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MHRD Sets up Committee to Restructure Technical Education Sector; AICTE

The new Indian Express | By S Mannar Mannan | Published: 31st October 2014 |

COIMBATORE: After deciding to review University Grants Commission (UGC), the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has constituted a high level committee to review the functioning of another apex regulatory body — the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), with an aim to restructure and strengthen the technical education sector. The committee will be headed by former MHRD secretary M K Kaw and will have vice chancellor of Gujarat Technological University A K Aggarwal, director of IIT Hyderabad U B Desai, and Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT Madras as its members. “The number of technical institutions in the country has increased and has thrown a wide variety of challenges. Addressing them by maintaining quality and adoption of world class norms would ensure advances in the Human Development Index of the country and transform the country into a knowledge society,” the MHRD order says.Strongly critical of AICTE, the MHRD order also says, “There is a realisation that the AICTE is finding it difficult to match the demand of private players in the field of technical education. It is a fact that a lot of private institutions have emerged in the technical education sector and there is a growing trend of commercialisation. The norms and standards of technical education are not fully implemented.” The committee will evaluate the performance of the AICTE in coordinating and determining standards of education in technical institutions, conduct an audit of its regulatory reach and identify strengths and weaknesses. It will also evaluate the performance of the regional offices of the AICTE.

The committee will assess requirement of regulatory space for the AICTE and analyse the regulatory, grant disbursing function of AICTE and recommend changes in the balance between the twin functions. It will suggest ways and means to set up a robust accreditation system in the technical education sector to meet the challenges of mandatory accreditation. The committee was asked to suggest amendments in the AICTE Act 1987 to meet present day requirements, measures for industry persons to be appointed as faculty on deputation, measures for streamlining the vocationalisation of technical education and regulation of private not-for-profit entities in technical education and also helps curb commercialisation. The committee will submit its report within a period of six months. Welcoming this, E Balagurusamy, former vice chancellor of Anna University said, “The AICTE has powers, but is not able to function independently. Presently, AICTE only acts as an agency to approve new colleges. Ensuring quality of technical education is not done mainly due to political interference. The regulatory body should be given total autonomy.”

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UGC overlooks rules in forming panel for inspection of deemed universities

The Economic Times |By Akshaya Mukul, TNN | 30 Oct, 2014 |

NEW DELHI: When the Supreme Court ordered inspection of seven deemed universities it had little clue how the University Grants Commission will dilute the process by disregarding its own rules.  UGC’s inspection committee is headed by its secretary JS Sandhu and consists of OP Kalra of University College of Medical Sciences, Ramesh Dadich of ICSSR, SP Goyal, joint secretary, HRD ministry and Sunita Siwach, a UGC official. This has happened despite UGC regulation of 2009 setting specific norms how to constitute an inspection committee to ascertain the financial needs of a university or its standard of teaching, examination and research, or for both. The regulation says the committee should consist of two serving or retired vice-chancellors of any central or state university; not less than three and not more than five members, at least one a woman; from amongst professors having special knowledge of the courses being conducted in the university; one member from each of the councils with jurisdiction over the courses in the university and one member from National Academic and ccreditation Council. The regulation also says the committee should be headed by one of the two VCs. HRD ministry sources justified the constitution of the committee on the ground that it is not a regular inspection committee but could not answer how HRD and UGC officials could be part of it. It is not only the constitution of the inspection committee that is attracting criticism, now it has come out that the UGC committee that reviewed 41 deemed universities had actually put eight of them in the list to be disqualified as deemed university. But in the last minute, one university from Uttar Pradesh was moved out of the list.

