Thursday, July 15, 2010

Self-disclosure rule hits new tech institutes seeking AICTE nod

India's technical education regulator denied approval to three out of every four new institutes that had applied to start courses this academic year, following a new approval policy implemented in January in the wake of corruption charges. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) rejected applications from as many as 1,626 new institutes out of the 2,176 that wanted to start courses in engineering, business administration, computer applications, pharmacy and architecture, among other subjects. The earlier practice was for the regulator to send inspectors to verify claims made by applicants before approving them. In its new policy, institutes have to upload information --- including land records, faculty details and a video capsule of their facilities, along with a sworn affidavit --- on AICTE's website before it sends inspectors.

The rejection rate is high this year because many applicants simply failed to upload the required documents. "We are shifting from inspector raj (rule) to self-disclosure regime. It will bring transparency and cut down corruption in the technical institution system of India", AICTE's Acting Chairman S.S. Mantha said. "We have given approval to 550 institutes this year and the rest failed to get it as they could not disclose the required details", he added. In contrast, the regulator approved 1,131 new institutes last year and 1,345 institutes in 2008.

The self-disclosure policy was implemented after AICTE was dogged by accusations that its inspectors demanded bribes from institutes seeking approval. On 16 July 2009, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's top investigating agency, arrested a Member-Secretary of AICTE and also filed a corruption case against then Chairman R.A. Yadav. The chairman was suspended two weeks later.

Mantha, his successor, said the new policy is more transparent and ensures that institutes cannot lie to either AICTE or prospective students about their infrastructure. "Now they have to give an affidavit and if any of their claim comes out to be untrue, then we can file criminal cases against them". The video capsules uploaded by the approved institutes is to be made public in four months. "This will help students get a first-hand view of every single technical institute approved by us. Students must know where they are applying or going to study", said Mantha.

Some 1.4 million seats for technical education were available in the country at the end of the last academic year. Mantha said 250,000 new seats are being added from this session. "While 100,000 seats will come from the new institutes, expansion of old institutes will add up 150,000 more seats this year", he added.

A senior official at the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), requesting anonymity, said that the self-regulatory mechanism is a step in the right direction for AICTE, which is hoping to repair its dented reputation. The institutes agree. Prashant Bhalla, Vice-President of Manav Rachna International University at Faridabad, said his institute has won AICTE's approval. Institutes that do not intend to cheat students or the government are happy as the new process is less cumbersome, Bhalla said, adding that AICTE needs to improve its website to make uploading of details smoother.

"The aim is to bring in a culture of transparency. This is a sign of maturity in the technical education sector", said Narayanan Ramaswamy, Executive Director (Education) at audit and consulting firm KPMG. "Self-governance is better than somebody monitoring you always", he added. "The self-disclosure policy will benefit the students most as they will have all information about institutions".

Source: Mint, July 15, 2010

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