New Delhi, Jan. 2: The Centre has asked all universities, Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management to get clearance from the human resources development ministry before tying up with any foreign research institution.
The blanket order has prompted fears in academia that it would undermine a government drive to make institutions of higher education fund themselves.
The directive, a brainchild of the ministry headed by Murli Manohar Joshi, is being issued in two batches. The first lot of circulars was sent to the IITs and the IIMs in the first week of December and the one for the universities is being despatched.
Till now, the policy was to let an institution’s apex body decide on a tie-up with a foreign institution, without any interference from the Centre. The Indian and the foreign institutes would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) without the ministry coming into the picture.
For the IITs, the senate, its highest policy making body, ratified the decision. In central universities such as Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Jamia Milia Islamia, the executive council decided on the tie-up. At Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), the decision rested with its governing body.
“The decision in our case has to be approved by the executive council of Delhi University. The collaboration spadework is done by the respective departments,” said Prof. Mamkoottam of the faculty of management studies, affiliated to Delhi University.
Collaboration with foreign institutions has paid off for the management institute, said Mamkoottam. “We have signed agreements with several management institutes from Europe and the US,” he said.
The tie-up decision taken by the institute or university was earlier communicated to the University Grants Commission. “In some areas of research, which are extremely sensitive, the institutions had to convey the decision to the Centre,” said JNU professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy.
IIT professors said the Centre never had a policy of interfering with its internal decisions. Two years ago, the senate at IIT, Delhi, had fiercely debated allowing IBM to continue its research from the institute’s premises. The debate raged without any central guidelines or advice.
The drive to make premier engineering institutions and universities self-sufficient gained speed post liberalisation. Successive human resources ministers, from Madhavrao Scindia to Arjun Singh, asked the institutions to generate resources through research and a hike in tuition fees.
“They (the Centre) cannot have the best of both worlds. On the one hand, they want us to be self-sufficient; on the other, they want to keep us on a leash to suit their interests,” said Chenoy.
Joshi, too, has been harping on the need to reduce dependence on foreign funding and research institutions. Foreign funding agencies willing to help educational projects — such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan or higher education projects — have been told to come forward only if they do not have any conditions.
Some officials in the ministry, however, emphasised that Joshi would find it difficult to sustain his swadeshi drive once foreign universities started opening branches in India as sanctioned by Gatt (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).