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Pune University braced to enter world education rankings for the first time

Mumbai Mid-Day |By Niranjan Medhekar |Posted 31-Oct-2014 |

Entering the global education ranking procedure for the first time, the university administration is confident that it will fare well and emerge as the top institute in the country .Acclaimed as it is, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) could soon find out how it fares when compared to other top varsities in the nation and world, with the administration’s recent decision to participate in the world university ranking procedure for the very first time. With several recent tie-ups with international universities and its focus on various research activities, SPPU vice-chancellor Dr W N Gade is confident that the university could emerge at the top of the list. In an exhaustive survey and ranking procedure carried for the UK-based Times Higher Education World Rankings 2014-15, Panjab University (in Chandigarh) has emerged as the number one varsity in the country, but VC Gade is confident that SPPU will fare even better. “Until now, SPPU has never participated in any (global) ranking process. We had never shared the varsity’s data with any ranking agency. For the first time, I have approached one of the top ranking agencies. In principle, I have given them the university’s consent, that now we want to participate in the ranking process. Currently Panjab University is considered as number one in country. But I can tell you confidently that we will do even better. We will emerge as the number one institute in India,” said, Dr Gade, who will complete his half-tenure of two and a half years on November 15.

World ranking
Former university vice-chancellor and senior academician, Dr Ram Takavale also welcomed the new decision. “In my time there were no trends of world ranking. Even in India standardised ranking agencies were not available. As per the surveys of University Grants Commission (UGC), we were among the top universities in the country. But all that was unofficial information,” said Takavale, who had headed the varsity between 1978 and 1984. He added, “It is a good step. We can understand what level we are at when compared to other global institutes. Such agencies use various parameters for the results.”

Scope for improvement
Prof Arun Nigvekar, who is also an ex-VC of the university, and is currently the founder director of National Assessment and Accreditation Council, a national level accreditation agency in the higher education sector, said, “One of the biggest benefits of participating in the ranking process is that we realise what our strengths are, and at the same time discover the areas we need to make improvements in. In the current times, getting involved in such global ranking procedures is quite relevant academically.”

Green technology in India increases profits and productivity: Michigan University Study

The Economic Times | PTI Oct 30, 2014 |

WASHINGTON: A Michigan University study of 25 garment factories in Bangalore has shown that green technology saves energy, boosts profits and productivity in industrial units. The study conducted over a period of three years from 2010 to 2013 has stated that switching to LED lights in factories not only saves energy, it boosts productivity and increases profits. LEDs or light-emitting diodes create less heat than traditional lights, so they help keep factory floors cooler. When workers are more comfortable, they produce more and are less likely to be absent – a major problem for employers, it said. “Heat stress stops the body’s capacity to exert, so workers are less able to complete production targets,” said assistant professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and one of the study’s authors Achyuta Adhvaryu. “LEDs create a productivity gain that dwarfs the energy savings,” he added. The garment factories in the study were not air conditioned and had hundreds of people laboring on machines that ran constantly in buildings with multiple stories. Similar work conditions are found in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and other major exporters in the $200 billion apparel industry. Due to climate change, finding ways to keep factories cooler will become increasingly challenging for businesses in developing countries, which on average are hotter than developed nations, the report said. The researchers studied the staggered rollout of the LED lights in the factories over four years. They found the LEDs cost about $6,300 to install, and the energy savings was about $3,000 per year. According to the report increased profits from efficiency gains were more stark — an increase of $41 per operating day for each factory, or nearly $13,000 per factory per year. The paper’s co-authors were Namrata Kala of Yale University and Anant Nyshadam of the University of Southern California.

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Riding the product startup wave; make entrepreneurship a mandatory part of engineering education

