Team Manmohan hits ground running Scan on deemed varsities on Day 1

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI in Delhi
  • Published 24.05.09
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New Delhi, May 23: The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the human resource development ministry for details of institutions granted deemed university status over the past five years, indicating a possible review of this controversial policy.

The PMO yesterday asked for the number of institutions granted deemed-to-be-university status under former minister Arjun Singh since 2004, The Telegraph has learnt. It has also asked how many among these institutions are privately run, and how many are government owned, senior officials confirmed.

The move comes amid hectic government formation and before a new HRD minister is announced, suggesting an urgency to start the UPA’s second tenure with a second look at some controversies that had rocked the outgoing government.

Arjun’s tenure saw an explosion in the number of deemed universities. During this period, several corruption allegations surfaced against University Grants Commission (UGC) officials relating to the grant of deemed university status to private institutions.

In Arjun’s last days as HRD minister, the UGC issued an executive order allowing deemed universities to drop the “deemed” prefix. This effectively allowed these institutions to confuse students seeking to enrol themselves with full-fledged universities (which can be set up only through an Act of Parliament or a state legislature).

Most officials in the HRD ministry privately admit that deemed universities are “doomed” and that corruption in the grant of this status cannot be ruled out.

According to the HRD ministry’s records (updated till today), 205 institutions have been granted deemed-to-be-university status in the country and another 395 have applied for it.

These include some of the country’s top public-funded research hubs like the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre of Mumbai.

Some other top government-run higher education institutions, such as the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and the National School of Drama, are deemed universities.

A vast majority of the deemed universities, however, are privately run. Some of these are reputable and popular, such as the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani, and the Symbiosis group of institutions in Pune.

Still, concerns have frequently been raised, both by independent academics and government panels, over the quality of education offered by several other private deemed universities. Some among these have been charged with seeking capitation fees for seats.

Deemed universities are institutions that are not yet full-fledged universities but are rated by the UGC as capable of graduating to university status. Well-established super-speciality departments of universities, seeking autonomy from their parent institution, can also be granted this status.

Over the past five years, however, the government granted deemed university status even to brand new institutions.

A panel under former UGC chairman Yash Pal, appointed by the Prime Minister to review higher education, has suggested in its preliminary report that the policy of granting deemed university status be wound up.

HOUSE DIARY

  • Lok Sabha’s first session: June 1 to 9
  • MPs’ oath: June 1-2
  • First to take oath: Pranab Mukherjee, leader of the House
  • Second: LK Advani, leader of Opposition
  • Pro-tem Speaker: Manikrao Gavit*
  • Speaker’s election: June 3
  • President’s joint address: June 4
  • Rajya Sabha session: June 4
  • Budget: Likely to be tabled by July 31

*likely because he is the seniormost member