The Indian Express | 2 months ago | 28-03-2023 | 12:45 pm
WHILE four private institutions remain stranded on a thorny path to get the coveted status of Institution of Eminence (IOE) despite getting the all-clear from the Government’s empowered committee, it’s not exactly been a bed of roses for the other four that made the cut.On paper, these private IOEs, who don’t get any funds under the scheme unlike Government institutions, are assured of autonomy and significant regulatory relief. But in practice, they continue to be weighed down by red tape and regulatory interference, an investigation by The Indian Express, based on official records, visits to campuses across the country and interviews with several university personnel and Government officials, has revealed.Only four of the 10 private higher education institutions selected for the IOE status have received official recognition to date: Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), BITS Pilani, OP Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University. Of these, Shiv Nadar is the youngest IOE, having received the status just last year.The Indian Express found that the three oldest private IOEs on many occasions had asserted their autonomy under the scheme but eventually had to toe the regulatory line.The Centre’s track record on assuring autonomy for the private IOEs is significant given that it is planning to roll out similar freedoms to foreign universities on academic, administrative and financial matters to attract them to India.Multiplicity of regulatorsFor private IOEs, the road to achieving world-class status is riddled with multiple higher education regulators.Although IOE regulations promise autonomy from the University Grants Commission, there are over 15 bodies regulating the higher education space in the country. Private IOEs say this works against multidisciplinary institutions, as they continue to face red tape, delays, and compliance demands from various regulators such as the National Medical Commission, Bar Council of India, Architecture Council of India, Nursing Council, and more.For instance, the autonomy to fix fees and decide admission procedures has been meaningless for MAHE, which also runs a medical college. The National Medical Commission insists that all medical students are admitted only through NEET, which is difficult for international students to crack. MAHE, The Indian Express learned, requested an exemption from NEET for international students, but their request was turned down.Last February, MAHE requested exclusion from NMC’s directive to charge fees equivalent to government medical colleges for half of their total approved capacity. In its letter, the institute reiterated its eminent status. However, NMC rejected the request.Private IOEs have raised concerns about the multiplicity of regulators to the government. OP Jindal Global University made a presentation in 2020 to the then Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank on the imperatives of autonomy. While the university can start new programmes and schools with just an intimation to UGC, it has to comply with the Bar Council of India’s regulations for law programmes.The presentation highlighted the need for IoEs to be autonomous and exempted from regulation by all professional bodies or councils to achieve world-class standards in all higher education disciplines.MAHE, too, confirmed that it flagged the issue to review committees sent by the Education Ministry, stating that “freedom from multiple regulators” is necessary to achieve the goals of the IOE scheme.Although BITS Pilani hasn’t written to the government on this issue yet, the university, in its response to this newspaper, said, “Bringing all regulatory bodies under one umbrella would bring uniformity and consistency in the process, making it convenient for good institutes to perform better.”UGC interferenceDespite their special status, private IOEs have found it challenging to deal with the University Grants Commission (UGC).“The private institutes are not entitled to funds like the government IOEs are. So we applied (for the IOE status) for the promise of autonomy. But we keep getting letters from UGC regarding compliances and we are expected to fall in line,” said an officer at one of the four private IOEs.Even on an issue as trivial as the name of a department, red tape kicks in. BITS Pilani’s research cell is currently called sponsored research and consultancy division, but UGC wants BITS to rename it “research development cell.” MAHE, which has already established a Directorate of Research, had received a similar letter from UGC.The UGC, sources said, had also objected to the BITS dual degree programme which allows candidates pursuing a Master’s to also pursue a bachelor’s degree. “UGC felt this was not right,” said an officer of the institute.In 2021 and last year, the UGC got all three private IOEs to refund the fee of all students who either cancelled or withdrew their admission within October 31, leading to several last-minute vacancies that could not be filled afterwards.The UGC order led to about 300 vacancies at BITS Pilani last year. “Refunding fees of students who have already spent a few months studying with an institute means those seats will remain vacant for the next four years. This is a huge revenue loss for us. We are as good as any IIT in the country. They don’t face any such interference from regulators” said an officer of BITS Pilani.In an emailed statement, BITS Pilani said, “All cases of fee refund are being dealt with in accordance with the UGC directives and as per the declared policy of the institute. It would be much easier for us to perform better if admissions related to full autonomy (including fees refund in Admissions processes) is offered to the institutes such as BITS Pilani.”OP Jindal University tried to assert its autonomy under the IOE rules that permit institutions to determine fee and admission policy, they ultimately had to refund the fee.JGU wrote in an emailed statement that “… (despite) following the UGC – (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2017 (UGC – IoE Regulations 2017) and the subsequent amendments of 2021 diligently, we are still constrained to follow the UGC policies related to Fees and Refunds. Considering the aforementioned facts, we had written to the Ministry of Education requesting their guidance to fulfil the objective of creating an enabling regulatory architecture for the Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities and