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Breathe life into deemed universities

The New Indian Express | S Vaidhyasubramaniam  |  12th December 2017  | Opinion |

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My phone finally stopped ringing after a series of calls from my students and well-wishers.  Everybody had one question: “Since the Supreme Court has disallowed deemed universities from using the word ‘university’, what will be the validity of the degrees issued so far and what is the course of action?” I told everybody that the past, present and future degrees are valid as per Section 22 of the The University Grants Commission Act, 1956 (UGC Act) and the course of action would be based on a recall of the past and understanding of the present. Let us begin with the past. The First Education Commission report of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1948-49) devoted a chapter on the genesis of deemed universities. The report recommended that the government evolve a method of creating university charters similar to many countries, where universities are set up not through acts of legislature but through charters granted by the head of the state. Thus was born the concept of deemed university under Section 3 of the UGC Act. As recommended by the commission, the National Commission for Higher Education and Research Bill which unfortunately got derailed, aimed for a permanent parliamentary solution to the deemed university nomenclature. The need to fix this was born out of a legitimate concern from global peers who constantly wanted to know “when will deemed universities become universities?” not knowing that they are universities for all practical purposes.

This deemed university conundrum was discussed by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Prem Chand Jain vs R K Chabra, (1984) in which the court left it to the Centre to interpret or amend, if necessary Section 23 of the UGC Act. Empowered by this order, the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) directed the UGC to form a committee comprising the MHRD Secretary and Chairmen of UGC and AICTE. This committee recommended that since deemed universities are public universities established by an executive charter, they can use the word ‘university.’ Based on this, the UGC during September 2006 allowed deemed universities to use the word university. What appeared to be a settled case, assumed gargantuan proportions in the November 3 order of the Supreme Court in Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp. Ltd. Vs Sri Rabi Sankar Patro resulting in the on-going melee. This case was a service matter issue arising out of the validity of engineering degrees offered in distance education mode by only four deemed universities in India. None of the other 120 plus deemed universities were before the SC as the larger issue was not about the deeming fiction which is a subject matter of another batch of cases pending before the apex court. The court was also not made fully aware of the conscious permission of the UGC to use the word ‘university’ pursuant to the liberty granted by the Supreme Court in Prem Chand Jain’s case. Also, the Supreme Court attempted to distinguish the present case from the Bharathidasan University case (2001) delivered by a coordinating bench.

In an attempt to bring clarity to the issue, some deemed universities and associations approached the SC with modification and impleading applications on various grounds including the fact that the interpreter of law allows the interpreter to inquire not into the subjective intent of the author, but rather the intent the author would have had, had he or she acted reasonably. This spirit of purposive construction highlighted by Aharon Barak in Purposive Interpretation in Law, (2007) was appreciated by the Supreme Court in New India Assurance Co. Ltd. vs Nusli Neville Wadia, (2008). The Supreme Court also appreciated the principles of Casus Omissus in UCO Bank vs Rajinder Lal Capoor (2008) which as per G P Singh’s Interpretation of Statutes, is an application of the general principle that a matter which should have been, but has not been provided for in a statute cannot be supplied by courts, as doing so will be legislation and not construction. But all of these arguments advanced before the SC went in vain and the applications were dismissed making the November 3 order—which includes formation of a committee to frame new monitoring mechanism and regulations for deemed universities—effective without any modification. Under these circumstances, the following options in the interest of progressive policy making lie before the Centre and its statutory agencies such as UGC, AICTE, etc.

Action 1: As observed by the SC obiter dicta, the UGC Act of 1956 needs amendment to Section 23 to include deemed universities declared under Section 3 of the UGC Act to also use the word ‘university.’
Action 2: Approval from AICTE for engineering courses made mandatory only for those institutions that were not offering any technical education on the date of conferment of deemed university. This was distinguished by the SC in the present case and the AICTE Act rightly doesn’t include deemed universities in its definition of an institution. This was upheld by a coordinating bench of the Supreme Court in the Bharathidasan University case. A subordinate regulation to rope in all deemed universities not only needs an amendment of the AICTE Act but will also be a retrograde measure.

