector plays an essential role in disseminating such productivity and integration of thoughts and actions. For this, various apex institutions have been vested by Acts of Parliament with the responsibility to regulate the standards of education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is empowered to coordinate and maintain minimum standards of university education. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) were established in 1994 to assess the standards of quality and accredit Universities along with their constituent and affiliated colleges. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was established in 1987 for planned and coordinated development of the technical education system in the country. The National Board of Accreditation (NAB) has been set up to assess and accredit technical institutions in the country and make recommendations for recognition and de-recognition of qualifications.

Such are the steps taken by the government to enhance and intensify the importance and authenticity of higher education. Recently, an order has been passed wherein The Central Government, under Narendra Modi has embarked on the reform of the regulatory agencies for the better administration of the higher education sector. In fulfilment of the above, several reform measures have already been launched viz, reform of NAAC, Regulation for grant of Graded Autonomy to Universities, granting of Autonomous status to colleges, the Regulation for Open Distance Learning, Regulation for Online degrees etc.

Highlights of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI)

The focus of the Commission will be on improving academic standards and quality of higher education, specifically norms for learning outcomes, lay down rules of teaching/research. This will enhance in constructing a roadmap for mentoring of institutions found failing in maintaining the required academic standards. It is very essential to keep standards when it comes to the quality of education. To ensure this, the Commission shall have the power to grant authorisation for starting of academic operations on the basis of their compliance with norms of academic quality. The draft Act is in accordance with the commitment of Government for reforming the regulatory systems that provide for more autonomy and facilitate the holistic growth of the education system which provides more significant opportunities to the Indian students at more affordable cost. Some of the aims that it intends to focus on are as follows:

  1. Less Government and more Governance
  2. Separation of grant functions
  3. End of Inspection Raj
  4. Focus on academic quality
  5. Powers to enforce

Therefore, HECI is tasked with the mandate of improving academic standards with a specific focus on learning outcomes, evaluation of academic performance by institutions, mentoring of institutions, training of teachers, promote the use of educational technology etc. It will develop norms for setting standards for the opening and closure of institutions, provide for greater flexibility and autonomy to institutions, lay standards for appointments to critical leadership positions at the institutional level irrespective of University, and under any Law (including State Law).

However, this step has not been implemented yet. Speculations are going on regarding its establishment. The above anticipated might aim towards the improvement of the education system, but the reality of its final governance is bleak until now. The sole aim must be towards harnessing young and brilliant minds who can improve the progress rate of the nation. Government intervention is required as we are a democratic nation. However, the politicisation of education should not take place. Be it UGC or HECI; power is vested in the centre and focus is more on the exercise of power. Instead, the focus should be on the cultivation of honest and hardworking minds. Due to the reservation system, nepotism, the influence of political and other backed up forces, a lot of talents are being sidelined. If HECI comes in power, instead of proving how it is better than UGC, the focus should be more on removing inefficiencies in giving opportunities to deserving candidates. It is believed that change is the only constant. However, each shift should aim towards establishing the availability of fair chance and not at outwitting the prior norm. To let the nation thrive and prosper an emphasis and periodical improvements in the field of higher education is highly essential. Higher the education, greater are the chances of an egalitarian society.


Business Standard. (2018, June 28). HRD Ministry to replace UGC with HECI. Retrieved From https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/modi-govt-is-set-to-replace-ugc-with-higher-education-commission-118062700680_1.html

Ministry of HRD. (2016, April 19). University and Higher Education. Retrieved from http://mhrd.gov.in/university-and-higher-education

Ministry of Human Resource Development. (2017. December 11). Higher Education – Acts and Subordinate Legislation. Retrieved from http://mhrd.gov.in/acts-higher#

Ministry of Human Resource Development. (2018, June 27). Press Information Bureau. Retrieved from http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=180247   

“Report of the Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy”, Ministry of Human Research Development. Retrieved on (April 30, 2016) from http://www.nuepa.org/New/download/NEP2016/ReportNEP.pdf.

Shiksha. (2017, March 7).  Autonomous, Deemed, Private, State & Central Universities: Know the difference. Retrieved from https://www.shiksha.com/mba/articles/autonomous-deemed-private-and-central-universities-know-the-difference-blogId-12295   

Image Credit: The Indian Express                                    


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Written By Mitali Bhattacharya


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