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Govt scoffs at UGC leniency

New Delhi, Oct. 20: A human resource development ministry review has dismissed findings of a University Grants Commission probe that cleared many deemed universities.

A review panel appointed by HRD minister Kapil Sibal has argued that a clean chit in the UGC probe cannot be used by deemed universities to claim immunity from adverse findings in the ministry review.

The five-member panel yesterday decided to argue in its report to Sibal that its review could not be compared with the UGC probe as their terms of reference were different, The Telegraph has learnt.

At its meeting yesterday, the panel finalised its report, which will now be submitted to Sibal and then made public online.

India has 130 deemed universities, mostly private-owned. Most of these were set up during the tenure of previous HRD minister Arjun Singh.

The decision to review the functioning of deemed universities was among Sibal’s first tasks after taking charge of the ministry. The UGC was advised to launch a parallel probe.

The panel’s decision to officially distinguish its role from that of the UGC probe is an attempt to ensure that the UGC probe is not used by dubious deemed universities to claim government approval, sources said.

It also seeks to clarify that in the event of any divergence between the findings of the two probes, the HRD ministry’s review report will be considered supreme, the sources said.

The UGC probe involved on-site visits to each deemed university and an evaluation primarily of their infrastructure — teacher to student ratio, number and quality of classrooms, laboratories and other facilities.

The HRD ministry review team on the other hand asked each institute to reply to a questionnaire and deliver a presentation. Institute representatives were then grilled by the review team. The team’s report on an institution is based on replies to the questionnaire, the presentation and the responses during the grilling.

The review team plans to counter criticism that the UGC probe is superior because of on-site inspections by showing that the commission findings — on infrastructure — match almost exactly with replies to their questionnaire.

“The ministry team, sitting in Delhi, has received the same information on infrastructure that the UGC probe found by visiting the site. But their conclusions on many institutions differ,” a source said.

The team consists of former Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, director Goverdhan Mehta, neurosurgeon P.N. Tandon, IIT Kanpur chairman M. Ananthakrishnan and former Indian Institute of Advanced Studies director Mrinal Miri.

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