Financial Chronicle |Op-ed | By Arun Nigavekar Oct 28 2014 |

TOP TIP: Taking a cue from organisations like Nasscom, the AICTE and UGC could jointly work on this aspect and make entrepreneurship a mandatory part of engineering education
That the Indian youth is undergoing a massive change in terms of enterprise and employment is something that becomes overwhelmingly evident when one meets and observes successful entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s riding the product startup wave. At a recent event at the science and technology park in SP College at Pune University, I came across several young people who had come up with various development processes in IT industry and launched their products in the market. In fact, five of these did so with financial and organisational support from the science and technology park. In a similar interaction in Chennai, I met 20 young people fully focused on creating a development industry by themselves. They were mostly focusing on topics that had links with making e-mails a powerful tool, developing a technology platform for e-commerce companies, or developing software that would help enforce sophisticated and uniform security standards across all digital services, among others. What is interesting to note is that the list of effective products by young entrepreneurs is rapidly increasing today. Such positive growth has drawn the attention of entities like national association of software and services companies (Nasscom) that have been great champions of ICT industries. Established in 1988, Nasscom is a trade association of India’s IT and business process outsourcing industry, and in order to encourage entrepreneurial growth, has launched a ‘10,000 startups’ programme, now in its third phase. In this programme, Nasscom has invited applications from technology startups across the country for angel funding and a national acceleration programme through its portal www.10000startups.com. The response in the first two phases was good, say Nasscom sources, but this time around the association expects to be inundated with several thousand applications. From these, it will shortlist close to 500 entrepreneurs who will be eligible for funds ranging from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 2 crore through leading angel investor networks of the country.Selected startups will also be offered up to four months of incubation at leading incubators of India, along with co-working space at affordable costs. Nasscom, along with partners, will focus on multifold activities aimed at fostering entrepreneurship, building entrepreneurial capabilities at scale and providing robust early stage support through mentorship. This, clearly, seems the way forward, for startups today are amongst the most critical pillars of the Indian IT industry, representing a huge opportunity for India to retain its competitive advantage. Over the past few years, startups have contributed to the industry by building niche products and services and tapping non-core markets. To sustain the overall economic growth, it is imperative to have more entrepreneurs in the country who will transform the landscape and play a vital role in opening new opportunities for industry. The basic concept and characteristics of entrepreneurship are concerned with developing a vision of what a company should be, and then executing that vision by translating it into concrete steps. Entrepreneurs personally get involved in building and shaping their companies, but business success also depends on understanding personal limits, and developing strategies and systems to transcend these limits. As risk takers, successful entrepreneurs understand that failure can be a vital part of success, and that learning from mistakes can be a way of reaping benefits from situations that might otherwise feel like failures.

Businesses run on money, so entrepreneurs must have a solid sense of how to raise and manage funds. Successful entrepreneurs have an intuitive sense of how much money they will need to run their companies, but they supplement this sense with concrete documentation and calculations to mitigate uncertainties. Entrepreneurs are willing to risk money by making investments in building their businesses, but they keep a close eye on the numbers in order to understand how much they are spending and whether their expenditures are bringing about the desired results. Starting a business is a creative endeavour that starts with conceptualising a product or service, and then building a practical infrastructure that can sustain itself while delivering that product or service. Entrepreneurship requires creative problem solving as well as creative product development, and entrepreneurs have the creative freedom to think outside the box and develop unique strategies that balance personal values with practical constraints. Successful entrepreneurs see the big picture. They have the skills and the humility to define their own role in company operations, and the interpersonal skills to successfully delegate the tasks they can’t complete themselves. They are also prosperous managers, sharing the company’s vision and clearly communicating the ways that this vision is infused into mundane daily tasks. This clearly shows that there is deep link between startups and entrepreneurship. Our engineering colleges, therefore, need to focus on building entrepreneur management skills in their fundamental engineering programmes. The merger of fundamentals of engineering, application-oriented skill development, direct industry experiences in production and finance is the key for allowing youths to jump into startups. Taking a cue from organisations like Nasscom, the AICTE and UGC could jointly work on this aspect and make entrepreneurship a mandatory part of engineering education. – arun.nigavekar@mydigitalfc.com – (The writer is former chairman of UGC, former vice-chancellor of University of Pune and founder director of NAAC)

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Two city college principals booked for wrong information on courses on offer ; Mumbai

