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Regranting AICTE its powers leaves tech colleges in lurch

Ramzauva Chhakchhuak, Bangalore, April 24, 2014, DHNS

A recent order passed by the Supreme Court, restoring the All India Council for Technical Education’s (AICTE) regulatory power over colleges offering technical education courses has put many technical institutions across the State in a fix.

In an order that was passed in April last year, the Supreme Court had reduced the AICTE to an ‘advisory body’ that had no authority over colleges and courses already affiliated to other Universities. Subsequently, the University Grants Commission (UGC) assumed the reins of regulatory powers from the AICTE for the year 2014-15.

According to H Maheshappa, Vice Chancellor, Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), “Following last year’s order, colleges under VTU had sent their applications for affiliations, making changes in the number of seats and starting new courses, to the University and not the AICTE.”

“There is confusion about what to do next. This judgement has come at a time when most processes related to affiliation have been nearly completed. If any changes are made at this time, there will definitely be a delay in the admission for this year.”

Directive issued

The UGC, in its new capacity, had even issued a directive through a circular, asking universities not to grant affiliations to new colleges or to increase the intake of students for the academic year 2014-15.

With the recent SC order, however, authorities say they do not know whether this directive by the UGC will still be applicable.

K E Prakash, Registrar, VTU, said that guidelines prescribed by the UGC will be followed until new information is received.

There is also a sense of confusion and curiosity amongst authorities of management colleges over the order. M Prakash, Secretary, Karnataka Private Post Graduate Colleges’ Association (KPPGCA), said: “Many heads of management instutions have been calling me to find out more about the order.”


Calicut University teachers, administration spar over performance appraisal move

KOZHIKODE: Calicut University teachers and the administration are locked in a bitter battle over the implementation of the annual performance-based appraisal process in the varsity. While the vice-chancellor has taken the drastic step of writing to the state government not to pay UGC scale salaries to teachers who refuse to undertake the evaluation process, the teachers have approached the education minister stating that the ‘assessment committees’ set up by the vice-chancellor have people who are unqualified and have no relation to the subjects concerned.

“The assessment carried out by the said committees can only be termed as an insult while harassing qualified faculty with excellent records of research and scholarship,” the Association of Calicut University Teachers (ACT) said in the memorandum submitted to the minister on Tuesday.

Vice-chancellor M Abdul Salam had, in a letter to additional chief secretary K M Abraham dated January 26, said that there has been stiff resistance from many teachers towards submitting the performance-based appraisal system (PBAS) this year and demanded that UGC salary package be delinked from ‘non-complying professors’.

“This is a sad state of affairs as it is very difficult to improve their performance. All teachers are now receiving high salaries and teachers are only interested in drawing the higher salary envisaged in the UGC package and not willing to work in accordance with the work norms attached to the package,” his letter said.

However, the ACT countered the VC’s argument saying, “Nowhere in the UGC 2010 regulations is it mentioned that an annual performance-based assessment of all faculty should be conducted. On the other hand, the UGC regulations clearly indicate that an assessment by a duly constituted expert committee need be conducted only when a teacher offers himself/herself up for promotion to the next higher grade.”

Salam told TOI that the varsity’s stand has been validated by the state government’s order in March that arrears should not be disbursed to those teachers who are unwilling to participate in PBAS. He said that majority of the teachers have fallen in line with the process after the order.


Many bankrupt colleges to shut shop in Andhra Pradesh

HYDERABAD: Scores of private colleges, many offering courses in information technology, will wind up operations and those that remain will cut down their intake much before Andhra Pradesh is officially bifurcated.

Authorities of at least 80 colleges will write to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) next week seeking permission to shut down their institutes as the Supreme Court in a recent order allowed AICTE to retain its powers to close or open colleges for the academic year 2014-15, pending further orders.

“We heaved a sigh of relief as many colleges are running in huge losses and are in no position to continue when there is so much political uncertainty with new states coming into being. The apex court order has been a relief to us,” K Ramadas, a management representative, told TOI. About 300 engineering colleges are expected to seek permission for reducing seats, he said, adding that many colleges were sustaining themselves on fee reimbursement from the government.

