Private Educational Institution exempted from paying Electricity Duty on the consumed Energy: HC

In a landmark Judgement, the Bombay High Court quashing the Government Circular that private educational Institutions are liable to pay duty has has ruled that all kinds of educational Institutions, whether public or private are exempted from paying electricity duty on the consumed energy.

The Petition was filed challenging levying of electricity duty on the Educational Institutions, being managed by Shri Vile Parle Kelvani Mandal, which also manages Narsee Monjee Institutions, against imposition of a 21 percent electricity duty, which mounted to arrears of around 3 Crores. The Respondents in the Petition were TATA Power, Reliance Infrastructure and Adani Electricity.

It was argued by the Petitioners that educational institutions run and managed by a society and a public charitable trust and hence though they are liable to pay for consumption of energy but not liable to pay electricity duty on the consumed energy. It was pointed out that even under the old Act, i.e., Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 1958 the electricity duty was not levied on the consumption charges or the energy consumed for the purposes of or in respect of a school or college or institution imparting education or training, students’ hostels, hospitals, nursing homes etc.

However, in June 2018, the State Government by misreading the provision of Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016, informed them that charitable institutions registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950 are not entitled for electricity duty exemption with effect from 1st September, 2016. The petitioners argued that letter revoking the exemption was contrary to the Maharashtra Electricity Duty Act, 2016.

On the other hand, the Advocate General appearing for the State argued that provision relating to exemption is not absolute and is a restricted exemption. It was also argued by the State that the educational institutions should pay electricity duty, as they are earning huge income by way of fees etc. and infrastructure is used for commercial gain. They can avail of the exemption only if it is granted conditionally or unconditionally.

The Court therefore proceeded to interpret Section 3(2) of the MED Act, 2016 in context of the State Government circular that such of the educational institutions which are registered under the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950 are excluded from the purview of the exemption and that exemption is now restricted only to the schools run and managed by the local bodies and other educational institutions will have to pay the electricity duty.

Section 3(2) of the MED Act, 2016 reads as under:

(2) Electricity duty shall not be levied on the consumption charges or energy consumed,- (i) ……; (ii) ………..; (iii) for the purposes of, or in respect of a school or college or institution imparting education or training, students’ hostels, hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, clinics, public streets lighting, public water works, sewerage systems, public gardens including zoos, public museums, administrative offices forming whole or, as the case may be, a part of system run by any local bodies constituted under any law for the time being in force in the State of Maharashtra.

The Court also observed that the words employed in section 3(2)(iii) of the new law would indicate is that the electricity duty shall not be levied on the consumption charges or energy consumed by school or college or institution imparting education or training, students’ hostels, hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, clinics. Therefore, education and health, irrespective of whether service in such fields is rendered by public body or private body, is covered. Even the students’ hostels are covered by exclusionary clause.

The Court after elaborating upon the provisions concluded that there is no intent to restrict the exclusion or the provision regarding non-application of the levy or non-application of the charging section to only Government premises or premises belonging to local bodies. The services in the field of health, education etc. run by local bodies or by institutions like the petitioners would equally be covered by the exclusionary clause or non-application of the charging section.

The reason, which found favour with the Court was:

” ………. Today we have a changed scenario. Post liberalisation, privatisation era, we have enormous presence of private sector in several fields. The service sector is now dominated by private entities. It has now been understood and as a matter of policy measure that it is impossible to reach out to a large section of our population and render all services to it. The Government has itself allowed the participation of the private sector and we have several services rendered by adopting PPP method. This means, Public Private Participation Method. The private sector has joined the Government or the public bodies, including local authorities in providing varied services which are essential for the public. Now, there is an increasing trend of handing over administration of public hospitals as well to charitable trusts and organisations. There is also encouragement provided to the private sector to independently enter the field of these services. In this field, the public services, which were hitherto provided only by the Government, public bodies and local authorities, are now either provided in the PPP method or by exclusive permission granted to the private sector to provide it. This may be done additionally. Therefore, it will not be proper to hold, as is suggested by the learned Advocate General, that it is only the educational, health, public services, which are provided either wholly or as a part of a system run by the local bodies constituted by any law for the time being in force in the State of Maharashtra, which are covered by the exclusionary provision or non-application of the charging section.”