ranked among the world’s top institutions.”MAHE, too confirmed vacancies on account of the UGC institutions. “With interest of students, MAHE did not fill those vacant seats for the year 2022 as well 2021,” the university said in its response to The Indian Express.Red tape on foreign facultyEven as the government expects the IOEs to hire more foreign teachers to boost their performance in international rankings, for the private IOEs, the litany of permissions required to finalise an appointment is a hindrance.For one, the delay in processing work visa applications for foreign teachers often acts as a disincentive. Moreover, visas are usually issued for a year and, only in rare cases for two years. “If we want to attract foreign faculty then we should be able to offer long-term employment. The obligation of renewing work visas annually is a disincentive,” said an officer at a private IOE.The delay in getting Aadhaar number for foreign nationals working in India is another irritant as it delays their PF withdrawal. “As institutions, we try to assist them but there’s nothing we can do to expedite this process or cut red tape,” said another officer of a private IOE.Both MAHE and Jindal have requested the easing of norms for foreign faculty. A spokesperson for OP Jindal University confirmed that the university has suggested to the Government a ‘Specially Expedited Institutions of Eminence Multiple Entry Employment Visa Scheme for International Faculty’. Under this, IOEs should get “preferential treatment in all Government-related approvals and visa processes to enable them to implement their faculty hiring plans in good time,” the spokesperson said. MAHE has called for easing of norms with respect to salary and benefits to international faculty.
Keeping in line with global norms and the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, the country’s higher education regulator is poised to introduce a new range of college degree names, including a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in disciplines like arts, humanities, management and commerce.Currently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) permits universities to offer a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in arts, humanities and social sciences, and the Bachelor of Science (more commonly abbreviated in India as BSc) degree is typically for science subjects.However, with the NEP 2020 advocating a restructuring of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, a committee set up by the UGC to review degree nomenclatures has recommended that the new four-year undergraduate honours (or honours with research) degree programme, irrespective of the discipline, can also be offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.Similarly, universities can adopt the Master of Science (MS) nomenclature for both the one and two-year postgraduate programmes, even for disciplines such as arts, humanities, management, and commerce.Although the committee has recommended using BS nomenclature for degrees across disciplines, it hasn’t permitted the use of BA and MA for science programmes.The UGC, The Indian Express has learnt, will soon share the five-member committee’s recommendations in the public domain for feedback, following which the Commission will notify the fresh set of degree nomenclatures.The use of BA and BS for undergraduate programmes across disciplines is a prevalent practice abroad, where universities often offer, say, BA and BS degrees in Psychology or Economics. In such a case, the programme curriculum sets the BA degree apart from the BS. While a BS degree gives a student a more specialised education in the subject, a BA degree (in the same subject) provides more flexibility. The latter is designed with a broader choice of courses allowing the student to tailor his/her education to his/her interests.SECTION 22 of the UGC Act empowers the Commission to notify degree nomenclature. The decision, which offers more flexibility to students, is in line with global norms and the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.For instance, Harvard University offers both a BA and BS degree in engineering sciences. The BA engineering student is required to earn fewer credits than the BS student and has greater flexibility to pursue her interests outside of engineering. The BS degree, on the other hand, provides greater technical depth in the chosen engineering area.The committee’s report was discussed during the UGC meeting held in the last week of May. After discussions, the Commission decided to publicly disclose its recommendations for feedback before finalising the new degree names.The formation of the five-member panel was a direct response to the NEP 2020, which proposed the introduction of a four-year undergraduate degree programme offering flexible entry and exit options, along with a one-year master’s degree. Currently, undergraduate programmes, except for professional degrees such as engineering and medicine, typically are of three years, while master’s programmes extend over two years.The committee has also made the following recommendations:* The four-year undergraduate honours degree programme will include ‘Hons’ in brackets, such as BA (Hons), BCom (Hons), or BS (Hons). Additionally, a four-year honours programme with research components will have ‘Hons with Research’ in parentheses, like BA (Hons with Research) and BCom (Hons with Research).* The notification of new degree nomenclatures will be an ongoing process. Universities can propose new degree names that are relevant to contemporary and emerging societal needs to the UGC. Upon approval, the higher education regulator will notify the new degree nomenclature.* The committee recommends discontinuing the nomenclature of the ‘MPhil’ degree, as per the NEP 2020’s recommendation to scrap the MPhil programme.* If a student has earned all the required credits for a programme, she can be considered for the award of a qualification (such as a certificate, diploma or degree) even before the completion of the programme’s duration. For example, if a student has earned all the required credits for a four-year programme in 3.5 years, she should be eligible to receive her degree.However, the committee clarifies that the new degree names will only apply prospectively, and the old degree names will continue to be used even after the introduction of the new terminology. Therefore, the current three-year honours degree programme will continue alongside the four-year honours degree programme.
