Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Issues with the graded autonomy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Issues with autonomy and graded autonomy

The article analyses the issues the graded with the graded autonomy to the Higher Education Institutes.


  • NEP 2020 provided for phasing out of the system of affiliated colleges and the grant of greater autonomy in academic, administrative and financial matters to premium colleges.

Concerns with the autonomy

  • The move has raised concerns about the politico-bureaucratic interference in the internal functioning of universities.
  • It has also raised concerns about the substantial burden on universities which have to regulate admissions, set curricula and conduct examinations for a large number of undergraduate colleges.
  • Concerns have long existed about over-centralisation, due to constraints imposed on the potential for premium affiliated colleges to innovate and evolve.
  • These apprehensions about the autonomy came to be used by successive governments to build a case for the model of graded autonomy.

The push towards graded autonomy

  • Successive governments have pushed through measures that have largely allowed for greater penetration of private capital in higher education.
  • Recommendations of recent education commissions have promoted the unequal structure of funding for higher education.
  • Under this, hierarchy in higher education was created: Central government-funded universities, provincial Central government-funded universities, regional universities and colleges funded by State governments, etc.
  • The National Knowledge Commission (2005) stated that good undergraduate colleges are constrained by their affiliated status… the problem is particularly acute for undergraduate colleges which are subjected to the ‘convoy problem’ as they are forced to move at the speed of the slowest.
  • In turn, the dominant policy discourse vocally propagates “graded autonomy” for better performing Higher Educational Institutions.
  • Under which academic excellence can be supported through a grant of special funds and allowing greater power to such institutions.
  • This basis has been gradually enforced with the UGC in 2018 granting public-funded universities the right to apply for autonomy based on whether they are ranked among top 500 of reputed world rankings or have National Assessment and Accreditation (NAAC) scores above 3.26.

NEP 2020: Centralisation and autonomy

  • NEP 2020  is a combination of enhanced centralising features and specific features of autonomy.
  • Deeper centralisation is indicative in the constitution of the government nominated umbrella institution, Higher Education Council of India (HECI); Board of Governors, the National Education Commission etc.


  • The model of graded autonomy will encourage hierarchy that exists between different colleges within a public-funded university, and between different universities across the country.
  • While the best colleges gain the autonomy to bring in their own rules and regulations, affiliated colleges with lower rankings and less than 3,000 students face the threat of mergers and even closure.
  • A shrinking of the number of public-funded colleges will only further push out marginalised sections.
  • Autonomy could lead to more inaccessibility as the independent rules and regulations of autonomous colleges and universities shall curtail transparent admission procedures.
  • Graded autonomy can be expected to trigger a massive spurt in expensive self-financed courses as premium colleges, which will lead to exclusion.

Conclusion “Examine the issues with the autonomy of Higher Education Institutes in the NEP 2020.”


More than deliverance, autonomy represents the via media for greater privatisation and enhanced hierarchization in higher education.

Sources: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/privatisation-via-graded-autonomy/article32396753.ece

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