The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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UGC targets fake varsities

New Delhi, March 20: The University Grants Commission has finally decided to act tough and tighten the noose around individuals and organisations setting up “fake” universities. A list published by the commission says that at present, there are 18 such universities or vidyapeeths throughout the country.

To stem this burgeoning trend, the UGC has planned to change its Act and slap strict penalties on guilty individuals and organisations setting up educational institutions that leave students hanging in a limbo with unrecognised degrees.

According to the changes proposed in the UGC Act, a person guilty of duping students will be fined Rs 10 lakh and organisations Rs 50 lakh. The Act, at present, carries a paltry amount as fine for the offence. The UGC is expected to finalise the amendments soon so that the changes can come into effect by the next session of Parliament.

“The issue was brought to our notice by students, parents and other agencies,” says a UGC official. The fake institutions in Delhi had names like United Nations University, Commercial University Limited and Vocational University. The list of 18 fake universities include as many as five in the capital and the rest spread over Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

A special cell in the UGC, along with the Association of Indian Universities, is expected to keep a tab on such malpractices.

The guilty organisations, however, are not ready to let go easily. When the UGC acted against Bharatiya Shiksha Parishad, a fake institution in Lucknow, it secured an interim stay order from a lower court. The UGC is still pursuing the case.

The Centre has also asked state governments to initiate inquiries against such mala fide institutions. Officials point out that at present the guilty are virtually escaping scot-free in the absence of proper punishment.

“They are charging a lot of money from students who are desperate for degrees they feel can help them and find jobs. If they are caught, they say their degrees will soon be validated by the UGC. But there is absolutely no chance of that happening,” the official adds.

Officials in the human resources development ministry say the amendments to the UGC Act are part of the reforms in higher education. The problem, they stress, may become more acute once the service sector, including education, is opened up to the foreign market.

The UGC is also concerned about the quality of higher education which, it feels, will have to be toned up in order to enable Indian universities to compete with foreign institutions once the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Agreement comes into effect. The amendments proposed in the Act also hope to tackle this problem.

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