The 80 institutes that will request closure offer courses in engineering, MBA, MCA, pharmacy, B.Ed. and D.Ed.

“MBA and MCA colleges in the twin states will close down by the dozens, while engineering colleges are expected to drastically cut down on their intake for information technology and electronics (IT) and electronics and electrical engineering (EEE) courses,” said Ramadas.

If the closure trend continues, IT education could be taken out of most engineering colleges in the state, said N Ramesh, another management representative and educationist. “However, we have no choice left.”

Last year, more than 1 lakh seats in engineering colleges remained vacant after the last phase of counselling and several managements had requested AICTE to allow them to shut the gates of their institutes.

This year, about 20 per cent of more than 2.35 lakh engineering seats are expected to be slashed and even B.Ed. and D.Ed. colleges are facing a similar crisis, sources said.

“There are a total of 620 B.Ed. and 822 D.Ed. colleges in the state. Many colleges might not get students because of the uncertainty looming over teaching jobs in the bifurcated state,” an education department official said.

Managements were in a dilemma over the closure procedure till this week, as the central government had suspended AICTE’s powers to close down or approve institutions last year.

However, on April 17, the apex court restored the powers of AICTE, pending further orders, and opened a window for bankrupt managements to close down institutes that have failed to garner any revenue in the past few years.

Saroj Kumar Jena, AICTE regional officer-cum-deputy director, said they were going to issue the notice inviting closures and opening of colleges within a week.

“We expect institutions to seek closure and reduce seats, but a clear picture will emerge only after the notification is issued,” said Jena.

Experts said with reduction of seats, college managements will be able to concentrate on improving facilities in their institutions. “It is quality and not quantity that matters. The institutions need a boost in infrastructure facilities, including laboratories and libraries,” said Ch Venkata Ramana, a faculty member at the School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad.


SC ruling on AICTE surprises MHRD, UGC

April 24,2014, 11.36 AM  IST | BH Ramakrishna

Legal opinion sought over restoration of powers to tech regulator Confusion prevails over UGC’s recent moratorium.Lack of coordination rules central bodies. Interim orders impermissible under law: pvt colleges.

Hyderabad: Supreme Court’s interim orders restoring the powers of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), the technical education regulator has created an unusual situation, disconcerted a hitherto developing alternative mechanism.

In a case filed by Odisha Technical Colleges Association (OTCA), the apex court has directed that the AICTE to deal with the permissions of technical colleges. A two-judge bench comprising Justice R M Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph said on April 17 that “AICTE shall now proceed in accordance with the approval process handbook for the 2014-15 academic year, in so far as members of the petitioner association and all colleges and institutions situated similarly to the members of the petitioners’ association.”
Experts said that this judgment has in a way contradicted the ruling the Supreme Court pronounced on April 25 last year totally annulling the AICTE powers to issue permission to MBA colleges as well as technical institutions.
Following this order, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) has directed University Grants Commission (UGC) to handle the issues of granting permissions to private engineering, MBA and MCA colleges in the country.
UGC formed a three-member panel to prepare guidelines for the issuance of permissions to new technical colleges in the country. Prof. D N Reddy, a member of UGC and presently holding the chairmanship of RAC, was also made one of the members of this committee. This panel has prepared the guidelines and submitted to MHRD which has immediately given its stamp of approval. But the guidelines were not notified in the Gazette.
As nearly 25-30 per cent of seats in all technical institutions have remained vacant, the UGC has imposed a one-year moratorium recently on fresh approvals for new colleges and also additional intake in subjects in all colleges.
Since the UGC is the main authority now, the power of universities which come under the UGC’s purview has gone up in so far as permissions, inspections, reports of tech institutions- which were affiliated to them- are concerned.
Now with the latest Supreme Court order, all this process has gone awry, experts opine.
“The Odisha case does not encompass the entire country. It merely relates to the continuance of Approval Handbook of that state. Moreover, in this particular case, none from either MHRD or UGC were represented. The court which has ruled that AICTE does not have powers last year, cannot say that it has the powers and can issue licenses this year,” a senior member of AICTE felt.
Reports say that senior official of the MHRD, R P Sisodia, who is in-charge of UGC and Prof. Ved Prakash, Chairman of the UGC ‘were unaware’ of the verdict. Senior officials of both MHRD and UGC- are now huddled in meetings and reportedly veering round to taking legal course on the unexpected whack. The officials are meeting again on Thursday to chalk out further course of action.
Lack of coordination among various bodies of MHRD has a telling effect on several issues. No meeting with regard to this contentious issue was arranged in recent past, sources said.
Meanwhile, the private engineering colleges were also expressed surprise over the verdict. “The Supreme Court could not have extended AICTE jurisdiction to institutions, which are not before the Court and who do not wish to be governed by the AICTE. It does appear that all the circumstances touching upon the case law have not been apprised to the Court,” KVK Rao, Founder Chairman of the St Mary Group of Institutions said. “It would be a good case for impleading in the said SLP for those institutions which do not want their institution to be governed by AICTE. I am of the considered view that the interim orders passed by Supreme Court are impermissible in law and AICTE cannot go further,” he added.