Indian Express |Express News Service | Mumbai | October 29, 2014  |

A year after the employees of Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil College at Sion-Chunabhatti complained to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) regarding the misrepresentation of facts by the college to get courses sanctioned and approved, the Wadala Truck Terminal police registered an FIR on Monday evening, against the principals of two colleges. They also registered cases against the president and general secretary of the college management for cheating, submitting false documents and forgery. According to Mahesh singh Thakur, general secretary of Dharamrajya Kaamgar Karmchari Mahasangh (DKKM) that has been at the forefront of exposing the fraud by the management of the two colleges since past few years said that it is sad that despite the AICTE and DTE being made aware of the fraud, no action was taken against the management. “We have been working to highlight the cheating and fraudulent means by which the college management has flouted AICTE and DTE norms since the past year. Even after a case was made out about the same on the instructions of the court that was hearing our petition, the government did nothing to register a case nor took any action against the management. Our organization had to pursue the matter and finally an FIR has been registered against the college officials and management,” said Thakur.

The FIR has been registered against Dr. KTV Reddy — principal of Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil’s College of Engineering, Ashok Chavan — principal of Manohar Phalke Polytechnic college, trustee of the college Dhanaji Jadhav and secretary of the trust Ashalata Phalke under section 420 (Cheating), 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 464 (Making a false document) and 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) According to the FIR, the college management has misled the authorities into believing that they have fulfilled all criteria for continuation of their existence and affiliation but the fact is that the details of area used for various facilities like library, laboratory, recreation room, and so on is much lesser than the actual. This has been a clear case of misrepresentation of facts and fraud. Last year, the BMC had also carried out demolition of two upper floors of the college as it was declared unauthorised.

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Kerala Vice-Chancellors (VCs) council to iron out issues; chancellor’s council

Deccan Chronicle | DC CORRESPONDENT | October 28, 2014 |

Cusat Vice- Chancellor J Latha and Education Minister P.K Abdu Rabb welcome Governor P Sathasivam as he arrives for the Vice  Chancellors' conclave at Cusat in Kalamassery near Kochi on Monday. (Photo: SUNOJ NINAN MATHEW )

 Cusat Vice- Chancellor J Latha and Education Minister P.K Abdu Rabb welcome Governor P Sathasivam as he arrives for the Vice Chancellors’ conclave at Cusat in Kalamassery near Kochi on Monday. (Photo: SUNOJ NINAN MATHEW )

