The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paper chase for private colleges

After the statement of intent, the push for privatisation.

A day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s policy declaration, the government on Friday got down to evaluating 30-odd proposals it has received over the past few months from various trust bodies and individuals for setting up undergraduate colleges in and around Calcutta.

Satyasadhan Chakrabarty, higher education minister, said several self-financing colleges, promoted and managed by private organisations or individuals with proven track record in the field of education, would go on stream in the city and elsewhere in Bengal in two years.

Among the private promoters in talks with the government are the Nopani group of industries, Mumbai-based Sterlite Foundation and educational bodies like Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Agrasain Education Trust, Pondicherry-based Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Mission and the Holy Home chain.

“Considering the present financial constraint as well as the growing demand among students for seats in undergraduate courses, we are about to clear quite a few proposals for setting up self-financing colleges,” said Chakraborty.

Education officials said they were expecting a surge in proposals in the wake of the chief minister’s emphatic statement on Thursday, urging the private sector to develop quality institutions, especially in the higher education segment. “The proposals lying before us are good, but we have reason to believe that bigger players will come forward in response to the chief minister’s invitation,” a higher education council official said.

A few industry groups are also examining the scope of setting up full-fledged universities, the feasibility of which was exclusively the domain of the University Grants Commission (UGC). Bhattacharjee’s government, it is believed, is not averse to the idea of staking proposals for independent universities if the promoters succeed in convincing the UGC of the need to change its policy in this regard.

The higher education council has been asked to carry out the screening and shortlisting of proposals within a time-frame, so that a decision can be taken fast and a few colleges commissioned within the next academic session, the officials said, adding that such institutions will be free to fix their tuition fees.

Minister Chakraborty said though the government is in principle ready to allow private parties to set up colleges, a final clearance would be granted on merit. “We will ensure that each of the colleges offers quality education,” said Chakraborty. The proposals will be assessed on parameters such as the size of the plot on which the new college will be set up, playground and hostel facilities and staff quarters.

The promoter’s financial clout will also be considered, as he will have to furnish a fixed deposit of at least Rs 10 lakh before spending crores to set up the institution.

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