Nearly two months after targeting 168 “unapproved colleges” and advising students to avoid them, the state-run All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) says it’s frustrated at its lack of enforcement power.
The institutes, which range from the multi-campus Amity University to the Praxis Business School in Mumbai, are listed on the council’s website and have been given “show cause” notices, which require them to prove why they should be allowed to continue.
AICTE serves as the government’s regulatory body for private business schools, engineering colleges and finance education institutes. It maintains that the council’s approval is mandatory for any colleges offering technical education in India.
But officials say AICTE doesn’t have the legal teeth to follow up notices with punitive action. And so next month, most of the listed colleges will open their doors to thousands of students—going on with business as usual.
In an interview with Mint, D. Purandeswari, minister of state who oversees higher education, expressed concern over the growing number of private colleges in India. She said AICTE needed legal powers to deal with the growth in this sector.
“We don’t have a strong legal cell,” agreed K. Narayana Rao, AICTE member secretary.
He said the council is already planning to send a second notice to the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM). Rao did not disclose how many colleges?will?be?getting this second notice and if this will be the notice for closure. Senior IIPM officials were not available for comment, and the college’s public relations division said it could not answer questions.
But on websites and message boards, colleges and their students are waging a defence. They criticize the council, saying its policies are opaque and that many fly-by-night operators appear to have been given a pass. Amity’s website retorts, “As per law, Universities do not require approval of AICTE to start or conduct technical programmes.”
Amity’s argument is that it is operating as a university, not a technical institute.
Private colleges are clamouring for an independent regulator for higher education—a recommendation also made by the National Knowledge Commission, an advisory body appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“There are cases of institutes which are running in two rooms getting approval, but those who have functioned for 12 years will not meet the mark,” said the owner of a private business school in Delhi who did not wish to be identified. His institute has hadconflicts with the council in the past.
The prestigious Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad also has found itself under scrutiny. Council officials said they have referred the business school’s approval to the ministry of commerce because it is registered as an industry. The ministry spokesperson said she could not immediately comment.
“Theirs is a different case altogether. They...fall under company law,” said Rao.
ISB was set up in 2001 with contributions from corporate Indian donors, from Godrej to Reliance, and has been hailed as a test case for private enterprise in higher education.
The institute has functioned without any approval from the AICTE, attracts global recruiters and graduates with an average work experience of five years. Its average domestic salary in its most recent round of placements was Rs15lakh.
A spokeswoman from ISB said the institute has beenin constant dialogue with AICTE. She said the school has not gotten any government notices. The regulatory body defended itself against the charge that it functions arbitrarily, especially in the case of its most recent order to the US-based non-profit CFA Institute to stop functioning in India.
The CFA Institute has been locked in a fight with the Hyderabad-based Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (Icfai) over use of the term CFA and chartered financial analyst, a battle played out in courts in Delhi and Guwahati. The AICTE action has ensured victory for Icfai.
More than 10,500 Indians registered to become CFAs will have to sit for exams in locations outside India after the action from the AICTE.