The Court thus finally held that as the word “public” does not precede the words school or college or institution imparting education or training, students’ hostels, hospitals, nursing homes, dispensaries, clinics etc. in the new law, it allowed the Petition and quashed the Government Circular levying the electricity duty on the energy consumed.

The Petitioner was represented though Shri Milind Sathe, Senior Counsel and Gaurav Srivastava, Advocate. Shri Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, Advocate General argued on behalf of the State. The Judgement of the Court was delivered through bench of Hon’ble Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Hon’ble Justice M S Karnik.

High Court declares 100% weightage to viva-voce for M.Phil./Ph.D. admission as arbitrary, unconstitutional says more weightage to written examination

The Delhi High Court in a landmark Judgement has declared that UGC Regulations in so far as it permits filling of M.Phil./Ph.D. entirely on the basis of cent percent evaluation of performance in the viva voce process is arbitrary. However, it has refused to interfere with the issue of supervisor researcher/student ratio and has held the prescribed ratio to be valid.

The Petitioner, had alleged that the UGC 2016 Regulations permits that 100% weightage is given to viva voce assessment and makes the written examination as a mere qualifying process which means that the candidate whose eligibility on account of passing or clearing the examination, (for attempting which the candidate must obtain at least 55% marks) would be of no avail. It submitted that the lack of or in the absence of any credit given to the core performance in the written examination – which is part of the qualifying process for selection, and the complete and exclusive weightage given for interview and viva voce is disproportionate and unreasonable.

The Petitioners had also challenged the new norm whereby professors, associate professors and assistant professors cannot guide more than a specified number of candidates. In specific challenge to the admission process of Jawahar Lal Nehru University admission process, it was contended that no relaxation of marks in the “qualifying exam” to the candidates of reserved category, thus keeping them at par with that General Category (i.e. the unreserved category), effectively restricting them at the entry level itself, defeats the objectives of the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2006 as well as the CEI Act.

UGC defended the 2016 Regulations as reasonable and argued that it accords to weightage at each and every stage for admission process to a candidate on merit and performance. It was pointed out that at the first level to determine eligibility, the candidate should possess minimum marks (with some concession to SC/ST candidates) followed up with a written qualifying test which evaluates the student in the particular subject as well in his/her research capabilities is necessary. It is only if the student qualifies the examination, he or she is called for interview and based upon the power point presentation made in the course of the interaction and assessment (viva-voce) the decision whether to admit a particular candidate or not admit is taken. This procedure has been prescribed to maintain the quality and to check the mushrooming of substandard research degree.

It was also argued in defence that unlike in the case of normal  courses such as entry level courses at the under graduate level, those who wish to join M.Phil/Ph.D have to display high degree of not only proficiency and familiarity in the subject but also the ability to think originally and creatively and hence no fault can be found with the Regulations.

The Court noted that Admission is by a two-stage process, wherein first the candidate has to qualify (secure at least 50%) in a written test that evaluates her knowledge and aptitude by testing research method and knowledge in the subject (both of equal value 50% each). The candidate is declared successful entirely based on the performance in viva voce. Here again, the interview board or selection board is not obliged to indicate any sub division towards knowledge of the candidate, her aptitude, ability to communicate, evaluate the power point presentation, etc. Nor are the marks scored by the candidate in the written exam given any weightage.

The Court felt that “the entire weightage to performance of a candidate in the interview, or viva voce, based on the evaluation of the “power point” presentation affords the widest latitude to arbitrary and capricious behaviour of the members of the board, who know that the fate of admission hangs in their hands. Discretion, wherever allowed, is to be minimized; more so when it concerns admission to academic institutions.”

