The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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School franchises under scanner

New Delhi, May 18: A government think-tank has urged the Centre to stop education institutions, both Indian and international, from franchising their brand names at random.

The institutions are loaning their names to others for a price which “could range from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh”, said G.D. Sharma, faculty member of the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration.

According to academics, indiscriminate franchising is sparking further erosion in the quality of education provided in these institutes. Most do not have competent and enough faculty members.

“It is becoming a serious menace in all sectors of education, from primary to higher — particularly in higher education — and throughout the country,” Sharma said.

Delhi Public School, a premier school in Delhi, for instance, has franchised its name to an institution in Faridabad. Allahabad Agricultural University and Punjab Technical University, too, have loaned their names to various bodies.

Foreign universities, too, have actively resorted to franchising. Twenty-seven of them are offering in India a variety of undergraduate and post-graduate courses in almost all subjects.

Undergraduate courses are offered in liberal arts, business and medicine; post-graduate courses in engineering, technology, sciences, social sciences, business administration, international business, banking, finance and management.

One such institution is offering direct Web-based learning.

“The London School of Economics has franchised its name to an institute in Gurgaon — an institute which takes a lot of money but provides education much below the standard of the LSE,” Sharma said.

According to the Association of Indian Universities, a legal milieu that does not prohibit or regulate franchising has made it possible.

As many as 46 foreign institutions are not recognised or accredited in their own countries, association secretary-general K.B. Powar said. “Twenty-three of 26 of their Indian partners are not affiliated to any Indian university — an indication that they have entered the academic area primarily for commercial gain.”

A worried University Grants Commission has set up a panel to probe the indiscriminate franchising. “The unfortunate part is that these mushrooming institutes are economising on their faculties. They are keeping the core faculty to a minimum. Most of the members are ad hoc,” Sharma said.

The association had in 1999 laid down guidelines to monitor the quality of education in institutes franchised by foreign education providers.

A major condition was that the Indian partner should have adequate infrastructure and facilities. The foreign institute is also required to give an undertaking, in the form of a certificate, that the degree or diploma awarded in India would be equivalent to that awarded by the home university.

“Obviously, our guidelines are not acceptable to the foreign providers of higher education,” Powar said. “Perhaps, they feel they can continue operation without a grant of equivalence, for there is no dearth of students wanting a foreign degree.”

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