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UGC bar on Mauritius 5

New Delhi, Nov. 25: Higher education regulator UGC has ordered five universities to stop off-shore operations in Mauritius, putting the future of their Indian students in doubt.

Some 10 per cent of the 980 students in these institutions are Indian.

The Tertiary Education Council of Mauritius has given these institutions permission to operate, but sources in the human resource development ministry (HRD) and the University Grants Commission said the five — found wanting on various provisions of Indian laws — have been asked to stop admissions with immediate effect.

The five institutions are EIILM University and Sikkim Manipal University (SMU), both private universities from the hill state; Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Karnataka; Kurukshetra University, Haryana, and Bhavnagar University, Gujarat.

While EIILM has a Mauritius campus with 539 students, SMU, VTU, Kurukshetra University and Bhavnagar University operate through Intraconsult, JSS Academy, Arya Sabha and Mauras College of Dentistry — all local institutions.

According to rules, private universities need permission from the UGC and the HRD ministry to open off-shore campuses, while universities run by state governments must have provisions in their acts to be able to operate centres abroad. Besides, the academic and executive councils of the universities concerned must have approved the courses to be offered at the off-shore centres.

Neither VTU nor Kurukshetra University has provisions to operate in a foreign country in their acts, UGC sources said. Bhavnagar University has the provision but its executive and academic councils have not approved the courses it has been offering in Mauritius. All three are state government-run universities. The Sikkim universities, both private institutions, did not take permission to operate abroad.

“These universities do not fulfil some or other provisions. They have been asked to stop admitting students. They have been asked to explain under what rules they have been functioning in a foreign country,” UGC chairperson Ved Prakash said.

Prakash was part of a delegation that HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju led last week to Mauritius to discuss education ties amid the controversy surrounding these five universities.

HRD ministry sources said the UGC chairperson met officials of the Mauritius education council and clarified that the operations of the five institutions did not have sanction under Indian laws.

Earlier in August, the Indian high commissioner in Port Louis, T.P. Seetharam, had written to higher education secretary Ashok Thakur seeking clarifications on whether the degrees offered by these Indian universities were valid. Seetharam said the students studying in these institutions were worried as Opposition parties in the island country were using the controversy to target the government.

Prakash said the Mauritius council, which had permitted operations by these universities, might recognise the degrees granted by these institutions, so the students from Mauritius may not find it difficult to pursue further studies or land jobs in their country. “But the Indian students who want to come back will face problems here. Their degrees may not be recognised.”

UGC sources said the regulator and the ministry would consider applications from the two Sikkim universities if they applied for permission to operate abroad, while the other three could start operations after fulfilling the requirements.

“But any permission to be given will be with prospective, not retrospective, effect,” Prakash said.