Kochi: The meeting of vice-chancellors in the state held here on Monday decided to constitute a chancellor’s council for discussing the issues in higher education and problems common to the universities.The  meeting convened by Justice P. Sathasivam, Governor and Chancellor of 13 universities in the state, decided that the council would consist of the pro-chancellor who is also the minister for education,  vice-chairman, higher education council, all vice-chancellors of universities headed by the chancellor, secretary, higher education and secretary to the Governor apart from the Governor himself.The chancellor of 13 universities in the state and Kerala Governor Justice P. Sathasivam has made it abundantly clear that there will not be any room for  endless wrangling between Syndicate members and vice-chancellors over matters pertaining to the universities. The solution has to be found within the legal framework of the varsities, he said.“If the vice-chancellor identifies that even the majority decision of the Syndicate is  against the Act and Statute of the University, he can point  it out to them. The final decision should be as per the Act passed by the State Legislature and the Statute. In case of any violation in this regard, the aggrieved party can approach the Chancellor for redressal of the  grievance,” said Justice P. Sathasivam at a press conference convened after a meeting of 13 vice-chancellors at Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) on Monday.Each vice-chancellor made a presentation at the meeting following which deliberations were held between the vice-chancellors, the Chancellor and the pro-chancellor and Education minister P. K. Abdu Rabb and the Additional chief secretary in charge of Higher Education K. M. Abraham.
The vice-chancellors agreed to publish an academic timetable with a definite schedule for admission, examination and release of results from the year 2015-16. The Chancellor will monitor the implementation of the same and will make necessary interventions, if not strictly followed.Vice chancellors will have to personally intervene with each board of studies and the academic council to ensure that the syllabi and pedagogy of the university is on par with the best in the country, after identifying the deficiency gap in the syllabi. The Chancellor asked each vice-chancellor to set a target for introducing Massive Online Open Courses so that the best educational content  in the world will be made available to students under them.The Chancellor also asked the VCs to ensure  proper regulatory intervention in the quality  of education in self-financing institutions under each university. “This can be achieved by stricter evaluation of examinations and valuation and installing CCTV cameras at examination centres,” he said. Justice Sathasivam made it clear that the percentage of growth in tapping the funds from the  UGC and other sources will be reckoned as a major parameter in assessing performance. Collaboration with international organizations of repute, signing of MoUs with corporate houses for establishing linkages, number of add-on courses, particularly those run by the university, availing of opportunities under the Additional Skill Acquisition Programmes (ASAP) etc., will be factored while assessing the efforts taken by varsities for upgrading  employability of students. A quarterly review format will be introduced to review the performance of the universities  every three months. Meanwhile, Governor Justice P. Sathasivam, Chancellor for 12 universities in the State and former Chief Justice of India may be strict about  following rules, but when it comes to following UGC regulations on the qualification criteria for the appointment of VCs, he seems to be fumbling.The first VC’s appointment made by him was that of Cusat VC Dr J Letha, who did not have the UGC-specified 10 years’ experience as a university professor to become a VC. He made the appointment while the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently ordered that the UGC regulation be followed in this regard.When this was pointed out to Justice Sathasivam, he said, “The matter is under the consideration of the Supreme Court now and if I comment on it, it will be sub-judice.”When repeatedly asked why the UGC regulation was not followed in the VC’s appointment, he said, “You have to look at the bio-data (of the persons) and the statute of the university.” When it was again pointed out that the statute of Cusat was silent in this respect, he conveniently ignored the question and turned to wind up the press conference in a hurry.

Deemed University Inspections: Nothing Can Beat the Eye

The Indian Express | By S Vaidhyasubramaniam |  26th October 2014 |

As the nation recovers from festival and political fireworks, this Diwali episode in a family still occupies my mindscape.

“This cracker is meant for outdoor lighting and must be lit under strict adult supervision,” screamed the young boy reading the instructions wearing his Diwali dress—denim shorts and bright T-shirt. He felt that at his age of 14, he needed no supervision and wanted to clarify his eligibility with his father. After consultations with his cousins who could pass judgments arbitrarily without the need to check the cracker’s capacity or the maturity of present teens, the combined wisdom of the yester-generation fathers passed their final order—you need to wear full trousers to burst this cracker. The boy’s elder brother aged 16 with a lighted match argued with his younger brother that since he wore a full trouser, he becomes eligible to light the cracker. Not satisfied, the 14-year-old boy ran to his grandfather, whose final word was law. The grandfather reasonably ordered the father to physically burst the cracker and decide the issue accordingly. The younger brother now argued that “if the cracker law is settled based on a certain principle, it has to be administered uniformly”. He was right, and both patiently waited for their father to decide the issue based on their grandfather’s judgement. Stretching the cracker law to the issue of Tandon Committee on deemed universities, the Supreme Court of India on September 27, 2014, while disposing of Interlocutory Applications (IA) of 10 deemed universities in the Viplav Sharma case observed “the UGC instead of taking recourse to physical inspection of the concerned institution, has adopted an innovative modus operandi by inspecting through photographs and video camera. We cannot conceive of such a situation. In our considered opinion, inspection would mean, in all its connotative expanse, physical inspection from all scores and spectrums. Neither the petitioners can have a restrictive or constricted meaning on the same nor the UGC can put a gloss over it. A physical inspection is fundamentally a physical inspection and we so repeat at the cost of repetition.”

