New Delhi: A new rule on information to be provided by colleges seeking government approval has resulted in the rejection of 600 applications from entities wishing to start schools offering specialization in subjects such as engineering and management.
Some experts say the rejections will affect the government’s plans to increase the number of students enrolled in technical programmes, but others say it reflects an emphasis on quality.
The government’s education regulator for technical programmes, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) received 1,062 applications from entities seeking to offer undergraduate and postgraduate technical programmes this year, according to its acting chairman S.S. Mantha, and it will approve less than 500 (174 have received approvals already).
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The total number of approvals will be almost 40% lower than that issued last year and just about one-third of the number of approvals issued the year before.
The process will be completed by the first week of July, added Mantha, who declined to name any of the schools whose applications have been rejected.
Mantha said most rejections were due to non-compliance with requirements. “Among other reasons, many of them don’t have proper buildings. How can they impart education? We have said a clear no to opening colleges in temporary buildings.”
The new self-disclosure policy that is behind the rejections requires entities wishing to start a technical school to upload information and documentary support on AICTE’s website. The details required include land records, building plans, videos of the physical infrastructure, and faculty information.
“So far the institutes were complaining about lack of transparency; now when everything is online and open to the public, they should not blame us. They have to make the info public for the benefit of students, parents, government and of course, for themselves. We have taken the decision based on the info they have uploaded,” Mantha said.
The new rule was put in place after allegations of ad hocism and corruption were targeted at the regulator.
The schools themselves are divided on the merits of the move towards self-disclosure.
“In the name of self-disclosure and e-governance, the technical education regulator is harassing education entrepreneurs. Unless you allow private participation in higher education, it will be difficult to provide higher education to all those who deserve to be in this system,” said H. Chaturvedi, director of Birla Institute of Management Technology in Greater Noida and alternate president of Educational Promotion Society for India, a lobby group representing private educational institutions.
The Central government wants to encourage around 30 million more students to opt for higher education over the next decade. Currently, around 15 million students are pursuing higher education programmes in technical and non-technical subjects.
Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal has previously said that India needs to add at least 25,000 more colleges to achieve this target, and also stressed on the importance of private schools. At present, only 13% of students eligible to enrol in a technical programme do so; the global average is 27%.
Mantha claimed that the new approach would improve the quality of education. “Quality of technical education is the need of the hour. Else we will end up producing graduates with hardly any skill and knowledge.”
In 1947, India had 44 engineering colleges and 43 polytechnics, including pharmacy and architecture colleges. Currently, there are 10,364 technical colleges, including 3,241 engineering colleges, 3,000 polytechnics and 1,102 pharmacy colleges.
The self-disclosure “is good for colleges”, said Prashant Bhalla, vice-president of Faridabad-based Manav Rachna International University, who admitted that uploading all the documents on AICTE’s website can get “tedious”. “When all the information about you is available to the public, it adds to your credibility.”
Graphic by Sandeep Bhatnagar/Mint