Action 3: The new committee must be guided by the proposed UGC Deemed Universities Graded Autonomy Regulations that is to be notified anytime soon. This is inherently designed to identify and encourage good performers and to take action against erring ones and aligns well the apex court’s recent directive to UGC.

Final recommendation: Amend to oxygenate and not mend to strangulate. – Courtesy

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HRD ministry sets up committee to suggest ways to regulate deemed universities

Hindustan Times | Neelam Pandey |  New DelhiDec 05, 2017 |

The panel will suggest a regulatory road map for deemed universities and is expected to submit its report to the government within four months.

The Union human resource development (HRD) ministry on Monday set up a three-member committee in line with a Supreme Court order to examine the working of deemed universities and suggest an “oversight” and “regulatory mechanism” for these institutions within four months. The Supreme Court last month cancelled the degrees awarded by four of them as they were conducting distance education programmes in technical education without necessary approval. It asked the government to set up a panel of eminent persons who have held high positions in the field of education, investigation, administration or law at national level within one month, to examine issues related to distance education, deemed universities and suggest a regulatory mechanism for them. The committee is headed by former chief justice of Patna high court L Narasimhan Reddy. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu , additional secretary in the HRD Ministry and Anil Sahasrabuddhe , chairman of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) are the other two members.

JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Rajasthan, Advanced Studies in Education, Rajasthan (IASE), Allahabad Agricultural Institute, (AAI) and Vinayaka Mission’s Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, (VMRF)— were conducting distance engineering programmes without necessary approvals, including that from the University Grants Commission (UGC) or the AICTE. The Supreme Court last month had suspended the degrees awarded by them between the period 2001 and 2005 and cancelled the degrees awarded to students admitted after 2005. Sources said apart from finding out how these four universities were given post facto approvals it will also look into the overall functioning of the deemed universities in the country. It is likely to submit its report within four months, officials said. “The committee is likely to examine the issues whether more institutes were given permission by UGC to conduct distance education programme in technical education. The committee will also suggest a road map for strengthening and setting up of oversight and regulatory mechanism in the field of higher education and allied issues. The HRD ministry will examine the report and action will be taken accordingly,” said a senior HRD official. The Supreme Court had also restrained “all deemed-to-be universities to carry on any courses in distance education mode from the academic session 2018-2019 onwards unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses and unless the off-campus centres/study centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the concerned statutory authorities”. – Courtesy

AICTE to conduct test for students whose distance engineering degrees were suspended by SC

Hindustan Times | Neelam Pandey | Dec 03, 2017 | New Delhi |

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has started the process of registration of such students who will get an opportunity to write a test following which their degrees will stand validated.

Days after the University Grants Commission (UGC) suspended the degrees awarded to students of four deemed universities, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has started the process of registration of such students who will get an opportunity to write a test following which their degrees will stand validated. The AICTE and UGC on Sunday started the registration of candidates enrolled in deemed-to-be universities from 2001 to 2005 and were awarded degrees/diplomas in engineering through distance mode. Candidates have been given time till January 15 to register for the test. The degrees will remain suspended till they clear it, officials said. Officials said that the entrance exam will be conducted in May or June. “All the degrees of the students remain suspended. The last date for registration is January 15 and students need to register online. A written as well as practical examination will be conducted for the students,” reads the public notice issued by AICTE.

 Four institutes — JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Rajasthan, Advanced Studies in Education, Rajasthan (IASE), Allahabad Agricultural Institute, (AAI), and Vinayaka Mission’s Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, (VMRF)— have been conducting distance engineering programmes without necessary approvals, including that from the UGC or AICTE. The Supreme Court last month had suspended the degrees awarded by them between 2001 and 2005 while the degrees awarded through distance learning by the deemed universities to students admitted after 2005 stand cancelled. The universities have been directed by the court to return the tuition fee and other expenditure incurred by the students. The Supreme Court had also restrained “all deemed-to-be universities to carry on any courses in distance education mode from the academic session 2018-2019 onwards unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses and unless the off-campus centres/study centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the concerned statutory authorities”. AICTE rules mandate that engineering degrees cannot be offered through distance education mode. – Courtesy

AICTE approval must for deemed universities offering technical courses : Supreme Court order