OVER THE next year, two children from each district in India will be taken to the primary school in Vadnagar, in Gujarat’s Mehsana district, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his elementary education, as part of a week-long study tour.Announcing this on Tuesday, the government said the school will be developed as an “inspirational” school called ‘Prerna: The Vernacular School’, where the students will be trained on “how to live a very evolved life”, as part of a joint initiative by the central and state governments.The late 19th century school, which was functional till 2018, has been restored by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as part of a mega redevelopment plan for Vadnagar, said officials.“There is a school in Vadnagar where our Prime Minister had taken his elementary education. It is a 19th century school… We are developing this school as an inspirational-experiential school,” said a senior official, adding that the school will get its first batch of students this year.Each batch will comprise 30 students who will be given residential training for a week. The cost of accommodation and transport will be borne by the culture ministry. “There are 750 districts in India and two children from each district (will be sent)… we will train a total of 1,500 children in the entire year on how to live a very evolved life…We want the first batch out in the current year itself,” said the senior official.The concept note for the project states: “Great leaders across the world have acknowledged their first school as a catalyst in their inspirational journey to cause change… Based on the vision of the Prime Minister, this first of its kind school redevelopment project ‘Prerna’ is being undertaken to inspire the youth of the county to become catalysts of change… It is envisioned to be a school of the future but with an impetus to education and values, imparted using various techniques and technologies.”While details like the age group of children are still being worked out, sources said it would mostly be for students of Classes 9-10.The selection process will start soon, for which the students’ “intellectual level, creativity and extra-curricular performance will be put to test,” said officials, adding that the training will be based on the concept of “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat”. “It is not teaching. It is all experience,” said a senior official, adding that the training will include exposure to “virtues of life like courage and compassion through the lives and teachings of real-life heroes”.The school, originally called ‘Vadnagar Kumar Shala No 1’, was established in 1888 and was functional till 2018, when its restoration work began, said officials. “While it was being renovated, its students were shifted to the nearby kanya shala,” said a Gujarat education department official.“The old building has been restored using vernacular elements of architecture and by imagining the way the structure may have looked originally,” said a senior official, adding that the renovated school has eight classrooms, a cafe, orientation centre, souvenir shop and a community green space.Besides this, there is an extensive plan for “the overall development of Vadnagar town, funded by the Union government, and executed and overseen by the state government”, said officials. The plan to develop Vadnagar as the cultural centre of Gujarat includes a heritage site museum, being built at a cost of nearly Rs 200 crore.—With inputs from Ritu Sharma in Ahmedabad
Three years ago, locked in his flat with no cricket and absolutely nothing much to do, Railways top-order batsman Pratham Singh wondered what he could do to kill time. The engineer-turned-cricketer started preparing for GMAT. He passed the test, scoring 700/800, and is currently pursuing MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.“The dream has always been to play cricket. But I think education helps you broaden your horizon. My idea of pursuing MBA is that I feel that it will help me in my cricketing game as well. The cushion will obviously help me play cricket in a better way, because I’ll be more secure now. Also, since we (cricketers) have limited careers, it would really help me know how to use my finances, diversify my funds and help me invest in start-up businesses,” the southpaw told The Indian Express.Pratham, 30, has played cricket all his life. But he has compromised when it comes to the academic front. Just like his exquisite timing with the bat, he has perfected the art of time management and has a degree in engineering as well. “Time management was something which came naturally to me. It’s all about getting up early. I train in the morning, then I have my classes. Then I do my self-study. And there’s an academy in Hyderabad called coaching beyond, I’m training there. And I play games in Delhi whenever I get the opportunity. I’m trying to play in Chennai as well this season.”The southpaw has always dreamt of playing cricket at the highest level, but at the same time he understands the importance of education and believes pursuing MBA would help him manage his finances as well as aid his cricketing career. But the juggle between cricket and study has not been easy, especially for cricketers, for whom education usually takes a backseat.