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Barely a few hours before the announcement of the assembly election, Bihar filled the key position for higher education. The government notified the appointment of Prof Kameshwar Jha for the second term at the Bihar State higher education council (BSHEC) late Thursday evening. It had already been cleared by the Governor earlier.

Besides, it also notified three vice-chancellors as members. They are Central University of South Bihar (CUSB) VC HSC Rathore, Patna University VC Girish Kumar Choudhary, and Munger University VC RK Verma.

The position of SHEC Vice-chairman had remained vacant for over one and a half years since the term of Jha, the first vice-chairman of the SHEC, had ended on March 28, 2019. The education minister happens to be the ex-officio chairman of the apex higher education body in the state.

BSHEC is a mandatory requirement under the Rashtriya Uchchatara Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) to increase the gross enrollment ratio (GER) and improve quality. All the finds under RUSA, with center-state sharing of 60:40, are routed to the state institutions through the BSHEC.

“The government has reposed trust in me yet again and I will strive to live up to the expectations of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar by striving to contribute to the growth of higher education in the state,” said Jha, whose second term will coincide with the implementation of the ambitious new education policy (NEP), which talks of having a higher education commission of India in place of multiple regulating agencies to ensure uniformity and better coordination in higher education.

Jha got a second term in view of the new provision in the BSHEC Act, 2018, which was notified by the Governor in January this year after a long wait of another one and a half years. The bill had been passed by the Bihar Assembly in March 2018. As per the Act, the maximum age for the appointment of vice-chairman shall be 75 years and shall have a tenure of five years.

BSHEC is responsible for undertaking planning and evaluation, apart from other monitoring and capacity building functions. It also has the responsibility for timely and accurate data collection and maintenance of the management information system (MIS).

BSHEC comprises principal secretaries of the departments of education, finance, industry, science & technology, finance, industry health, besides directors of higher education, science and technology, and UGC secretary or his nominee as members.

From the academic side, it has five members nominated by the state government representing the fields of arts, science and technology, culture, civil society, industry/vocational skill development, three state government-nominated vice-chancellors, including those of central universities in the state, and two members not below the rank of professor nominated by the state government.

Though BSHEC has been functional in the State since 2014, it will need to work more effectively now in view of the state government’s emphasis on improving quality and enrollment in higher education and the strict guideline for funding under the Centre’s flagship Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Mission (RUSA), which has been linked to performance and accreditation from the National Accreditation and Assessment Council (NAAC). 

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