Govt incentivizes private sector for opening deemed universities

New deemed university proposal will be cleared within seven months, ceiling on off-campus centres done away with


HRD minister Smriti Irani said permission to open off-campus centres will only be given to highest ranked deemed universities. Photo: PTI
HRD minister Smriti Irani said permission to open off-campus centres will only be given to highest ranked deemed universities. Photo: PTI

The human resources development (HRD) ministry on Thursday rolled out incentives for private entities to set up deemed universities, approving the University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) recommendations in this regard.

The ministry said the new deemed universities regulations would go a long way to “reducing red tape” and give a “fillip to the private sector”.

HRD minister Smriti Irani said the new rules do away with the ceiling on off-campus centres for deemed universities. Now, deemed universities can open more than six such centres—the earlier ceiling.

The new rules may help settle the off-campus controversy involving 10 deemed universities that fell foul of the higher education regulator’s rules in November last year.

Institutions such as the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani and Indian Institute of Mines, Dhanbad, were told to shut some of their campuses that the UGC said were being run in an “unauthorized manner”.

BITS got a stay order on the UGC directive.

Its acting vice-chancellor, V.S. Rao, said the institution would take the case to its logical conclusion.

“The regulator will look at that notification in the light of the new rules,” Irani said on Thursday.

Earlier, UGC had recommended that the ceiling on off-campus centres should be waived only for government-run deemed universities. However, the final rules grant the waiver to both private and government-run deemed universities.

Irani said the permission to open off-campus centres would only be given to the highest ranked deemed universities.

This would not be applicable to existing institutions. Meaning, if an existing deemed university has six campuses and four of them are not NAAC-A grade, it will not have to shut them down. But if it wants to open a seventh, then all its campuses would have to meet the highest grade, UGC chairman Ved Prakash said.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council, or NAAC, is the agency charged with granting accreditation to educational institutions across the country. NAAC-A is the highest grade it hands out.

India currently has 123 deemed universities, with close to 90 run by private promoters.

Prakash said the new rules ease the regulatory requirements for education players and bring transparency to infrastructure requirements and inspection systems, and recognize the role of promoters in the education sector.

A promoter of a deemed university can now become “chancellor or pro-chancellor” of the university. The minimum land required for setting up such an institution has been waived, provided 40% of the space is kept open. And, UGC invigilators will upload videos of a university online within 24 hours of the inspection so that chances of manipulation can be reduced significantly.

Under the old rules, five acres of land was the minimum required for setting up an institution in metro cities. In tier-II cities, it was seven acres, and in rural areas, it was 10 acres.

Irani clarified that from now on, only NAAC-A grade institutions would be allowed to open foreign campuses, after getting approval from the home ministry and the ministry of external affairs.

Also, instead of the 6-7 years it takes now, UGC and the government would clear a new deemed university proposal within seven months, she said.

The new rules also bar deemed universities from accepting course fees upfront without admitting a student. Institutions can take up to a maximum of Rs.10,000 from a prospective candidate during counselling. The HRD ministry has received several complaints of fees being taken from students even before admission.

Again, while existing institutions can apply for deemed university status after getting NAAC-A grade for two cycles or 10 years, new institutions can apply for it if they are providing new-age courses. They have to furnish a letter of intent and abide by it within three years’ time.

Irani added that if a deemed university plans to open a new department or start a new research programme with industry support, it does not need UGC’s prior permission.

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