The issue that the Supreme Court settled through this order is that an inspection means physical inspection of each of the deemed universities. The court cannot be more direct in its observation than this and has ordered UGC to visit each of the 10 deemed universities as part of the review exercise. This interim court order is in the larger issue concerning the Tandon Committee and hence cannot be viewed in isolation restricting it to the 10 deemed universities alone. It is a well-settled principle by the Supreme Court in Bhanu Kumar Jain vs Archana Kumar (2005 SCC 1 787) that the principle of res judicata applies in different stages of same proceeding. This principle is squarely applicable in the case of Tandon Committee which classified deemed universities into A,B and C categories based on a faulty and questionable methodology without conducting any physical inspection. It is hence a legitimate expectation that the committee review report can no longer be valid and is imperative that no decision by the HRD ministry or any competent authority can be taken based on the committee classification as the entire committee review is arbitrary and sans physical inspection. The 14- and 16-year-old boys (all deemed universities) wait for their father’s (UGC’s) review which is based on the grandfather’s (Supreme Court’s) final word. But will Diwali wait? It is everybody’s wish in the interest of quality that at least before next Diwali, the UGC reviews all deemed universities to fix the long-pending issue and in the process regain its statutory power which was outsourced to Tandon Committee since 2009.

vaidhya@sastra.edu | The writer is Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University

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Regulating the Regulator; Council of Architecture (CoA)

The Indian Express | By Suraksha P | Chennai | 27th October 2014

With the boom in the construction industry, increasing population and rapid urbanisation, careful and calculated city planning is essential. Unauthorised constructions have become commonplace, and a spate of building collapses across the country in the recent months have left glaring questions of accountability, competence and qualifications of structural engineers, civil engineers, architects and city planners. Mofussil towns are notorious for having building plans drawn by under-qualified architects. Metropolitan cities are no strangers to this practice either. In this scenario, proper regulation of the profession both on the academic and professional front becomes imperative. The Council of Architecture (CoA) was constituted by the Government of India under the provisions of the Architects Act, 1972. The Act provides for registration of architects, standards of architecture education in India, and qualifications and standards of practice to be complied with by practising architects. The CoA is entrusted with the responsibility of regulating architecture education and the practice of architecture throughout India, besides maintaining a register of architects. A five year Bachelor’s degree in Architecture comprises  four years of institutional academic studies and one year of practical training in the office of a professional. The theoretical and practical rigour of the course compares with the gruelling nature of a course in medicine. There are 387 architecture institutes in the country and the CoA is fraught with challenges in terms of enforcing both academic and professional norms.

Reining in the boom

On the academic front, the CoA is flooded with applications to start new architecture colleges and it is in favour of this growth. But maintaining standards has always been a challenge. “One hundred smart cities are expected to come up in the near future. Professional development should be on par with urban development. We have more engineers than required — in lakhs whereas just 15,000-16,000 architecture students graduate every year when the annual requirement is 55,000-60,000 architects. Therefore, we are in favour of architectural colleges proliferating in the country,” says Prof Uday C Gadkari, President, Council of Architecture and Director, IDEAS-Institute of Design Education and Architecture Studies, in a telephonic conversation with edex adding that they received 106 applications in 2013, out of which only 55-60 schools were granted approval.

Question of inspections

The CoA is supposed to inspect colleges only every five years, according to the law.“We conduct inspections annually for new institutions for the first five years. For surprise inspections, the team includes one professor and one teacher along with inspectors, who are mostly practising architects. We also ensure that the inspector does not belong to the same State the college is located in. This way we do have checks and balances in place. Yet they are not sufficient,” says Kiran S Mahajani on telephone. He is a CoA member and Principal of Aayojan School of Architecture, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Starved of funds and staff

“The CoA president’s office is just 800-1,000 sq feet. Files keep piling up, as we are inadequately staffed,” Mahajani says adding that financial support has always been an issue.  “We have been charging the same fees for the past 20 years for registration of architects. The CoA finally announced a fee revision in August this year but that is not enough,” he adds. Agreeing, Prakash Deshmukh, President, Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) and member of CoA, says on phone the CoA has not received a single penny from the Centre in the 40 years of its existence adding that the Council has been self-sustaining since its inception. “We survive on contributions from members, registration fees of architects and fees paid by institutions for inspections,” he says.