One India . com | Saturday, December 2, 2017 |

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)’s approval has been made compulsory for deemed universities offering technical and engineering courses. Deemed universities earlier used to report to the University Grants Commission (UGC).  A recent Supreme Court direction says that deemed universities should abide by AICTE norms for technical and engineering education. The apex court’s direction came as it was felt that deemed universities used to take their own decision on matters like increasing seats or starting a new course as there was no regulating authority.  A New Indian Express Report quoted AICTE chairman Dr. Anil Sahasrabudhe as saying that “UGC has issued fresh guidelines mandating AICTE approval from now on.” Earlier, the Supreme Court held that the engineering degrees obtained through correspondence courses from deemed universities in the past 16 years were invalid.  A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit noted that the UGC and the AICTE did not approve distance learning programmes in engineering studies and the approval granted by the Distance Education Council (DEC) for such courses was illegal. – Courtesy

AICTE approval must for deemed-to-be universities: Supreme Court order – India Today, New Delhi, December 3, 2017

The All India Council for Technical Education is the statutory body and a national-level council for technical education, under Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Following the recent direction of the Supreme Court, the UGC has issued fresh guidelines to all deemed-to-be universities asking them to abide by AICTE norms for technical and engineering education. It was felt that deemed universities used to take their own decision on matters like increasing seats or starting a new course as there was no regulating authority.  All these years, such universities had been reporting to the University Grants Commission (UGC). Earlier, the Supreme Court held that the engineering degrees obtained through correspondence courses from deemed universities in the past 16 years were invalid.

Here’s what the Chairman of AICTE said:

“It has been noted that some deemed-to-be universities, which are offering technical, engineering, architecture and pharmacy courses, are not following AICTE rules.” Dr Anil Sahasrabudhe told Indian Express.

What does the decision say?

  • Such universities have to apply to their regulatory body even for increasing seats or starting a new course or the degrees they offer will be suspended
  • Degrees offered by deemed to be universities for technical and engineering courses through distance mode stands suspended
  • Such universities are not allowed to offer technical or engineering course through distance mode according to AICTE and UGC norms

In Karnataka, there are over five deemed-to-be universities which are offering technical courses. They include Sri Siddartha Academy for Higher Education, Tumakuru; KLE Institute, Belagavi; JSS Institute, Mysuru and Manipal Institute, Manipal. –  Courtesy

Deemed varsities cannot use ‘University’ in their names, rules Supreme Court

Zee news India | By Zee Media Bureau |  Nov 08, 2017 |

Deemed varsities can no longer use the word “university” in their names, ruled the Supreme Court. The top court further asked the University Grants Commission to implement the order within a month.

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NEW DELHI:  Deemed varsities can no longer use the word “university” in their names, ruled the Supreme Court. The top court further asked the University Grants Commission to implement the order within a month.  The SC was listening to a case involving the entitlement of the Deemed varsities to start engineering courses through distance mode and award degrees for the same. The order was passed on Friday, November 3.  SC’s decision has come as a major blow for several varsities. There are 117 deemed varsities in India, many of them seeking the status of full-fledged private universities.

The court further added that varsities and institutes can award degrees but cannot use the word “University” by virtue of Section 23 of the UGC Act.  “I wish the Supreme Court while this direction, should have detailed and discussed these provisions of UGC Act, 1956. I am also surprised to note that the Supreme Court feels that the Deemed Universities are unregulated, which is not the case, in fact they are the most regulated rather controlled segment,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer who has represented deemed universities in court. – Courtesy

UGC Circular : Published on 10-11-2017 : UGC Letter to Deemed to be Universitites regd. Use of the word ‘University’ by Institutions Deemed to be Universities-Directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court

Supreme Court bans deemed universities from offering engineering courses in distance mode

Deccan Herald | DH News Service | New Delhi, Nov 3 2017 |

A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit also raised serious questions over the institutions being allowed to use the word ‘university’ and asked the government to restrain them from use of the word.