The Court noted that a candidate having cleared the qualifying examination, the candidate is evaluated by a panel. Members of this panel are allowed the widest discretion; no separate marking or evaluation by each appears to be mandated; (no weightage is given to marks in the written test). Whereas one- of the panel, may be objective, the others might give full reign to their prejudices, – regional, caste, sectarian or as to all those extraneous factors, which are proscribed as arbitrary.

The Court also pointed out drawbacks and deficiencies in the oral interview test and the conditions prevailing in the country, held that allocation of as high a percentage of the total marks for the oral interview as infecting the admission procedure with the vice of arbitrariness and selection of candidates made on the basis of such admission procedure cannot be sustained.

As regards the second issue of absence of any concession to reserved category candidates – SC/ST/OBC in the qualifying examination goes, this Court notices that the eligibility criteria lowers the acceptable minimum from 55% in the case of M.Phil./Ph.D. aspirants respectively, the concession is to the extent of 5% inasmuch as certain reserved category candidates can compete in the qualifying examination though they possess lower than the minimum cut-off of 55%.

The Court considering the prescribed pattern of admission and the procedure adopted where 100% or entire weightage is given to the interview process, the Court felt that there is a possibility of bias and also adverse impact to SC/ST and other reserved category candidates as palpable and real. Having regard to these facts, the Court is of the opinion that the JNU and UGC ought to have worked out a criteria to give some concession to SC/ST category candidates – and to the extent permissible under the Rules, to the OBC category candidates. The same considerations would also apply to persons with disabilities (PWD) candidates for whom a 5% reservation is statutorily mandated.

On the last issue of fixation of a cap on a number of students that the faculty at the level of Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor can supervise, at any given point of time, the Court felt that it cannot be a matter of judicial review. The Court observed that it should remain within the expertise of regulatory bodies such as UGC.

The Court finally held as follows:

(1) That Regulation 5.4 of the UGC Regulations in so far as it permits filling of M.Phil./Ph.D. entirely on the basis of cent percent evaluation of performance in the viva voce process is arbitrary. The said regulation is, therefore, declared void and contrary to Article 14;

(2) The absence of any concession with respect to the minimum qualifying marks in the written test, in the UGC Regulations of 2016 to  Page 35 of 35 reserved category candidates (SC/ST/OBC) and physically disabled candidates is also without proper application of mind. Appropriate concession is to be given by the UGC and the JNU, taking into account the seats filled, having regard to the implementation of the regulations in the last two academic years;

(3) The JNU is directed to take suitable review action to ensure that in any given academic year, no M.Phil./Ph.D. seat is left unfilled. It is also held that the UGC guidelines of 2016 in so far as they prescribe the supervisor researcher/student ratio is valid.

The Petition was disposed with this directions.

EduLegaL View:

Interview or viva is basically test of personality of a person. In case of employment prescribing a higher percentage, personal characteristics and traits are extremely relevant for the purpose of selection is permissible. However, In the case of admission, the candidates are still in developing stages, their personality is yet to develop, and hence personality test may be a pre-mature selection parameter.

In my view, in the admission process greater weight has be given to performance in the written examination. Oral Examination is absolutely discretionary, a candidate is not given more than 4-5 times, then nerves of result is also there and considering all these importance to be attached to the interview-test must be minimal.

 

Ravi Bhardwaj | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulegal.org | www.edulaws.com

Read the Judgement:

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UGC relaxes mandatory NAAC accreditation for Universities in Distance Education Mode, also removes the admission restriction in study centre

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission by making 3rd Amendment in the ODL Regulations in less than 1 year, has relaxed the one of the most stringent parameter of NAAC Accreditation for Universities to impart education in Open and Distance Learning Mode.