Allegations of bribery

Five years ago, there were allegations of bribery against the CoA’s top brass. The law does not permit the CoA to charge for inspections, and several institutions alleged that the CoA charged exorbitant fees for inspections resulting in a CBI probe to be initiated. There were also allegations that the Council conducted inspections more than once in five years and that it has not had a single audit when an annual audit is mandated by the law. The CBI probe is underway and the matter is subjudice.

CoA – limited powers

The CoA’s powers and jurisdiction have always been challenged when it came down heavily on erring colleges flouting its norms. A case in point is Budha College of Architecture, Karnal, Haryana. After CoA received a number of complaints, surprise inspections revealed that the college was running only on weekends. There was acute shortage of faculty and that there were no attendance records. The CoA had asked the students to transfer to other colleges. It had withdrawn its approval to the college last year owing to non compliance of its norms. The college trust challenged the decision in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The court ruled in favour of the college, saying the CoA does not have the power to derecognise a college and could only make recommendations to the Centre. Prof Gadkari says that the CoA has challenged the judgment in the divisional bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “There have been 19-29 cases throughout the country challenging the authority of the council where we have had favourable judgments. This particular case wasn’t in our favour. That does not mean we don’t have the power to withdraw recognition. We have been regulating architecture education in the country since 1972,” he says. Chandigarh College of Architecture  also had a protracted battle with the CoA maintaining it did not have the power to stop admissions to a college according to the Architects Act.

Lack of timely action

According to the law, the CoA is required to keep the Central Government informed of the standards being maintained by the institutions and is only empowered to make recommendations to the Government of India with regard to recognition and derecognition of a qualification. “Of course, we recognise or derecognise an institute with the knowledge of the Government, but in the past when we made recommendations to the Government with regard to de-recognition, for eight to nine years the Government did not respond,” he points out. He goes on to give examples of MM College of Architecture, Maharashtra, and Apeejay Institute of Technology – School of Architecture and Planning, Noida, UP, where the Government did not act on the recommendations of the CoA. Divya Kush, Vice-President, IIA, says in a telecom that the law is open to interpretation by various courts, but asks the question, “If the CoA does not have powers to take any action against erring colleges, why did the Government not question it for 40 years? What is the purpose of the CoA? Just to sleep over the findings of its inspections?” He advocates for independence of the CoA and says that the Council is a quasi-judicial force. “Any statutory body, be it the Bar Council, the Medical Council or the CoA cannot be ordered about,” he asserts.  De-recognition of colleges therefore is a double-edged sword. If the CoA goes ahead with it on its own initiative, students are affected. On the other hand, the longer they wait for Government approval, more students get admitted to the colleges and consecutive batches too get affected. Asked if there should be a clause included in the Architects Act to make recommendations time bound, Prof Gadkari says, “I don’t think there should be a clause to make the Central Government decisions time-bound. Isn’t that how a government should function in the first place?”

Delay in gazette notification

Minimum Standards of Architectural Education, 2008, that supplements the Regulations of 1983 has not been included in the Gazette of India, resulting in implementation problems. “The process of educating cannot stop for the lack of a gazette notification. The Government cannot sleep over it,” the professor complains.

