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Leeway for deemed varsity owners

New Delhi, July 1: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has yielded to the Centre’s pressure and agreed to allow the founding presidents of private deemed universities at least 25 years old, or their close relatives, to become chancellors.

The higher education regulator had so far resisted the HRD ministry’s call to dilute the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010, to facilitate the move. The commission gave in at a meeting on June 13 where it was decided that institutes meeting the 25-year rider would be able to appoint such persons.

Two other conditions have to be met. The institutes must have a “Grade A” accreditation from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), which assesses institutions of higher education, and a similar rating from a committee that had reviewed deemed varsities a few years ago. Only a handful of the 130-odd deemed universities will meet all three conditions.

“The sponsoring society/trust/company of such an institution can also appoint the president/trustee/promoter or his/her close relative as chancellor provided that such a person is an eminent educationist or a distinguished public figure. The existing regulations may be amended accordingly,” said the minutes of the June 13 meeting.

According to the existing regulations, the chancellor shall be “an eminent educationist or a distinguished public figure other than the president of the sponsoring society or his or her close relatives”. The rules were prepared on the basis of the recommendations of the P.N. Tandon panel formed by the ministry in 2009 to review the institutions.

The Tandon committee had declared 44 deemed varsities “unworthy” of the status because of poor academic and research output, and also found that sponsoring trusts or societies were running the institutes as family fiefs rather than on academic considerations.

A member of the Tandon committee said the regulations were aimed at breaking family domination in the management of the institutes and promoting meritocracy. If chancellors are from outside the families of the promoters or founding presidents, they would guide the institutes better, the member added.

But UGC member M.M. Ansari justified the latest decision. “If a person deserves, he should become chancellor. Only because he is the promoter or relative of the promoter, he should not be denied the post,” Ansari said.

The limited exemption might, however, open a Pandora’s box as the other varsities could question the discrimination. Many had moved Madras High Court against the curbs. A single-judge bench had in May 2011 upheld the rules. The judgment has been challenged before a division bench.

A UGC committee headed by vice-chairman H. Devaraj is reviewing the functioning of the 44 deemed universities found “unworthy” of the tag.