Supreme Court on Friday ordered CBI probe on officials who allowed a group of deemed universities to offer engineering courses in distance education, as it took a critical view of such institutions. A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit also raised serious questions over the institutions being allowed to use the word ‘university’ and asked the government to restrain them from use of the word. In a series of orders, the bench banned deemed universities from offering engineering courses through distance education from 2018-19 academic year, instructing them not to do so without the sanction of AICTE.  Lamenting that extensive commercialization has robbed higher education of credibility and standard; the bench said it seriously compromised knowledge and impacted excellence and merit. It also asked government to set up a three-member panel to develop roadmap to strengthen higher education and come up with a regulatory system in six months.

“The UGC had completely failed to remedy the situation,” the bench said in its 118-page judgement highlighting failure of monitoring and regulating ‘deemed-to-be-universities.’ “Serious question has therefore arisen as to the manning of the UGC itself for its effective working,” it noted. IT ordered CBI probe on officials who allowed Vinayaka Mission’s research Foundation, Salem, Tamil Nadu, IASE Gandhi Vidya Mandir, Sardarshahr Rajasthan, JRN Vidyapeeth Udaipur, Rajasthan and Allahabad Agriculture Research Institute, Allahabad to offer B Tech and B E courses in distance education mode. It also ordered the UGC to consider if the ‘deemed university’ status enjoyed by the institutions could be withdrawn as they violated policies and norms.

Citing the affidavit of the then UGC Chairman Ved Prakash detailing how the institutes were allowed to offer courses, the bench raised serious doubt over the approach and conduct of the higher education regulator. “On one hand, the authorities were proclaiming their policy statements and on the other, despite there being complaints, they went about granting permissions,” it noted. The issue came up before the apex court following conflicting orders by Orissa and Punjab and Haryana High Courts. While the Orissa HC had approved engineering degrees awarded to serving diploma holders through ‘Off-Campus Study Centres’, Punjab and Haryana HC took a contrary view. The court ordered to suspend degrees awarded to students by the four institutions in the 2001-05 academic session. It asked AICTE to hold a test in May 2018-19 and recall degrees given to students who fail. Asking the varsities to refund fees collected on the course if the students do not wish to appear for the AICTE test, the court also ordered to withdraw any jobs or benefits taken by the students on the basis of those degrees. It ordered to cancel degrees awarded after the academic session 2001-05 and withdraw any jobs given on that basis. – Courtesy   /   Click here to download / view the Judgement – 118 pages, pdf

Supreme Court closes deemed university case, HRD seeks legal opinion

UGC approves new guidelines for Deemed Universities

Economic Times | By PTI | 16 Jun, 2016 |

NEW DELHI: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved new regulations for Deemed Universities as per which there will be no bar on the number of off-campus centres such institutions may set up, though quality has to be assured.  The new guidelines also gives a time bar of seven months for the UGC and HRD ministry to take a call on setting up new centres. According to the new guidelines for Deemed Universities which was announced today by HRD minister Smriti Irani at a Press Conference, it has also been decided that Universities will not be able to charge more than Rs 10,000 at the time of counselling. “Capitation fee will not be allowed,” she added.  There have been complaints of students being asked to pay full fees which they had to struggle to recover in case they did not want to join. The new guidelines, Irani said, encourages transparency and focus on quality.  She said there is no cap on the number of off-campus centres an institution may set up but quality has to be of the highest order.  She added that to encourage transparency, it has been decided that the visits of expert committees for inspection to such institutions will be videotaped and put on the website within 24 hours.  In another departure from the previous guidelines, the new guidelines allow the persons who establish a Deemed University to occupy the post of Chancellor or Pro Chancellor.
Deemed Universities have also been given more freedom in opening new departments related to core areas, for which they now don’t have to immediately seek the permission of the regulator. The new regulations also allow setting up of off-campus centres abroad but for that additional permission of the MHA and MEA would be needed.  When asked about the existing cases of unpermitted off-campus centres by some institutions, Irani said they may be looked at in the light of the new guidelines.  A statement released today said that after receiving them from the UGC, the HRD ministry has concurred with the recommendations for notification.  According to the timelines assigned for different stages for processing of applications – information seeking by UGC (2 months), submission of reports by the Expert committee (3 months) and approval and advice of UGC (1.5 months) and Government decision (2 months). –  Courtesy       /    MHRD Circular : MHRD concurs with UGC recommendations to remove subjectivity and bring in more transparency

