AICTE approval not critical: Maharashtra

AICTE approval not critical: Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government, in a submission to the Bombay high court, has said that more than half the private institutions offering technical programmes in the state, and declared unapproved by the country’s apex education regulator, actually have the state’s approval—directly or indirectly.

The state government’s submission could weaken the stance of The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and its ability to clamp down on unapproved programmes. “All technical courses need the approval of the AICTE," said K. Narayana Rao, AICTE’s member secretary. “After AICTE approval, degree courses need affiliation of the state universities," he added.

Not according to Maharashtra, though. Officials of the state government could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

The state government, in its filing to the court, added that some of the institutions are run by the industry and offer courses in areas such as retail management and aviation management where there is an increased demand for trained people.

It said that AICTE, the state-level regulator of technical education, as well as institutions that have their approval, were slow in responding to the emerging needs of industry.

AICTE says that any programme in technical education, including engineering & technology, management, computer applications, architecture, pharmacy, hotel management, and applied arts, offered by institutions either on their own or in collaboration with a foreign university or institution, needs its approval.

In March, AICTE put up on its website a list of 169 institutions that it said were running “courses in the field of technical education without obtaining AICTE approval" and 124 others that were “conducting technical education programmes in collaboration with foreign universities without AICTE approval".

Of the 169 institutions offering courses without AICTE’s approval, 84 are in Maharashtra. However, according to an expert committee appointed by the state government, 49 of the 84 have some approval from or affiliation with a state-approved university or the state’s technical education board itself. Thus, these 49 have some kind of state approval. The expert committee’s report makes it clear that Maharashtra does not consider it necessary for these institutions to seek AICTE’s approval.

It finds only 14 of the 84 colleges “unauthorized" and recommends that they be closed down. It has identified another three colleges as those against which “criminal action" needs to be initiated.

“Over the years, the needs of business and industry have grown. Conventional systems regulated by AICTE, MSBTE (Maharashtra State Board of Technical Education) and traditional universities are unable to cope with increasing demand. Besides this, these agencies tend to be too slow to react to industry needs. Therefore, industry has come in to bridge the gap," says the report.

On August 13, in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court, the state government concurred with the expert committee’s finding. The affidavit was filed in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed against it by Dinesh Kamat, a Mumbai resident. Kamat could not be reached for comment.

AICTE officials said the regulator is aware of the case in the Bombay high court.

As demand for manpower soars in the world’s second fastest growing major economy—the Indian economy expanded by 9.4% in 2006-07 and 9.3% in the first quarter of 2007-08—educational institutions and states such as Maharashtra are beginning to question AICTE’s methodology of approving programmes. And others, such as Tamil Nadu, are willing to look the other way.

An official at the Board of Technical Education in Tamil Nadu said that the board is aware that several colleges offer MBA courses without AICTE approval but did not feel compelled to take any action against them. “Ours is not a policing job," said the official who did not wish to be identified. “Some of them offer good quality education because of foreign tie-ups."

According to the AICTE, institutions offering programmes in technical education first need its approval; then, if they wish these programmes to result in degrees (as opposed to diplomas), these institutions need to approach state universities. AICTE has elaborate norms that institutions need to adhere to. These include everything from infrastructure to admission criteria to qualification of faculty and student-instructor ratios. The norms put down by state universities for granting affiliation to institutions isn’t known.

According to M.S. Shivakumar, the registrar of the Visvesvaraya Technological University in Karnataka, his university does not accept any college or institution’s demand for affiliation without AICTE approval.

According to the Maharashtra government’s filing to the Bombay high court, 18 (of the 84 colleges) have been dropped from the list for “specific reasons" that aren’t mentioned or because they already have AICTE approval (although AICTE itself has not dropped any names from its list of unapproved institutions); three offer courses that are approved by the Central government; 15 offer courses recognised by Pune university or are simply centres of the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University; eight offer certificate courses (not degree courses) or programmes approved by the local board of technical education; and another five offer courses approved by Sikkim University or Annamalai University. The state government also said that eight colleges on AICTE’s list could not be located, and that eight others have been advised to change their nomenclature to “coaching classes".

It listed two colleges as being involved in a court case related to their status.

Jeetha D’Silva in Mumbai contributed to this story.