The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) was granted the status of a ‘deemed to be university’ last week. This essentially means that it will now be able to grant degrees on its own. The big announcement was made by Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on the 63rd foundation day of the body.
The move comes a year after the NCERT approached the Ministry as well as the University Grants Commission (UGC), India’s higher education regulator, seeking to be granted the status of a central university so that it can offer degree certificates and exercise greater autonomy in running its academic programmes.
Having received university status, the council will now be able to award its own graduate, post-graduate and doctoral degrees. Until now, the NCERT had been offering graduate and post-graduate programmes for teacher-training and capacity-building at seven regional centres — Regional Institute of Education (REI) — in affiliation with local universities.
Prior to attaining the university status, these centres were limited in their role and could launch new courses only upon getting approvals from the said affiliated universities. The ‘deemed to be university’ status will change this. The NCERT will now be able to offer its own degrees and exercise greater autonomy in offering academic programmes, deciding course structure, course fee, appointing faculty and conducting examinations, among others.
Also, as a research university, it will now be able to have academic collaborations with the top national and international universities across the globe.
The council, a think-tank of the school education system, is the apex organisation for developing textbooks for school education in India and is also the body that is implementing the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The council is engaged in educational research, innovation, curriculum development, teacher-training as well as in developing teaching-learning materials and pedagogy tools.
While universities have been demanding that the ‘deemed to be’ nomenclature must be dropped and that these should be declared just ‘universities’, the Education Minister has said that once the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) Bill is introduced and passed, the title for all such universities will change automatically.
At present, as per UGC records, there are 125 ‘deemed to be universities’ across the country.
On September 12 last year, the NCERT at a meeting of the executive committee, its highest decision-making body, “in-principle” decided to approach the UGC seeking ‘deemed university’ status. The meeting was chaired by Education Minister Pradhan and was attended by UGC chief M Jagadesh Kumar and the council’s director DP Saklani, among other officials.
During the meeting, it was also decided that the NCERT will simultaneously start the process of consulting with the ministry’s higher education department to convert it to a central university. NCERT officials said that it was crucial for the council to have full autonomy in taking decisions regarding its academic functioning given that it carries out major teacher-training work and more so now with the implementation of NEP, which requires massive training and development of modules.
The NCERT has been granted the ‘deemed to be university status’ in the ‘de-novo’ category. According to UGC rules, institutes that specialise in unique and emerging areas of knowledge are granted the ‘deemed university’ status under this category. The council had applied to the UGC last September seeking ‘deemed university’ status under ‘de-novo’ category.