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New regulation to focus on students’ academic rights, to improve quality

Aiming to improve the quality of education across all colleges and universities, India will soon come up with a regulation that will inform students about their academic rights and entitlements – including on programmes operated by foreign universities.

The academic community has welcomed the announcement.

According to the University Grants Commission, or UGC – the apex regulatory body for universities in India – it is working on a Students’ Entitlement Regulation.

The regulation will apply to public and private universities alike. And since international universities poised to enter India will need to partner with local institutions, student rights and entitlements will also apply to foreign programmes and campuses.

The regulation will specify the academic rights of students, such as the minimum number of lectures to be held, access to quality laboratories, the presence of adequate books and reference material in university libraries, and sporting and accommodation facilities, among other areas.

The UGC also plans to create a portal where students can post shortcomings of their campuses and provide a real picture of different campuses in terms of academic matters.

According to the UGC chair, Professor Ved Prakash, students must have complete knowledge about their rights relating to learning, the living environment, physical activities, entertainment and sports facilities.

“Once the regulation comes into effect, a student can complain if any specific right or entitlement is being violated,” Prakash told University World News.

Students have welcomed the move

“This is the first time that the UGC or any educational authority in India has taken such a step,” said Satya Ranjan, a masters in sociology student at Delhi University.

“Whenever we complain about delays in examinations, lack of books and reference material in libraries, or apply for re-evaluation of answer sheets, the university behaves like it is doing us a favour. Hopefully, with our rights spelled out through this regulation, things might become easier.”

Notably, dysfunctional toilets, cancellation of lectures and absence of teachers are taken for granted by university students in India.

Under the regulation, students can demand that these problems be resolved and that more classes, reference books and journals to improve research facilities, and adequate accommodation and sports facilities are provided.

“Our long-term objective behind this regulation is to create awareness among students about their entitlements on campus, and thus improve the quality of the academic environment,” Prakash said.

Universities will also have to organise seminars to educate students about their academic entitlements and popularise the regulation.

The regulation, if properly implemented and popularised, could strengthen student activism across campuses, said A Mohammed Yusuf, national president of the Campus Front of India, a neo-social student movement that aims to develop a new generation of campus activists.

“Unlike the National Union of Students in the UK, which represents students nationally, all major student bodies in India are politically aligned. Rather than focusing on the quality of education and campus infrastructure, their policies reflect their party’s stand,” said Yusuf.

“The regulation is welcome. But the challenge will be to educate every student about its existence and its use in demanding academic entitlements,” he added.

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Student access soars, but challenges remain
New focus is on quality in higher education
State funds to help local universities compete
Improvements key for collaboration to work
Implications of the foreign education bill
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