Bill to fast-track ‘innovation’ varsities - Cabinet stamp on proposal to set up universities with Parliament nod, not law

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  • Published 11.05.12

New Delhi, May 10: The Union cabinet today cleared a proposed “omnibus law” under which central or private theme-based universities can be set up with Parliament’s approval without enacting a separate law for each institution as is the rule now.

The Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, does not apply to general universities but only to “innovation universities” — those where teaching and research will focus on specific areas such as environment, astrophysics, urban planning or the liberal arts.

Universities are now set up individually through legislation by Parliament or a state’s Assembly. Once Parliament passes the new bill, which could be introduced in the current budget session, innovation universities can be established through an executive order followed by parliamentary approval, which will make the process faster.

It will also allow the establishment of as many theme-based universities as the Centre wants as long as they fulfil the set requirements. They can be set up in the public, private or public-private partnership (PPP) mode.

The government plans to set up a few such universities on its own. The bill allows internationally acclaimed foreign universities with at least 50 years of standing in their countries to collaborate with Indian entities to set up innovation universities.

Private bodies such as registered societies, trusts or companies registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act and foreign institutions will be termed “promoters” and will have to sign a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the government to set up innovation universities, either through collaboration or independently.

The promoter will apply to the government and send a detailed project proposal carrying information such as the vision plan, areas of focus, and how the land and funds will be mobilised.

If the proposal is found acceptable, the government will sign an MoA with the promoter, notify it and place it before Parliament, which will have the right to reject or amend it. The promoter cannot take away the profits from education activities but must plough them back into the institution for its development.

These universities can appoint by invitation anyone with academic distinction and professional achievements as professor or assistant professor. They can also appoint by invitation, as assistant professor, any graduate student with academic distinction and exceptional talent for research.

The cabinet also cleared proposed amendments to the National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill, 2012, which provides for mandatory accreditation of every institution for quality control.

The original bill said every higher-education institution must be accredited before it starts admissions but this ran into opposition from private educational institutions. The new bill, as reported by The Telegraph on March 14, only provides for mandatory assessment of the institutions’ human and physical infrastructure before they start teaching courses. Accreditation can happen after they complete six years.

The bill also provides for establishment of a statutory authority for registering and licensing accreditation agencies and regulating the process of accreditation.

The cabinet also cleared a bill to amend the Copyright Act of 1957. This amendment bill had been pending before Parliament for over two years. It seeks to make it mandatory for TV channels and radio stations to pay the creators or authors of works such as films or songs every time they are aired.