In the year 2017, UGC had finally notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode. Thereafter under pressure from the Universities, it was compelled to defer its implementation by one year to 2018-19, else the Regulations as it stood, would have brought the distance education system in the country to a halt.

Later, due a challenge in Delhi High Court, it again the Regulations to continue the recognition of the Standalone Institutions, which it had arbitrarily sought to close down by the 2017 Regulations. 

Under the originally notified Regulations, a University, other than Open University could apply for recognition only if it had valid accreditation from NAAC and has completed five years of existence. Realizing that there was vagueness in the accreditation score, the Regulations was amended and vide Notification dated 06.02.2018, UGC specified that accreditation score with minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.26 on a 4 point scale, while retaining the five years of existence.

The requirement of NAAC and that too on a higher scale of 3.26 on a 4 point scale had eliminated lot of players from ODL Education and was also challenged in various High Courts. Though, I do not think, there was any successful challenge to that regulations.

However, UGC has now by Third Amendment Regulations 2018 has temporarily relaxed the the most stringent parameter of NAAC Accreditation for Universities to impart education in Open and Distance Learning Mode, allowing entry into the ODL Education but with a caveat to achieve the parameter before the end of academic session July 2019-June 2020. The Applicant University will have to submit Undertaking to this effect. If the NAAC score is not achieved then the approval may also go.

UGC has also amended some norms relating to the requirement of manpower in the learning support centres. Earlier the 2017 batted for 2-4 counsellors for theory papers of 4 credits, the 2018 norms say that the ratio of counsellor to students should be at 1:100 ratio.

In another relief to the ODL Universities, it has completely done away with the restriction on number of students admitted at Study Centre or Learner Support Centre. Earlier, it had prescribed that total number of learners admitted at any Study Centres or Learner Support Centres should not exceed
1000 at any time.

Post effecting the amendment, UGC has also now sought applications from the higher educational institutions for offering Open Distance Learning programmes. In a recent notice issued by Rajnish Jain, Secretary of the higher education watchdog, the UGC has said that post notification of the revised Regulations, the interested higher educational institutions can apply for offering such degrees through them.

It also added, “The online portal for submitting applications shall be opened from September 18, 2018 to October 5, 2018. The duly certified copies of the applications along with annexes shall reach to DEB office of the UGC at 35, Feroz Shah Road, New Delhi within 10 working days of submission of online application.”

EduLegaL View:

I do not whether, the amendment should be called, regressive or progressive. But the amendment can certainly be called “accommodative”. The Regulations in its present form was not doing any good to spread of distance education in the country. In fact, several old players were facing the heat. With this relaxation, the number of applicants will increase, which will certainly add to the spread of distance education.

Another restrictive clause, which requires consideration is the ‘minimum five year existence”. I do not find any reason in this clause. If a new University can impart education in technical education like engineering then why it need to wait for 5 years to start courses in ODL Mode. This criteria defies any rationale.

Ravi Bhardwaj | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulegal.org | www.edulaws.com

Read the UGC Notification:

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Now “Ease of Giving Examinations” HRD ministry finally establishes National Testing Agency, to conduct competitive exams

New Delhi: The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has finally established the National Testing Agency which will now have the of conducting national examination for Higher Education Institutions, which were until now conducted by other agencies like CBSE, AICTE and others.

Government of India, in pursuance of the budget announcement of 2017-18 and subsequent approval of the Union Cabinet, has registered the National Testing Agency (NTA) as a Society under the Societies (Registration) Act of 1960, which will be functioning as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation.

According to the order signed by Prashant Agrawal, Director (IITs) from the Ministry said that the NTA will conduct those examinations which are currently being conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education CBSE) as well as the CMAT and GPAT as entrusted earlier by the All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE) so that these agencies are relived of the responsibility of conducting these examinations and can focus on their core activities.