Fate of SPA’s twin cousins

One would think students flocking to institutes of national importance just like IITs and IIMs have bright career prospects. But this is not the case with two such schools of Architecture. School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, is one of the top ranked institutes in the country. However graduates from its sister institutes, SPA Vijayawada and Bhopal will not be getting their licences from the CoA to practise as architects. These institutions were set up in 2008 and two batches of students have passed out since. But they do not have a Degree from their respective institutes. A Bill declaring these institutes as Institutes of National Importance has been pending in Parliament, and they are currently functioning as off campus centres of SPA, Delhi. The UGC does not recognise off-campus centres, hence till the Bill is passed, the students will be left in the lurch. “For five-six years, we didn’t even know these institutes existed. They do not have the CoA approval and are not affiliated to any university. We do not have the power to ask them to stop admitting students or grant their graduates licence to practise,” Prof Gadkari says. The question of jurisdiction has always been a sore thumb for the CoA. Colleges running without approval have challenged its capacity to ban admissions. On the professional front, the CoA has a disciplinary committee that investigates professional negligence of a registered architect and takes appropriate action if found guilty. But in majority of building collapse cases that have made national headlines, the building plans were either approved by civil engineers without the consultation of architects or those that were not registered with the CoA. In such cases, the CoA has no role to play. It seems imperative, therefore, that the country’s apex architectural body be endowed with powers and resources to regulate building practices in India along with measures to prevent misuse of office.

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Vice chancellor (VC) appointments in Kerala: Saga of political manipulations

Business Standard | IANS  |  Thiruvananthapuram |October 24, 2014 | Sanu George |

With politicking taking centre-stage in appointing vice chancellors, things have reached an all-time low in the 13 universities in Kerala, the country’s most literate state. If earlier political parties in the state looked upon these universities and the affiliated colleges as a ‘factory’ for producing future politicians, today the universities are considered as sources of plum posts at the highest level. The first university in Kerala was set up in 1937 and was named as Travancore University, later renamed as University of Kerala. The newest university in the state is Kerala Technological University (KTU) set up this year. All engineering colleges in the state would be affiliated to this university. When the first one was set up, the then Diwan (Prime Minister) of Travancore, C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, contemplated roping in eminent physicist Albert Einstein as its first vice-chancellor. But three recent instances show the level to which intense politicking has crept in and has sullied the system, especially at the highest level.

In a first of its kind in Kerala, on May 12 this year, the MG University vice-chancellor was booted out by the chancellor of the University, the then governor Sheila Dixit, after complaints were made that he had falsified his qualification. In the second instance, TV channels last month showed an angry verbal duel between a Congress legislator and a businessman (both syndicate members at the Cochin University of Science and Technology- CUSAT). The two were fighting over selection of a syndicate member to select CUSAT’s new VC. If not for the timely intervention of the police, they would have come to blows. Last week, this same Congress legislator quit from the syndicate to protest against the appointment of a new VC. Incidentally, the new VC is a woman, the first since the University was set up in 1971. In another sordid episode, Calicut University vice chancellor M. Abdul Salam Wednesday told Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that the government should reign in some syndicate members of the ruling Congress-led UDF who are troublemakers, else he will step down. The Calicut University functioning has been seriously hit by long-drawn student agitations, and Salam is facing trouble from syndicate members from the ruling Congress and its allies. However, Chandy told Salam to hold on as he will discuss the issue with his cabinet colleagues. Salam was handpicked for the post by vested interests, much against the wish of a majority of the Congress-led UDF members.

CPI-M politburo member and former State Education Minister M.A. Baby told IANS that political parties per se should not be blamed for the present fiascos because the Left government always gave merit huge importance, which is not so during the Congress rule. Chandy, when asked about the ongoing crises in the universities, said that it is only when the Congress-led UDF rules the state that the education sector goes for a makeover to meet the needs of the time. “Do you know there was a time when there was not a single professional college in the private sector in our state, while there were 500 such colleges in the country. It was we who changed that and see so many students here study in professional colleges,” said Chandy. Chandy went on to add that there might be certain issues which media highlights while ignoring the huge positive gains that the education sector has made during Congress-led UDF’s rule. “Today Kerala is slowly becoming a sought-after destination for higher education and there are foreign universities ready to come here,” said Chandy.

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