Edupreneurs may heave a sigh of relief

Vinay Umarji  |  Ahmedabad  April 23, 2014

As SC allows AICTE to control technical institutions, council may begin clearing proposals for setting up of new institutes by June 2014.

Last week brought a glimmer of hope for edupreneurs who have been waiting in the wings. With the Supreme Court giving back its powers to the All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE), India’s technical education regulator, fresh applications for new institutes may finally be cleared.

The Supreme Court has allowed AICTE to have regulatory control over technical educational institutions in the country for the 2014-15 academic year. The verdict comes at a time when, according to sources, around 300-400 applications for new technical colleges are awaiting approval.

AICTE however, is taking one step at a time. AICTE chairman SS Mantha said, the regulatory body is yet to read the fine print of the interim order before deciding the next course of action. Welcoming the SC verdict that came on April 17, Mantha said AICTE is yet to seek legal opinion before taking further steps.

“We are in the process of seeking legal opinion. We still don’t know to what extent is the regulatory control allowed. Once we are clear about it, we can set an agenda for the year,” said Mantha. As per the verdict, SC has allowed control for the 2014-15 academic year as of now. An interim order, the verdict came as a result of a latest petition by the Odisha Technical Colleges’ Association (OTCA).

Last year, an April 25 order by the Supreme Court shrunk AICTE’s role in regulating technical institutions affiliated to any university. Following this, the regulatory control had gone to University Grants Commission (UGC) much to the chagrin of such technical institutions. Technical colleges affiliated to universities and offering courses like BTech, BPharm and MBA were of the view that UGC being an agency to offer grants had no expertise in regulatory control.

“We knew UGC didn’t have the capabilities of regulatory control over technical colleges. Moreover, UGC said it will not approve new technical institutions this year. Even the norms of control under UGC came as late as December 2013. Hence, the latest interim order has come at a right time and is right in returning the control to AICTE that has developed its own expertise over a period of time,” said H Chaturvedi, director, Birla Institute of Management Technology.

In December 2013, over 300 B-schools in the country had protested against UGC when it had drafted guidelines for approval of new courses, setting up of new technical institutions and closure of the old ones and all other regulatory steps. Experts and sources also opine that the interim order will follow further arguments before a final order is announced by the SC.

With the UGC not approving new institutes, applications for the 2014-15 academic year have been pending. Moreover, sources said that the AICTE may take further legal course and plea for a shift in the deadline for approving new institutions from current May 15 to June 30, 2014.

There are roughly 13,000 such technical colleges that fall under the AICTE purview.


No link between mobile phone radiation and cancer, says Padma awardee doctor

Express News Service | New Delhi | April 22, 2014 1:11 am


Calls for revision of World Health Organization’s list of carcinogens, says not enough data to establish the link.

