New Delhi, Sept. 9: Five Indian universities that have been offering courses in Mauritius have come under a cloud with higher education regulator UGC saying they never obtained permission to operate abroad.
A worried Indian high commissioner to Mauritius, T.P. Seetharam, has sought a clarification on the validity of the degrees awarded by these institutions over the years and the legal status of their operations in the island nation.
Seetharam wrote to higher education secretary Ashok Thakur and the University Grants Commission last month, saying these institutions’ 1,000-odd students and their parents were worried.
The five institutions are the EIILM University, Sikkim; Visvesvaraya Technological University, Karnataka; Sikkim Manipal University; Kurukshetra University, Haryana; and Bhavnagar University, Gujarat.
Of them, EIILM alone has a campus in Mauritius where it teaches 539 students. The rest operate through local institutions: Intraconsult (Sikkim Manipal), JSS Academy (Kurukshetra), Arya Sabha (Visvesvaraya) and the Mauras College of Dentistry (Bhavnagar). Apart from these five, hardly half a dozen Indian universities teach courses abroad.
The controversy began after the UGC posted a notice on its website in June saying that if any university established by a state legislature wants to operate outside that state, it needs permission from the regulator concerned (such as the UGC, Medical Council of India or the All India Council of Technical Education). The notice took no names.
It’s not clear why the UGC, which has been following this policy for the past ten years, chose to post the notice just at this time.
All the five universities under the scanner — EIILM and Sikkim Manipal are private institutions while the other three are run by their state governments — were set up by state legislatures.
Officials in the Union human resource development ministry and the UGC confirmed that none of the five had secured UGC permission. A ministry official said the regulator would have to act against the errant institutions.
Seetharam has expressed concern about the possible impact that any action against these universities may have on the future of India-Mauritius cooperation on education. He said the local Opposition was using the issue to target the Mauritius government.
No reactions could be obtained from EIILM registrar Alok Bhandari despite phone calls and emails but the other institutions defended their operations.
“Our university has taken permission from the Distance Education Council. The degrees offered at these centres are valid,” Sikkim Manipal vice-chancellor Somnath Mishra said.
“We have a memorandum of understanding with the Arya Sabha,” said Devindar Dayal Singh Sandhu, Kurukshetra University vice-chancellor.
“We don’t have a campus. It (the Mauritius operations) does not have to be approved by any regulatory body. Our university is free to have such an understanding with any institution.”
C.G. Jhala, registrar, Bhavnagar University, directed this newspaper to A. Kumar, officer on special duty (affiliation), who said: “The Mauras College of Dentistry is affiliated to our university, as confirmed by the Gujarat government. Our university has the provision to offer degrees outside.”
Visvesvaraya vice-chancellor H. Maheshappa said the university had not sought UGC permission because the regulator’s approval is not necessary for collaborations with overseas institutions.
“We have had this operation since 2005; UGC permission was not required at the time,” he said.
UGC sources said the policy had been in existence for a decade and even if an institution or operation predated it, they had to comply with the regulations once they came into effect.