The NTA is now all set to hold the maiden examination of UGC-NET. The order of the ministry said, “The NTA will start with UGC-NET in December 2018 whereas other examinations will be taken up from 2019 onward. It will conduct the examinations in Computer Based Testing mode atleast twice a year, thereby giving adequate  opportunity to candidates to bring out their best.”

The Ministry said that to serve the requirements of rural students, it will locate examination centres at sub-district/district level and will provide hands-on training to the students. However the Ministry said that the NEET (UG) examination which is conducted for MBBS entrance would be conducted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

To assess competence of candidates for admissions and recruitment has always been a challenge in terms of matching with research based international standards, efficiency, transparency and error free delivery. The National Testing Agency is entrusted to address all such issues using best in every field, from test preparation, to test delivery andto test marking.

The objectives of the NTA, inter-alia, are conducting efficient, transparent tests designed in a scientific manner for assessing competence of students. It will train subject matter experts and prepare test items in collaboration with psychometricians to ensure that the tests are well balanced. NTA will adopt technology and the best global practices to bring in high reliability, transparency, and standardized difficulty levels for assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem-solving abilities of the students.

According to the ministry, the NTA will analyse data of previous tests and deliberate with subject matter experts for designing better question papers. NTA will be a self-sustained organization. However, in order to set up and start its operations, a provision of Rs 25 crore as one-time grant has been made.

As per rules and regulations of the NTA, the administrative structure of NTA includes its General Body which decides policy matters, will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by the Government of India and will comprise nominees from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs),
Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs), Central Universities (CUs) and experts from the field of testing as its Members.

EduLegaL View:

It is really a good initiative and breakthrough step. However, the problems with our exam systems are plenty, firstly leakage of question papers, until recently CBSE papers were leaked affecting the entire country, them the issue of transparency and accountability.

Most importantly, I feel that the examination pattern in the country requires a shift from present model to a scientific assessment. Many a times, in the present model, the aptitude and ability of a student gets lost and the number scored only becomes relevant, which has given boost to a parallel system of education in name of coaching. I hope NTA will be addressed these issues effectively.

Ravi Bhardwaj | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulegal.org | www.edulaws.com

 

AICTE incentive to teachers, Online Courses under MOOC to be considered as FDPs for promotion under CAS

New Delhi: The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has now in a major incentive to the teaching faculty has paved way for the faculty members teaching at the AICTE-approved institutions to improve their prospects of promotion under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) by opting for some certified online courses.

The nodal technical education body in a recent notice to the technical educations have told them that the AICTE and the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure the teachers can avail the facilities of online Faculty Development Programme (FDP) which could later be used as valid certificate courses to be evaluated for promotions under the CAS.

In a notice to the institutions, the AICTE signed by its adviser Dileep N Malkhende, the office said, “NPTEL and AICTE have signed an MoU whereby advanced certification courses of NPTEL are recognized as FDP by the AICTE. Every semester the list of courses eligible for FDP shall be made available by NPTEL’s Academic Council and published NPTEL’s website. Faculty members of institutions, appointed as per the AICTE Regulations for full time teaching and other academic activities can be benefited for these FDPs.”

AICTE has also proceeded to notify a Regulation, “All India Council for Technical Education Regulations, 2018 [Career Advancement Scheme] [Degree/Diploma]” and has given this step a statutory backing. By this Regulation, it has also modified the existing and old Regulations to lay down equivalence of the online courses to faculty development program, shall be considered for faculty promotions under CAS.’

NPTEL offers online basic and advanced level courses of different durations.  AICTE has also ensured quality check and monitoring by laying down detailed procedure. Interested faculty will have to first register with NPTEL and then opt for their choice of course. There will be regular assignment and in-person examination at the end.  Faculty members undertaking and completing such advanced courses sucessfully are only issued joint certification from NPTEL and the AICTE.