India-born oncologist Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee on Monday urged World Health Organization to remove cellphone radiation from the list of carcinogens on the ground that the “preponderance of evidence suggests there is no link” between radiation from mobile phones and cancer. In an event sponsored by COAI (formerly known as Cellphone Operators Association of India), India International Centre and Open Health Systems Laboratory,  he delivered a lecture making a strong case for the revision.

Dr Mukherjee, author of the Pulitzer winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer that was published in 2010, is currently in India to accept the Padmashree award. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff physician at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

In a recent article in The New York Times he had argued that the drastic increase in cellphone usage does not mirror incidence of brain cancer, neither is the radiation emitted by cellphones of the nature that can directly damage DNA. He also termed as “loose” WHO’s definition of “possible carcinogens”, some of which “defies logic” in their proclivity to be more conservative.

However, he says, “The last word has not been said on the matter of cellphone radiation and cancer. The interphone trials (that sought to examine the link) have a serious recall bias — people did not always correctly recall the extent of their cellphone usage. There is a need to examine how radiation of that wavelength can be carcinogenic. I would ask WHO to downgrade cellphone radiation in the list of carcinogens, which includes coffee. But I am willing to revise this assessment if there is additional data available.”

But he says there is not enough data to make a similar claim about radiation emitted by cellphone towers.

Talking about the classification of formaldehyde as a carcinogen by the National Toxicology Programme of the United States, he stressed that the important thing in medicine and therefore in deciding carcinogenicity is dosage. He said while formaldehyde may not be carcinogenic for people with less exposure, it would definitely be for workers in industries where they are routinely exposed to it.

He also spoke about his dissatisfaction with the tendency to attribute to “stress” any unexplained carcinogenic effects. “There is a need to qualify stress like say immunological stress does cause cancer but anger does not. For years patients of dyspepsia were told they are susceptible to cancer because of stress but now it is known that H Pylori is the organism responsible,” he said.

Asked whether taxes are a good way to reduce tobacco usage — one of the most certainly known carcinogens — he said taxes are only marginally effective, it is behavioural interventions that make the most difference.


Karnataka to ease norms for engineering colleges

DC CORRESPONDENT | April 24, 2014,

Bengaluru: The state government is likely to relax rules for engineering colleges in order to bring down the cost per student to ensure that the Karnataka Unaided Private Engineering Colleges’ Association (KUPECA) agrees to charge the same fees and seat matrix as last year. According to sources, this will help the 80 per cent of engineering colleges in the state that are in a financial crisis because there is poor demand for their seats.
The Affiliation of Colleges Offering Technical Education by Universities Regulation 2014, vests all the powers of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU).  As VTU is under the direct control of the state government, it can relax some rules for engineering colleges in order to bring down their expenses.
Speaking to this newspaper, an officer of the higher education department said that presently for post-graduate programmes the student-teacher ratio is 1:15 and at under-graduate level it is 1:20.
The state government is likely to relax these norms. The state government is also expected to relax rules related to minimum land required to set up a college and building requirements prescribed for colleges. Relaxing the rules in this manner is not necessarily a good thing. The principal of a private engineering college pointed out that “if the government relaxes norms, it will definitely harm the quality of higher education, beside bringing down the employability of the students passing out.”

“Students are opposing the 2006 Act because if it is implemented, they have to compete with students from the rest of the country. But the government is expected to reserve more seats for state students through the amendments,” said an office-bearer of COMED-K.


Science, technology studies priority for both India, US: Nancy Powell

IndiaToday.in  New Delhi, April 22, 2014

According to outgoing American Ambassador Nancy Powell, India and the US both feature fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in their priorities list.

“The industries and challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, renewable energy, medicine and healthcare, water and environmental management, developing sustainable cities all require innovators and workers from the arena of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Powell said during the flag-off of a group of 15 Indian students selected to participate at the Intel International Science and Engineering fair in the US.

The group was selected from across India based on their innovative projects related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They will compete with over 1,600 participants from 70 nations.

Powell said both the countries have realised the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and have undertaken significant steps to support it.

“I am confident that both India and the US will be among the top countries that have the most STEM-literate innovators in this century,” she said.

