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Lifeline to 44 deemed varsities

New Delhi, March 11: The University Grants Commission, India’s higher education regulator, has thrown a lifeline to 44 deemed universities found unworthy by an expert panel over four years ago.

The UGC has asked each of the 44 institutions to furnish up-to-date information about their functioning. Besides, they will get a chance to offer their views on the findings of the review panel headed by P.N. Tandon.

The Tandon committee, set up by the human resource development ministry in 2009, had examined 126 deemed universities and found 44 of them “unworthy”. Another 44 were found deficient on many counts while the performance of 38 was found satisfactory.

The panel recommended immediate withdrawal of deemed university status from the institutions found unworthy.

But the 44 went to the Supreme Court, which in January asked the government to seek the UGC’s comments on the findings of the Tandon committee.

UGC chairman Ved Prakash told a commission meeting at the end of last month that the regulator had written to all the 44 to offer their defence within two weeks.

Once all the replies come in, the commission will examine them and suggest what action should be taken, a member said.

The commission will meet in the last week of this month. It is expected to take a decision after examining the Tandon committee report, the report of an officers’ committee that was set up by the HRD ministry in 2011 to look at the Tandon report, the UGC’s own review of the deemed universities’ academic performance in 2009, and the response of individual deemed universities.

The Supreme Court had on January 21 directed the UGC to give its advice within eight weeks, but the commission will seek another month.

Former UGC secretary R.K. Chauhan said many of the 44 deemed universities had complained that the Tandon committee had not given them adequate opportunity to explain their strengths and achievements. “The UGC has taken the right approach in giving a chance to the deemed universities to furnish up-to-date information. Their comments will enable UGC to take a fair decision,” Chauhan said.

A senior HRD ministry official said the UGC’s comments would complete the process of review of these institutions. “UGC is a major stakeholder when it comes to grant deemed university status to any institution. The Tandon committee had not sought the UGC’s views while reviewing the deemed universities. After the UGC’s comments, the review will be complete. We will submit the UGC report to the Supreme Court,” the official said.

The Tandon committee had assessed each institute on 45 marks. Institutions that scored less than 15 were labelled “unworthy”.

These 44 institutions were originally colleges and were later granted deemed university status by the government. The apex court has said that the future of the nearly two lakh students at these institutions should not be affected in case of a decision against the deemed universities.

The UGC meeting yesterday also decided to relax the eligibility criteria for OBC candidates to sit for the National Eligibility Test. OBC candidates will require 50 per cent marks in post-graduation to appear for NET, down from 55 per cent at present.