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Understanding the System


Karuna Chanana

FIFTY YEARS OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA: THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION
By Amrik Singh
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2004, pp. 258, Rs. 560.00

HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA (1781-2003)
By Kuldip Kaur
Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, Chandigarh and the University Grants Commission, 2003, pp. 388, price not stated.

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 11 November 2004

Dr. Amrik Singh has been a relentless critic of the systemic and organizational lacunae of higher education. They can be no two views about it that he  is  one of the few scholars who has an understanding of the system of higher education.  He sets out the framework of the book in the preface and elaborates  it in the introduction and as he says, it is not intended to provide a history of the UGC but is a critical assessment of its role and function. It requires a good understanding of the system and issues to appreciate the book.  The focus is on the role and function of the UGC, its genesis, its  inability to enforce rules, and the lack of rules and, therefore, the proliferation of problems in higher education. The author is very concerned about improving the functioning of the University Grants Commission in order  to improve the quality of higher education. He  refers to the genesis of the 1956 UGC Act, the reduction of the UGC to an advisory and consultative body, and  the role of the Vice-Chancellors in it.       The book is a collection of essays written by Amrik Singh during the last few decades besides those written specifically for this volume.  It is divided into three parts.  The first part consists of five essays focusing on the statutory issues relating to the functions and powers of the University Grants Commission.  These essays highlight the centre-state relations as well as the problem of coordination among different professional bodies. According to the author, legislative support is critical to professional bodies as well as for the demarcation of roles and also for the quality  of higher education but unfortunately it has been lacking.  Here he gives the example of IGNOU and its relationship to the UGC, MHRD, and  the state open universities. The second part takes up  related issues such as accreditation, postgraduate education, the doctoral degree and the role of the UGC  vis-á-vis these three dimensions. The last part revolves around  students’ assessment of teachers and on teacher leadership.       Since the law is not clearly defined and the government has also not decided to act when it could some of the unsavoury developments could not be prevented.  For example, the open universities and the correspondence courses have been making money without providing quality education to the students.  This tendency has increased post 1990.  For example, Kurukshetra University in ...


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