Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New rules for deemed universities

In January, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that it was all set to derecognise 44 deemed universities in the country on the basis of the PN Tandon committee report. However, the Supreme Court recently while rejecting the plea of Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on fresh admissions in these universities has questioned the validity of the constitution of the Tandon committee itself. Meanwhile, while admissions for the 2010-2011 academic session commences in July, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a new set of regulations for both the existing deemed-to-be universities as well as those seeking the deemed-to-be university status. In fact, the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2010 are a damage control measure by the regulatory body, which had failed to curb the mushrooming of dubious institutes.

The new rules include admissions through a merit-based all India exam, transparent fee structure in (keeping with the UGC regulations) and mandatory accreditation. Further, no institute can admit students in anticipation that it will be granted deemed-to-be-university status in future. However, K.T. Chacko, Director, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), points out that most of these deemed universities offer programmes which are unlike the regular academic programmes like B.A., B.Com. ,etc. In view of things, it seems impractical to conduct a common entrance examination for all the deemed university institutions, he says.

Vachaspati Upadhyaya, Vice-chancellor, Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, agrees. He says that though when it comes to admission to Sanskrit courses a common exam is feasible because there are three deemed universities, the other institutes have no set guidelines for conducting a common exam. Again, as to the issue of fee structure, there are institutes that are both private and government-funded. As far as the private-funded ones are concerned, they feel it is not possible to follow a regulated fee structure. We generate our own income. If the government wants to regulate the fee structure, the cost of running an institute should then be subsidised by the government, says Chacko. On its way to repair the deemed university system, the government should take care that those deemed universities that have proved themselves as centres of excellence should not lose their autonomy, he adds.

As to some of the other guidelines, institutes will now be reviewed by the UGC every five years. Further, to be eligible for the deemed varsity status, it must have already been in existence for 15 years earlier it was 10 years and fulfilled several categories of academic excellence. However, institutes under the de novo (fresh deemed university status) category will be exempted from a 15-year-long existence, though the eligibility of such institutes will be decided by a national panel of experts.

Apart from the fact that it will not have the authority to offer distance education programmes with exceptions, Vice-chancellors of such institutes will only have a five-year-term. Violations of the rules will lead to withdrawal of status. But will the new regulations restore the credibility and quality of deemed universities? Chacko states. Initially, the deemed university title was conferred on institutes that have a proven track record of being centres of excellence in specialised areas. However, with time the UGC started offering this title to new institutes with no track record whatsoever. While that was the beginning, it ended up as institutes that reflected more of family fiefdom and less of academic merit.

Source: The Times of India (Education Times), May 17, 2010

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