New Delhi, Jan. 17: The human resource development ministry is in a dilemma whether to let the University Grants Commission regulate admissions and fees at deemed universities, most of which are private institutions.
The problem relates to the different rulings the Supreme Court has given on the matter over the years. The ministry has therefore sought law ministry advice on whether it should approve two new rules passed by the UGC in September 2009 to regulate fees and admissions in the 130 deemed universities, about 90 of which are private institutions.
One of the rules, the UGC (Admission in Professional Programmes of Study at Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, says that deemed universities cannot admit students without entrance tests. It says these universities can conduct these tests on their own or form a consortium that will hold a national-level entrance exam.
The second rule, the UGC (Fee Structure in Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, looks to standardise the fees. For this, state governments are to set up a panel that will consider the cost and quality of education and suggest a fee structure.
Alternatively, the Centre may set up a national committee that will suggest the admission procedures and fee structures for these institutions, the fees varying according to the facilities offered.
The government is unable to approve the new UGC regulations as it is unclear whether the commission can enforce such rules, a source said.
Although the UGC Act of 1956 provides for regulating fees and admissions in private unaided institutions, the Supreme Court has given different rulings on the matter in the past few years. So, the law ministrys views have been sought.
Section 12A(2)(d) of the UGC Act says that the commission may specify the fees to be charged by a college for any course of study.
But in P.A. Inamdar and Others versus the State of Maharashtra and Others in 2005, the apex court had held that every private institution was free to devise its fee structure although it could be regulated to prevent profiteering.
The court held that it was for the Centre to legislate on the subject. In the absence of central legislation, the states could enact their own laws on the matter.
In 2004, the Supreme Court had ruled that the admission process fell within the scope of determining standards of education and, therefore, admission to deemed universities should come under UGC control. This ruling came in Bharati Vidyapeeth and Others versus the State of Maharashtra.
Earlier, in Unnikrishnan J.P. versus the State of Andhra Pradesh in 1993, the apex court had said that the government could regulate fees and admissions in private and unaided institutions.
The Centre had then finalised a policy on admissions and fees and directed the UGC and the All India Council of Technical Education to include it in their rules for private unaided professional institutions and deemed universities.
However, in 2002, the apex court held in T.M.A. Pai Foundation and Others versus the State of Karnataka that fixing a rigid fee structure would be unacceptable. The decision on fees must be left to the private institutions, which should spend the surplus revenues on development and expansion.
In 2003, in Islamic Academy and Others versus the State of Karnataka, the Supreme Court directed that a committee headed by a retired high court judge be set up in each state to approve the fee structure for private professional colleges.
It said the fee should be binding for three years after which the institutions could apply for a revision. The court also asked each state to appoint a permanent committee to ensure that the entrance tests conducted by the association of colleges were fair and transparent.
However, the court added that this direction to set up two committees in each state would be in force only till Parliament legislated on the subject.
There is no central legislation for regulating admissions and fees in higher/technical educational institutions at present, the source said.
So, the question is whether the UGC can notify regulations on fees and admissions in deemed universities.