The government is considering the creation of a permanent higher education commission as an apex authority to anchor the increasingly large private role in the sector as well as the government colleges.
The proposal is being pushed by the ministry of human resource development, which is known to be in favour of retaining education in state control.
The recommendation to set up the commission was first made in 1964 by the Kothari Commission and was formally revived yesterday by the ministry at the 55th meeting of the Central Advisory Board chaired by Human Resource Minister Arjun Singh and attended by state education ministers and independent education bodies and heads of educational institutions like the University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and National Council for Educational research and training (NCERT).
A committee under educationist Professor Yashpal is already preparing a report on regulating higher education and its recommendations are to guide the future of the proposed commission. The idea of a commission is to provide the means to regulate the large private sector share in education as well as to prevent the entry of an independent body like the one proposed by the Knowledge Commission, sources said.
The Knowledge Commission seeks dismantling bodies like UGC and AICTE and is in favour of a single autonomous body to regulate all education.
In his recommendations to the prime minister, Knowledge Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda said, the current system is "over-regulated but under-governed" and there was a "clear need for an Independent Regulatory Authority for Higher Education (IRAHE)".
The IRAHE, Pitroda added, must be at an arm's-length from the government and independent of all stakeholders including the government.
The Knowledge Commission suggested that IRAHE could be set up by an Act of Parliament and would be the only agency authorised to accord degree-granting power to higher education institutions. It would be responsible for setting the criteria and deciding the entry and would apply the same norms to public and private institutions.
The role of UGC would be redefined to focus on the disbursement of grants and the regulatory functions of other agencies would vest in IRAHE.