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Deemed varsity dilution bid

New Delhi, Feb. 11: The Centre intends to allow private deemed universities’ founding presidents to become chancellors irrespective of their academic qualifications, moving at the end of its term to dilute rules set four years ago against the practice.

Ashok Thakur, higher education secretary, issued a controversial directive yesterday to University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman Ved Prakash to relax the provisions on the appointment of chancellors in the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010.

The directive was issued with the concurrence of Union Human Resource Development (HRD) minister M.M. Pallam Raju, according to sources.

Under existing rules, the chancellor is to be appointed by the sponsoring society or trust that set up the deemed university. He or she must be an eminent educationist or a distinguished public figure other than the president of the trust or a close relative.

The regulations were drawn up by a committee of experts that had found 44 deemed varsities to be unworthy of the status on several grounds, including poor academic and research output.

According to the P.N. Tandon committee, many sponsor trusts controlled the deemed universities that were run like family fiefs rather than academic bodies.

A key objective of the regulations was to minimise and gradually end the stranglehold of the trusts’ presidents and their families on the institutes. This was the reason the eligibility list was narrowed down to outside educationists or public figures.

But the private universities opposed the move. Many filed a petition in Madras High Court. A single-judge bench upheld the validity of the provision in May 2011. The judgment has been challenged and the appeal is pending before a division bench of the court.

Recently, the UGC amended regulations on publicly funded deemed universities to allow the government to determine their management structure.

The HRD ministry approved the revised rules but suggested an exemption for privately funded deemed universities that have completed 25 years and have secured an “A” rank from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. The council assesses and grades varsities on a series of parameters.

Many fear that the move to seek such special treatment for a group of private deemed universities may open a Pandora’s box, prompting the rest to question the difference of approach and allege discrimination.

There are about 130 deemed universities in the country. Of these, around 90 are run by private entities.

Some UGC members were learnt to have raised the issue at the commission’s last meeting held on January 10, demanding relaxation of the regulations for private deemed universities. But the idea was rejected.

After Thakur’s directive, the UGC may incorporate a proviso in the rules for private institutions, sources said.

The UGC chairman was not available for comment on whether the commission would implement the order or reject it.