Sunday, January 24, 2010

44 deemed universities to be de-recognized; 16 are in Tamil Nadu

The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has decided to de-recognize as many as 44 deemed universities, spelling uncertainty for nearly 200,000 students who are enrolled with them. MHRD's decision amounts to an acknowledgement of irregularities in conferring the deemed tag to these institutions under the first UPA government in which Arjun Singh was the HRD minister. The 44 deemed universities, including one promoted by I&B minister of state S Jagathrakshakan, three government-sponsored ones, and some in the national capital region (Delhi and its satellite towns), such as Manav Rachna, Shobit and Santosh, are spread across the country. These deemed universities were found deficient on many grounds ranging from lack of infrastructure to lack of evidence of expertise in disciplines they claim to specialize in.

The big step, as reported first by TOI, was taken after clearance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and is also an indictment of the manner in which the deemed status was doled out during the tenure of the last HRD minister, Arjun Singh. Although the list includes many that were given deemed status during Murli Manohar Joshi's time too, the list of those red-pencilled indicates how during Arjun Singhs tenure, the deemed status was virtually up for grabs.

The MHRD emphasized that the affected students would be taken care of. The ministry's task force has recommended that institutions not found fit for deemed university status revert to status quo ante as an affiliated college of the state university of jurisdiction so that students would be able to complete their ongoing courses and obtain degree from the affiliating university. Similarly, medical and dental colleges not found suitable can affiliate to a state university or a state medical university. In case, the institution is unable to obtain affiliation, efforts would be made to facilitate the migration/reenrolment of the affected students in other institutions. Doctoral students would have to re-register in affiliating universities and those in distance education should either go to IGNOU or state open universities.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in the Viplav Sharma vs Union of India case, the HRD ministry said the review committee found only 38 institutes fit to have the deemed university status. Another 44 were found deficient in some aspects which need to be rectified over the next three years. With Supreme Court likely to approve HRDs action, it is unlikely that government will have to face any litigation. These 44 deemed universities have 119,363 students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In addition, there are 2,124 students pursuing research at M.Phil. and Ph.D. levels and another estimated 74,808 students pursuing distance education programmes. As many as 41 of the 44 deemed universities have several constituent institutions under them, which would further swell the number of affected students.

Tamil Nadu has the distinction of having 16 of the 44 de-recognized deemed universities. Karnataka has six de-recognized deemed universities; Uttar Pradesh four; Haryana, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Maharashtra three each; Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, one each.

With 16 deemed universities from Tamil Nadu and one from Puducherry coming into focus consequent to the centres submission in the Supreme Court that their status as independent universities must be withdrawn, there is widespread concerns regarding the future of the thousands of students enrolled in these institutions. Significantly, four of the deemed universities against which action has been recommended, are administered by politicians or their kin.

While the Bharath University was founded by union minister of state for information S. Jagathrakshakan, the St. Peters University was founded by former Tamil Nadu education minister and AIADMK MP M. Thambidurai. Likewise, the Dr. MGR University is administered by A C Shanmugham, a former AIADMK MP and the Periyar Maniammai University is administered by a trust managed by K Veeramani, leader of the Dravidar Kazhagam. And at least four of these deemed universities PRIST in Thanjavur, Vinayaka Missions in Salem, St. Peters in Chennai, and Periyar Maniammai in Thanjavur have also enrolled thousands of students in several courses offered through the distance education mode and study centres spread all over the country.

While the Tandon Committee, on whose recommendations the centre had filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court, has drawn up a comprehensive scheme to ensure that education of these students is not disrupted, the state government has decided to adopt a wait and watch policy. We will wait for the courts verdict on how to integrate the students (who had enrolled in deemed universities) in regular universities. The Supreme Court should give directions on this and we will comply with it, Tamil Nadu higher education minister K. Ponmudy said.

Source: The Times of India, January 19, 2010

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