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'Pioneer' varsity on unfit list - 44 deemed institutes found wanting but given a three-year lifeline

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI
  • Published 14.02.10
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New Delhi, Feb. 13: The first Indian Institute of Information Technology that spurred controversial policy changes allowing the proliferation of a breed of questionable, brand-new deemed varsities is itself unfit for the tag, a central review panel has found.

The Gwalior IIIT, started in 1997, is one of 13 public deemed universities on a list of 44 found unfit for the tag but thrown a three-year lifeline by the panel to meet required standards.

The IIIT in Jabalpur, started in 2005 in collaboration with Japan after talks involving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese officials, is also on this list of substandard deemed varsities given a three-year lifeline.

Well-known private institutions like the Pune-based Symbiosis and Bharati Vidyapith and Mumbai’s Narsee Monjee management school are also on this list of unfit deemed universities named in the closely guarded review report accessed by The Telegraph.

Two deemed universities run by Tripura governor D.Y. Patil’s family, and another run by the family of Congress MP Datta Meghe, are on the list.

The Bharati Vidyapith is run by Maharashtra minister Patangrao Kadam’s family.

All these 44 institutions will lose their deemed tag in three years unless they “significantly improve”.

The deemed tag allows them to offer degrees without seeking affiliation as mere colleges to recognised universities.

The review’s finding deflates the argument peddled for a decade by government officials for allowing institutions deemed status without meeting requirements, made possible by policy changes introduced citing the IIITs.

Institutions working in emerging areas — like information technology in the 1990s — could be allowed special freedom to produce quality research and to train engineers, successive governments have argued.

But the findings show that the IIITs, held up as examples to justify the policy changes, have themselves failed to fulfil their promise, years after being set up.

This list of 44, including the two IIITs, is independent of another list of an identical number — 44 — found by the review to be too poor to deserve even the lifeline.

The human resource development ministry has disclosed the names of the 44 found unworthy of a lifeline in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, stating it wants to withdraw the deemed tag immediately from these institutions.

But the list of the other 44 unfit deemed varsities, including the two IIITs, and the central review’s report have been kept a tightly kept secret, not even revealed to other government arms or deemed universities themselves. They will only be disclosed in an affidavit that the HRD ministry is expected to file before the apex court soon.

The review was ordered by HRD minister Kapil Sibal soon after he took over in 2009. The probe panel consisted of neurosurgeon P.N. Tandon, IIT Kanpur chairman M. Anandakrishnan, former Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, director Goverdhan Mehta and former North Eastern Hill University vice-chancellor Mrinal Miri.

The IIITs were started in the late 1990s to build the academic backbone — through research and training of engineers — to support India’s then growing clout as an information technology power.

Deemed varsity status, allowed till then only to colleges existing for at least 10 years, was opened up to de novo (fresh in Latin), untested institutions like the IIITs despite not meeting UGC requirements.

The BJP government in 2000 argued that these institutions would struggle to fulfil their potential as colleges affiliated to a university as their “cutting-edge” field needed the autonomy available to deemed universities.

The Gwalior IT institute — which later expanded into management studies, too, and is today called the IIIT&M — was granted deemed university status in 2001 after the changes in UGC guidelines.

But the flood of institutions seeking deemed varsity status under the de novo category started under the UPA’s first term with Arjun Singh as HRD minister. The UPA not only continued with the 2000 guidelines of the UGC, but also justified the de novo category citing the IIITs.

In 2005, Arjun Singh’s HRD ministry started the Jabalpur institution, called the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing, in collaboration with Japan. It won the deemed tag in 2009.