The All India Council for Technical Education, or AICTE, the controversial regulator of private engineering and business schools whose inspectors are frequently accused of corruption by many educators, requires many steps before allowing an institute to enrol students.
In an 8-page application and a detailed project report that seeks 12 sets of responses, colleges are asked for details such as faculty numbers, fees, members of the board and a detailed website so students and their families can access information—largely standards that education analysts agree are necessary and useful.
In focus: AICTE’s office in Chanderlok Building, Janpath, New Delhi. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
But other norms, such as mandating the acreage of land on which an institute sits, the need to own the premises and ensure a faculty-student ratio of 1:15, have been called into question by many educators as unnecessary or irrelevant.
Some colleges say these unreasonable expectations have led to a culture of bribery to ensure AICTE inspectors overlook non-compliance. Other experts (see today’s Business Case column) note this has allowed many mediocre institutes to gain approval, while keeping out others that might have higher educational standards but can’t meet all the infrastructure demands.
Some college owners concede to shortcuts.
For example, teachers might be employed to achieve ideal student-teacher ratios—but not really engage in any classroom instruction.
As part of its ongoing focus on examining the state of India’s business education regulator, Mint brings you an overview of the four-stage AICTE approval process.
Institutes need to fill an application available at www.aicte.ernet.in and pay a processing fee of Rs5,000.
The regulatory body will consider those applications sent through 31 December for the academic session that starts in June. Colleges that apply after this date will be considered for student admissions for the next academic year.
The application form requires 13 sets of documents:
• copy of registration of society or trust
• copy of the letter on classification of land, if claimed to be within the limits of a mega city/ municipal corporation or state capital
• copy of land documents
The reality: Only societies and trusts can apply to start a college
AICTE says: This is to conform with the Supreme Court judgement in the T.M. Pai case, which rules out making profit in education. Pai was the founder of Manipal University.
Colleges say:AICTE has wrongly interpreted the ruling. SC ruling on T . M. Pai case was on capitation fee, which is what a college collects above a reasonable surplus, and warned against profiteering, and not profits. “If corporate bodies are not allowed to enter higher education, and people are not allowed to make money, there will be all kinds of loopholes they will use to earn profits,” says one Pune-based college.
• copy of resolution of trust or society or applicant earmarking land for the proposed college
• copy of land-use certificate from competent authority as designated by the relevant state government
• copy of building plan in the name of the proposed institution prepared by an architect and approved by the competent authority as designated by the relevant state government
• copy of external and internal photographs of the building (if the building is already ready), attested by an authorized representative of the proposed institution, with date
• details of latest fund position of applicant (society/ trust) for the proposal along with photocopies of FDRs, latest bank statements of accounts maintained by it
• copy of last income-tax return filed by the applicant
• detailed project report
• copy of the khasra plan (revenue number) to show that the land is contiguous
The reality: Colleges have to own land on which they plan to run the campus
AICTE says: This is to ensure students do not suffer in case the land lease gets cancelled and the college has to shut down.
Colleges say:In metros, the three acres needed to start an engineering college is next to impossible. It is also very risky to first buy land and then apply as application can always be rejected. Some suggest a college be allowed to run on leased or rented land, with a stipulation that it moves to owned premises in five years or so.
• copy of resolution of society/ trust/applicant earmarking building for the proposed institution
• evaluation certificate of the building for the institution.
Letter of Intent
AICTE issues the letter of intent after one of its hearing committees examines the application. The college that gets the letter has to complete its building as per the detailed norms for establishing technical institutions set down in the approval process handbook.
• annual student intake—60— for almost all courses such as masters in business administration (MBA), and masters in computer application (MCA), and undergraduate courses in engineering and technology.
• area of laboratory, workshops
• computer requirements for students: one for every four students
• books and journal requirements in the library
The reality: Faculty-student ratio must be 1:15 (for every 15 students, there should be one teacher).
AICTE says: Such norms help in maintaining quality of education
Colleges say: Sanjay Jadhav, a consultant to private colleges seeking AICTE approval, who advises them on syllabi and starting paperwork, says it is tough to recruit faculty in large numbers, especially in small cities.
“Some norms need relaxation. If you are recruiting teachers in Barabanki, you will have a problem,” said Jadhav, director of Golden Arch International Ltd. Jadahav suggests the faculty-student ratio for colleges that are starting off can be set at 1:25, and made stricter later.
The reality: A library size of 400 sq. m
AICTE says : Infrastructure norms are needed to maintain quality. Yet colleges cut corners.
Colleges say :An entrepreneur who owns five engineering colleges in Andhra Pradesh says some of the AICTE norms are simply copied from one yearly handbook to the next without going into the logic. “With 60 students, (the) library should be 400 (sq. m). If next year student intake increases, what should happen to (the) library—should it stay the same or change?” asks Ramesh Nimmatoori, also the secretary of the Engineering College Management Association of Andhra Pradesh that claims 102 colleges as members. “Most of their norms are to do with building, approach road, but the inspection team does not include an architect. Who will check the norms?”
AICTE says:All these norms help maintain quality of higher education institutes
Colleges says: “If you read their norms, they are a discouragement for honest people. We should make it easier for people to start a college, open the floodgates of higher education,” said Vinay Pasricha, chairman of WLC College, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in business and fashion technology, besides other subjects. Pasricha started in 1995 and now has 21 campuses in India and one in Nepal. “Only 65 % of our youth go for higher education. Do we need to encourage education or discourage it?”
The new college must submit a processing fee of Rs40,000, and put Rs35 lakh in a joint fixed deposit, owned by the college and AICTE. It then asks the AICTE for an inspection.
The reality: The inspection committee comprises of three or four members of associate professor/ reader rank of state-run universities who are selected by AICTE. It asks for eight sets of documents and a CD
AICTE says : The inspectors are the only way to check if the college has met all its norms. The inspectors are teachers selected from a list of government-run colleges. But when a panel is selected, even though the process is secret, colleges get to know who the inspectors are and give bribes to make sure that the inspectors overlook any deficiencies of the college
Colleges say:The same inspectors are picked over and over again as they are corrupt and pass on bribes to the senior level. Inspectors who are honest are weeded out. Inspectors expect lavish meals, pay-offs and VIP treatment and an inspection can be a humiliating process for a college promoter. A former assistant director of AICTE, who went for inspections, said, “We expected gifts.”
Letter of Approval
If the inspection committee gives its nod, the AICTE appoints a subcommittee. This subcommittee issues a letter of approval to the college based on the inspection report, compliance report and mandatory disclosure—as mentioned in the approval process handbook—submitted to the regional officer concerned. If the college is offering a degree course, it can now get the affiliation of a university in the state where it is located. For diploma courses, the letter of approval is the last stage.