“While doing engineering, I got some special permission from the university’s vice-chancellor. I was given more allowance in terms of the attendance. I used to give exams, study during the exams and play cricket throughout the season. And that is how I completed my engineering,” he said. But while doing MBA he can’t afford to skip classes and won’t get relaxation from the administration either. So when asked how he is managing it, he said: “It’s very, very intense. I am not getting the time to do anything, just training, practising and studying. It’s a very packed schedule. And I think it will help me as well to become stronger because it’s out of my comfort zone. Something which I have never done.”Since making his first-class debut in 2017, Pratham has been a lynchpin of Railways batting. He was also a part of the now-defunct IPL franchise Gujarat Lions in 2017 and after his exploits in the 2021-22 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he was picked by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2022. In Syed Mushtaq Ali, he scored four consecutive fifties and accumulated 438 runs in 10 matches at an average of 54.75 and a strike rate of 136.02. The two stints with the different IPL franchises have helped Pratham grow as a cricketer. “I got to learn a lot with all the international and domestic legends. It was a good experience because you are sharing shoulders with all these people who were once your idol,” he revealed.Currently, Pratham runs three cricket academies and hopes to share his knowledge and experience with young players. He believes getting an MBA would help him better comprehend the sports business.“It will give me an understanding of how I can give back to athletes who are trying to grow while being able to sustain the whole ecosystem through my education here at ISB. Yeah. So in a way, it’s a win-win because of the academies I can train on my own. I’ll share my experiences of 20 years with the budding cricketers,” he said.
After coming under the spotlight for allegedly violating the distance learning norms, SVKM’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) continues to retain its spot in the top 50 management institutes across country, as the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2023 were released by the Ministry of Education on Monday.The NMIMS ranks 21 in the category of management institutes, 88 in the overall category, 47th in the top 100 universities. In the category of Pharmacy institutes, it ranks 11th. Last year NMIMS ranked 25th in the category of management institutes across the country.NIRF Rankings 2023 | Top Engineering Colleges | Top Management Colleges | Top Medical Colleges | Top Agriculture Colleges | Top agriculture institutes | Top Colleges | Top universitiesDr Ramesh Bhat, Vice Chancellor of NMIMS University, said, “The recent NIRF ranking, where NMIMS appears in the top 50 institutes in the country, highlights the exceptional performance of the University. Our relentless pursuit of academic excellence, industry collaborations, and holistic student development has contributed to our improved overall ranking.”He added, “The remarkable climb of our School of Business Management (SBM) by four notches to reach the 21st position showcases our commitment to delivering a world-class management education. The consistent rank of 11 for our Pharmacy School for two consecutive years reflects the dedication of our faculty and the quality of education imparted.The popular management institute from the city was recently under the spotlight after it was barred by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from offering distance learning and online programmes due to violation of norms. The notice issued by the UGC in April stated that NMIMS has not adhered to UGC regulations resulting in gross violations with regard to the functioning of the centre for internal quality assurance (CIQA), quality of self learning material and e-learning material (e-LM), nomenclature of Centre for Distance and Online Learning.
