Back to square one

An interim supreme court order has once again restored AICTE’s powers to control technical education in the country. Prachi Rege gages the mood of academia.

Updated: Jun 02, 2014, 23:17 PM IST

An interim supreme court order has once again restored AICTE’s powers to control technical education in the country. Prachi Rege gages the mood of academia.

In April last, the Supreme Court of India passed an order shrinking the All India Council for Technical Education’s (AICTE) role as a regulator for tech institutes and gave the powers to the University Grants Commission (UGC). Following this, UGC even drafted new guidelines for the technical institutes on university campuses across the country. Last month however, in an interim order, the Supreme Court changed its earlier decision, restoring the AICTE’s control over the tech stream. While some educationists express apprehensions, many have welcomed the new order.

SS Mantha, chairman, AICTE, hopes that the final order which will be delivered after the courts reopen post the summer break, will be in AICTE’s favor. "UGC is not a regulator, but a grants body with no expertise in technical education. So maintaining the standards and quality of this stream is not their forte," says Mantha.
Sharad Y Mhaiskar, dean, Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering, NMIMS University, too prefers the AICTE to the UGC. "It has been maintaining the quality and efficiency of the technical colleges in the country for a long time. I don`t see any other authority doing their job," opines Mhaiskar.

According to Mhaiskar, though the UGC has set new rules and guidenlines for technical institutes it is more of an indirect regulatory body. Execution of the guidelines is the responsibility of the concerned university to which the tech college is affiliated. "Our universities are already overburdened and short-staffed. Most of them don`t possess the bandwidth to keep tabs on all colleges. Hence, AICTE becomes crucial to maintain sanctity of tech education," he explains.
Dhaneswar Harichandan, director, Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL), and an expert member on UGC`s panel of Distance Education Bureau (DEB), disagrees. Since all universities in the country are affiliated to the UGC they are more competent to manage technical education on these campuses, he says. "I don`t think the AICTE has a proper mechanism for quality control.”

Technical educationists are of the opinion that despite several constrains AICTE had been doing a good job of controlling over 3000 technical institutes in the country. "We had a set schedule for doing certain things and would get approvals and notifications on time," informs Mhaiskar. “The transition was sudden and not managed well.”

When this reporter asked Mr. Mantha whether AICTE would adopt a few of the UGC’s new guidlines, he said that the AICTE guidelines were quite good. “So we will stick to those, but we do have new plans. As our technical education grows to a new level we want our institutions to have world class standards."

Research Parks on campuses, focus on skill and job scope development and active participation from industry experts to mentor students are some of the plans that AICTE hopes to roll out after the final verdict.