Stating that every measure needs to be taken to develop the interest of students in STEM subjects, she said there was a need to expand the student-teacher exchange programmes between the two countries.

“A lot needs to be done to take on the global challenges of addressing the needs of people who have limited or no access to education around the world,” Powell added at the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.


Vice Chancellors of state univesity to meet chief secretary tomorrow

KOLHAPUR: Vice-chancellors of state universities will meet chief secretary J S Sahariya on Wednesday at Mumbai to discuss various educational policies and the current academic status in higher education.

According to officials, the higher education department has been conducting various meetings with officials of state universities to discuss the formation of education policies and take a review of the current academic status.

According to director of the board of college and university development (BCUD) of Shivaji University, Kolhapur (SUK) Arjun Rajage, the higher education department had earlier asked state universities to submit details regarding various educational activities on their campuses. A meeting regarding the same was organized by the directorate of technical education (DTE) at Mumbai on April 3 and the directorate of higher education at Pune on April 16.

DTE had asked state universities to submit their opinions and feedback till January-end on a University Grants Commission’s (UGC) draft regulation, which proposed all functions of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to universities affiliated to UGC across the country.

A review meeting regarding the same was conducted at the DTE office in Mumbai earlier this month wherein BCUD directors of each university were present, Rajage said. According to him, the second round of meetings would be with principal secretary for state higher and technical education Sanjay Kumar on Tuesday for further discussion.

“The higher education department of the state government had asked all universities in the state to submit information on the current status of research projects, details of affiliated as well as non-affiliated colleges in their respective jurisdictions, status of syllabus revision over all as well as for each subject, study centres and their current functionality, status of the choice-based credit system, number of accredited colleges, number of non-accredited colleges and those whose registrations are underway,” said Rajage.

“In fact, the main agenda of the April 16 meeting in Pune was the quality enhancement and improved policy making for the higher education,” the BCUD director added.

“Quality of research and development and revision of syllabi are some issues that were discussed in earlier meetings and will remain the main agenda of future meetings. Authorities from different universities were asked to submit their opinions and suggestions to improve participation of students in research activities,” Rajage said.

Rajage said the requested information has already been submitted to the directorate of higher education.


AICTE remains nodal power center for Technical Education

BHUBANESWAR: AICTE remains nodal power center for Technical Edn.  Supreme Court has allowed All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to have regulatory control over technical educational institutions in the country for the 2014-15 academic year. The latest interim order came on a petition of the Odisha Technical Colleges’ Association (OTCA) on April 17, OTCA president Biswajit Mohanty remarked .

The SC last year had said colleges affiliated to any university do not come under AICTE purview, thereby shrinking AICTE role in regulating technical institutions. After the April 25 SC order, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had decided to take over control on technical education in the country and had framed guidelines for universities.

Allowing AICTE to have regulatory control over all such technical institutions again, a bench of Justice R M Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph said on April 17, “AICTE shall now proceed in accordance with the approval process handbook for the 2014-15 academic year in so far as members of the petitioner association and all colleges and institutions situated similarly to the members of the petitioners’ association.”

The apex court also asked AICTE to issue necessary orders in this regard within 10 days, copy of the court order reveals.

Welcoming the latest court verdict, the OTCA president said AICTE control over technical institutions is necessary to ensure quality in technical education.

“UGC being an agency to offer grants, it had no technical expertise to ensure norms in technical institutions. That is why UGC delegated such a role to universities, which will dilute the quality of technical institutions in the country,” Mohanty told TOI.

OTCA, which has 62 member colleges in the state, had prayed to vest regulatory control on AICTE on the same logic.

The colleges were particularly apprehensive about their future without AICTE. In the UGC system, regulatory powers would have ultimately come to state universities, resulting in increased state government meddling in their affairs. The Odisha government, for example, had asked UGC to ensure that only Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) be allowed to affiliate any technical institution in Odisha.

The government had also requested UGC to ensure that no objection certificate from the state government would be made necessary before opening a new technical college, change of location, closure of a college and conversion of women’s technical college into co-ed college etc.


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