Govt may relax norms for deemed universities

The government may also curtail UGC’s regulatory power over deemed varsities to clear confusion created by the regulator


The University Grants Commission has gotten into a legal tangle with some reputed deemed universities over their off-campus centres and expansion plans. Photo: Mint
The University Grants Commission has gotten into a legal tangle with some reputed deemed universities over their off-campus centres and expansion plans. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Deemed universities in the country may soon see better days with the government looking to relax some of the norms governing them and readying a plan to curtail the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) powers to regulate them.

The government is of the view that the higher education regulator has mishandled some of the issues related to deemed universities and has not put in place a proper system for these institutions, two government officials said, requesting anonymity.

The moves assume significance as UGC has gotten into a legal tangle with some reputed deemed universities like the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani; Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai; and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research over their off-campus centres and expansion plans.

In November, UGC wrote to 10 institutions asking them to shut down their off-campus centres for “violating” rules. These institutions approached the human resource development (HRD) ministry, saying they had not flouted the rules as the campuses were in existence before the regulations on off-campus centres came in. BITS even got a stay on the UGC directive from court.

A deemed to be university, popularly called a deemed university, is established through executive order of the Union government. There are currently 123 such institutions.

“The HRD ministry believes that it is time to clear some the confusion created by the UGC,” said one of the officials cited above.

The second official pointed out that authorities were getting fewer complaints from deemed universities. While there were 268 complaints against them in 2014, the number declined to 112 in 2015, according to government data.

A special committee will examine the issue that was discussed between UGC and the higher education secretary and suggest the next course of action, said the official.

“The understanding is that let’s review the regulations of deemed universities. Every education provider should not be looked at with suspicion and those who are doing good work should be encouraged,” the second official said, without explaining what “encouragement” entails.

Under the regulations drawn up in 2010, the UGC can review the functioning of such universities at any time to assess the amenities available, with the assistance of expert committees. UGC then ensures that all the suggestions given by the expert committees are implemented by the universities.

Some of UGC’s powers may go to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the first official said.

The thinking is that since accreditation of such educational institutions holds great significance, giving NAAC powers is logical “instead of sending an expert committee with little accountability”, the second official said.

NAAC accredits higher education institutions after a rigorous review spanning several months.

“UGC is yet to put in place a mechanism on how it selects experts. Hence, there is always a possibility of wrongdoing or misrepresentation of facts,” the second official said.

Already the HRD ministry has asked UGC to get the names of people it nominates to various deemed universities as representatives of their finance committees vetted by it before final approval. A similar procedure will be followed for sending members to the management boards of these universities.

Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president of Education Promotion Society of India, a federation of private education providers, said that nearly 300 university and institution representatives had raised the issue of
“over-regulation” with human resources development minister Smriti Irani in March in Bengaluru. Irani had assured them of fair play in the education space.

“University Grants Commission and other regulatory bodies should become enablers for private institutions with a good performance record. Affiliated or accredited colleges performing well should be given autonomous status,” Chaturvedi said.

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