The 2018 AICTE Regulations claim that as the Massive Open Online Courses of NPTEL are not full time programmes like regular FDPs their equivalence to regular FDPs are calculated based on the number of weeks and hours of attending the courses. The regulations claim that a four-week NPTEL course of three lectures per week  consisting of 12 hours of engagement is equivalent to ½ FDP of one week whole the double amount will ensure full FDP of one week. Similarly if one attends 12 weeks of NPTEL course with 36 hours of engagement, he/she will earn equivalence of 1. 5 FDPs.

EduLegaL View:

Incentivising a teacher is like, giving incentive to the backbone of this country. Moreso, when other regulator has gone with laying down norms for online courses for students and awarding certificates and degrees, there was no reason, for teachers not be awarded this benefit.

This will also help teachers devote more time at campus and with the students and eventually boost the teaching quality and standards.

Ravi Bhardwaj | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulegal.org | www.edulaws.com

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Leaves of teachers not to affect API scores and promotions, clarifies UGC

By Edu LegaL News, New Delhi Bureau

New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) has now clarified that the potential teachers deemed to be promoted under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) would not need to worry about their leaves as those would not be considered for their promotion purposes.

In a recent notice issued by the higher education regulator, the UGC said that for calculating API scores, different kinds of leaves would not be considered and the teachers will be assessed only for their performance on the non-leave period. The notice was issued by the UGC Secretary Rajnish Jain.

In the notice, the UGC said, “For the purpose of calculating API score, all such periods of duration which have been spent by the teacher on different kinds of paid leaves such as Maternity Leave, Child Care Leave, Study Leave, Medical Leave, Extraordinary Leave and Deputation shall be excluded from the grading assessment.”

It also said, “The teacher shall be assessed for the remaining period of duration of the assessment period and the same shall be extrapolated for the entire period of assessment to arrive at the grading of the teacher.”

According to the UGC, the teacher who undergo for such leaves or deputation will not be put to any disadvantage for promotion under CAS due to their absence from their teaching responsibility. The only condition levied by the UGC is that such leave/deputation would have to be undertaken with the prior approval of the competent authority following all procedure laid down in UGC Regulations and as per the Acts, Statutes and Ordinances of the parent Institution.

The Commission said that to discuss the issue which was raised by many, UGC held a meeting on the issue on August 2 and after wider consultations reached to the conclusion to relax the possible advserse impact of leaves on the API score of the teachers desirous to be promoted as per the laws of the UGC.

The UGC said that the relaxations as mandated in the UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations 2018 should also be given for API score calculation of teachers governed by the UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2010.

EduLegaL View:

Leave is a matter of right of an employee and hence putting any kind of disadvantage to the employee for availing leave was obviously affecting the ‘right to livelihood’ of an employee, which has been declared to be a fundamental right by Supreme Court.

Nowadays Corporates have come up with very liberal policies for leave granting and availing of employees. Therefore, Education Sector cannot run in isolation and put a teacher to disadvantage for securing leave, which are prescribed under the Rules and Regulations.

Obviously and rightly so, the leave has to be sanctioned and authorised one, to bring sanctity to this process.

Ravi Bhardwaj | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulegal.org | www.edulaws.com

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UGC clarifies on equivalence of foreign PhD degrees; AIU certified will be exempted from NET

EduLegaL News, New Delhi: The University Grants Commission (UGC) after facing several queries on the issue of validity of PhD degrees earned through foreign university for admissions and recruitment in Indian institutions has now come forward with their clarification.

In a recent notice issued by the higher education regulator dated June 8 it has highlighted their decision taken in March this year over the issue. The UGC now claims that any foreign PhD degree that has been ratified by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) would be treated at par with the PhD degrees earned from Indian universities.

The lack of clarify often marred the recruitment of Assistant Professors in Indian universities who used to hold foreign PhD degrees. To allay the apprehensions of the teaching fraternity, the UGC now says that an AIU ratification of their degrees could be of help for the which can help them from exempting the NET for their recruitments.

