The UGC on Tuesday approved new regulations, including one on freeing top-ranking institutions from the regulator’s control. The ‘UGC (Categorization of Universities for Grant of Graded Autonomy ) Regulations aims to provide greater autonomy to institutions based on their NAAC accreditation score.

Universities either accredited by NAAC with a score of at least 3.5 or ranked in the top 50 institutions of National Institutions Ranking Framework (NIRF) for two consecutive years will be parked in ‘Category I’. Universities in this category will be free to start a new course, department and school without UGC’s approval. They will also be exempt from UGC’s regular inspections and can collaborate with foreign educational institutions without the regulator’s permission. Their performance will be reviewed based on self-reporting.

To be eligible for ‘Category II’, universities should either have been accredited by NAAC with a score between 3.01 and 3.49 or ranked between 51 and 100 in the NIRF ranking. Although such universities will also be exempt from UGC’s regular inspections, they will be subject to stricter control in comparison to ‘Category I’ institutions. So, ‘Category II’ universities will need the UGC’s permission to sign MoUs with foreign universities. Their performance will be reviewed by a peer group.

Institutions categorised as ‘Category III’ will be the most regulated universities. They will not enjoy any of the exemptions granted to their counterparts in ‘Category I & II’. On Tuesday, the commission also approved a regulation that permits third-party agencies other than NAAC to accredit higher education institutions.

According to sources, the government is keen that IITs and IIMs also get involved in it. In fact, the former have agreed to set up a Section 8 company for the purpose and volunteer their teachers for mapping the academic credentials of the institution. Before the regulation was passed, accreditation was the sole preserve of NAAC.