UGC eases entry norms for deemed universities

The Indian Express | Express News Service | New Delhi | Published:May 25, 2016 |

In a decision taken last week, the higher education regulator had removed restrictions on the appointment of deemed university chancellors allowing promoters of the institution to occupy the post.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) Tuesday announced a series of changes to the regulation governing deemed universities that would relax entry norms and dilute government control over such institutions. In a decision taken last week, the higher education regulator had removed restrictions on the appointment of deemed university chancellors allowing promoters of the institution to occupy the post. This was prohibited under the old regulation of 2010.  Another amendment provides for government nominees only in universities which are either controlled by the Centre or receive at least half of their funds from it. For the remaining, UGC will appoint a nominee out of a panel of names made by a search committee. The eligibility criterion for recognising institutions as deemed universities under the ‘De Novo’ category has also been made more flexible. UGC has now introduced the Letter of Intent (or LOI) concept, which will allow promoters to acquire deemed status for a proposed education institution based on some terms of agreement. The applicant is then required to establish the university within three years of acquiring the deemed status as opposed to the old regulation in which the promoter is eligible to apply only after setting up the institution.

Under the land norms, the Commission dropped the rigid parameter of having a five-acre campus in urban metropolitan and seven-acre campus in urban non-metropolitan area and replaced it with the condition that 40 per cent of the land area in a deemed university must be open spaces with 10 square metre per student floor space.  Additionally, to ensure quality, institutions vying for the ‘deemed university’ tag will have to either get the highest NAAC or NBA accreditation rating for three cycles consecutively or an ‘A’ grade at the time of application and a position among the top 20 institutions under the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF). Deemed universities will be able to open off-campus centres only after five years of their existence. Speaking to reporters, Higher Education secretary VS Oberoi, who is also a member of the UGC, said that the new regulations are aimed at reducing “subjectivity” and “government interference”.  There are currently 123 deemed universities of which 35 are either run or funded by government and the remaining are private.  –  Courtesy

HRD ministry is set to create a registry of experts to represent the Centre as nominees in private deemed universities

The Telegraph | Saturday , April 23 , 2016 |  Basant Kumar Mohanty |  Registry plan for deemed varsities |

New Delhi, April 22: The Smriti Irani-headed HRD ministry is set to create a registry of experts to represent the Centre as nominees in private deemed universities, mirroring an earlier proposal by former minister Kapil Sibal. The University Grants Commission last week approved procedures for such selections, which were so far being made by its chairman in the absence of guidelines and were often criticised as arbitrary. A search committee will pick the nominees to the governing boards and finance committees of the 88 private deemed universities in the country, similar to the system followed in the case of IIT directors who are also picked by such panels. The UGC will set up the search panel for the deemed universities, sources said. Sibal had as HRD minister moved the Higher Education Research Bill that sought to set up a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) as an overarching body to regulate higher education. The bill had provisions for the NCHER to create a registry of candidates who could be appointed vice-chancellors in deemed, state and central varsities, and nobody outside the list could be considered.

The provision was later revised to include only central universities after objections from several states which saw the move as a threat to their powers. The Narendra Modi government last year withdrew the bill from Parliament. Asked about the latest move, Sibal termed it “politically motivated” and suspected the government wanted to nominate people with RSS backgrounds to the deemed varsities. “The UGC registry will open the gates for RSS ideologues. This is part of the saffronisation agenda,” the Congress leader said. The ministry is likely to approve the registry plan in a week, after which the UGC will frame the eligibility criteria for the nominees. The higher education regulator is likely to prepare a registry of 150 to 200 individuals and may invite applications for inclusion in the list. The search panel, comprising experts, will scrutinise the applications and finalise names from among the candidates.  Two lists are likely to be prepared, one of those who could be sent as nominees to the governing bodies of the deemed universities, and the other to the finance committees of such institutes. For the governing bodies, priority will be given to those with academic experience, while those with knowledge of finance – like chartered accountants or corporate professionals – will be preferred for nominations to the finance committees, UGC sources said. The lists will be posted on the UGC website. Under the current system, the government often has no representation at meetings of the private deemed universities because the UGC is unable to decide on the nominees. –  Courtesy