When a reputed institution like Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) is taken head-on by a national regulator (UGC), it cannot but be noticed. Established in 1981, and given university status in 2003 under Deemed to be University (DU) category by the government, the institute ranked 51st amongst the management and ninth among private institutions in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), 2022. However, an affidavit filed recently in the court by the UGC after an inspection claims that NMIMS started its sub-campuses in five different locations without requisite permissions. Earlier, it claimed that Delhi University was conducting its open and distance learning (ODL) courses in gross violation of the existing rules, and without permission. It gave a notice barring the university from admitting further students to ODL courses for the next three cycles.At the risk of being charged with “whataboutry”, there are a few questions which need to be answered. Though the UGC’s decision sends a strong message that it will not tolerate violations of its regulations on ODL education, and also reminds students that they should carefully research distance learning or online courses before enrolling, it would have been more credible if this was done through a transparent process which assured that UGC was acting on similar indiscretions by other universities as well. Now that NMIMS has taken the UGC to court, one gathers that such an exercise has been put in motion.Higher educational institutions (HEI) are required to adhere to the UGC’s policy of territorial jurisdiction even for ODL which on the face of it seems like an oxymoron. It runs contrary to the idea of open learning as the technology on which it rides knows no geographic or political boundaries. To artificially impose restrictions is like trying to stop winds from blowing across the open skies. How does one stop anyone from Delhi registering in Maharashtra? It is, therefore, time to have a re-look at this recommendation made in 2011 by the Madhav Menon Committee.Institutions, no matter how rule-abiding, will be tempted to break them if the logic is weak. In the past too, this regulation caused several regular universities to lose their learning centres outside their state. Bharathiar University in Coimbatore was forced to discontinue around 450 franchises, 200 of which were located outside Tamil Nadu. Punjab Technical University centres had met a similar fate more than a decade ago.Any regulatory system that thrives on inspections as a means to deliver on its objectives will suffer from subjectivity, arbitrariness and corruption. For AICTE, the watershed came in 2009 when it introduced complete e-governance resulting in transparency and accountability. UGC too must adopt technology rather than rely on inspections as a primary method of compliance. The inspection teams have often been reduced to a fly swot or a laundromat depending upon whether they want to kill or clear a proposal. Serious academics generally shy away from being part of such teams.In a country where the number of seats in educational institutions is way short of demand, cutting off on an efficient alternative like ODL will be a major mistake and hurt the nation in the long-term. After all, is it not the responsibility of UGC also to ensure that the country achieves the target of 50 per cent GER by 2035 enshrined in NEP2020? As such funding of higher education by the state has gone down and the traditional brick-and-mortar campuses are too expensive.Under the graded autonomy scheme of UGC, only institutions with a NAAC score of more than 3.26 on a scale of 4 (A+ grade) are permitted to start ODL courses. Unfortunately, there are not many institutions in that category in the country. In fact, Kerala does not have a single such varsity and consequently cannot run any ODL programmes. ODL remains restricted to a few universities which could lead to monopoly and cartelisation.Since the DU regulations do not permit the setting up of off-campus centres, institutions like NMIMS which chose the DU route probably find themselves short-changed as many who came later via the state private university route are merrily expanding their network. They also find it galling that IGNOU and Institutions of National Importance (INIs) are not subjected to the same constraints.On the other hand, nobody can deny that ODL courses are a major source of revenue for universities. Whereas the bigger players go on an expansion spree, adding new campuses, courses, disciplines, starting collaborations and thereby multiplying their incomes manifold, the others find it difficult to keep pace, being shackled by a host of regulatory compliances discussed above. Whereas AICTE allows one or two divisions of 60 students in an institution in an academic year, some institutes and private universities add more than 50 divisions in a particular branch when they see a potential for earning. With each division of almost 100 students, the intake can rise up to 5,000 in a single subject. This renders several neighbouring institutes, especially the rural ones redundant. Also, the low earning disciplines are arbitrarily closed. Although regulators like the AICTE, the Pharmacy Council and the Council of Architecture prohibit technical programmes to be conducted online, many of them conduct these with impunity. Such blatant infringements have to be curbed by the regulators.Perhaps it’s time to call a spade a spade and revise our rosy notion about “education not for profit”. Even as it is inadvisable to foul the regulators, the money has to come from somewhere. If the state also does not provide resources then the burden has to shift to the students willy-nilly. There are no free lunches on the high table of the Indian HE system. Everything comes at a cost.Thakur is Former Secretary, Education, Government of India and Mantha former Chairman AICTE