In the notice issued on their website recently, the UGC said, “Any foreign PhD degree which is held equivalent by AIU by following its own procedure may also be treated valid for exemption from NET for appointment as Assistant Professor in Indian Universities and Colleges.”

It also added, “It is, therefore, clarified that the universities can use the above provision also for determining the validity of foreign PhD degrees for exemption from NET for appointment as Assistant Professor in Indian Universities/Colleges.”

The position earlier as per Clause 12 of University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil/PhD) Regulations, 2016 was that if the MPhil/PhD degree is awarded by a foreign university, the Indian institution considering such a degree shall refer the issue to a Standing Committee constituted by the concerned institution for the purpose of determining the equivalence of the degree awarded by the foreign University. This obviously led to vesting lot of discretion with the Institution. Instead the present clarification brings a standardisation.

Nevertheless, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on June 13 also announced in a press conference in New Delhi that PhD degrees would be made mandatory for the recruitment of teachers in Indian universities from 2021-22.

Ravi Bhardwaj | edulegal.org | edulaws.com | mail@edulegal.in

Supreme Court gives severe blow to Deemed Universities, stays admission without AICTE Approval

In a significant development, the Supreme Court has given a severe blow to the Deemed Universities and passed a restraining order staying admission in Deemed Universities without prior approval from the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

The Supreme Court vide its judgement in in case of Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp. Ltd. vs. Rabi Sankar Patro & Ors. [2017 (13) SCALE 148], while dealing with the issue of conducting of engineering courses in Distance Education mode, dealt with the aspect, as to whether, a Deemed to be University could start new courses in Engineering without the approval of AICTE.

The Supreme Court for that purpose, categorised the Deemed Universities, as

1] The first category could be of a Deemed to be University, which was conferred such status for its excellence in a field of technological subject, is now desirous of introducing courses or programmes integrally connected with the area- in respect of which it was conferred Deemed to be University status. For example, an Engineering College which because of its excellence in the field was conferred Deemed University status, now wishes to introduce courses in subjects like Robotics or Nano Technology which are Engineering subjects and integrally connected with its own field of excellence.

2] The second category could be of a Deemed to be University which was conferred such status for its excellence in subjects which are completely un-related to the field in which new courses are sought to be introduced. For example an Institution engaged in teaching Fine Arts and Music, for its excellence in that chosen field- or for that matter an institution engaged in teaching Law had been conferred such status.

Can such a Deemed to be University claim immunity from regulatory control of AICTE and say that it is entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses in Engineering on the strength of the decision of Supeme Court in Bharathidasan University Case.

UGC had argued that Deemed Universities in the second category mentioned above are not entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses leading to degrees in Engineering without the approval of AICTE.

The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that a Deemed to be University in the second category mentioned hereinabove is still an institution of the stature of a “technical institution” and if it desires to introduce new courses it must seek prior approval of AICTE.

Relying on the Judgement, AICTE in its handbook included Deemed Universities within its regulatory control and issued public notice to that effect. It also issued Public Notice to that effect.

Being aggrieved by the action of AICTE, the Deemed Universities in several states approached High Court of Madras, Rajasthan High Court, High Court of Punjab and High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, challenging the Public Notice of AICTE. Their main contention before the High Court was that the Judgement of the Supreme Court was related to Distance Education and had no applicability for regular courses.

In almost all the Writ Petitions filed by the different Deemed Universities, the High Courts were pleased to pass an order directing that AICTE will not take any coercive action, against the Petitioner Deemed Universities.

Considering the pendency of the matter in different High Courts in country, AICTE filed Transfer Petition in Supreme Court seeking a direction to transfer the pending writ petitions to the Delhi High Court. It also appears that the AICTE appearing Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh sought interim stay on admission as it was of the view that admission was against the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

On 23.03.2018, bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, R F Nariman and U U Lalit issued notice on the Transfer Petition and passed its order “In the meanwhile, there will stay on admissions without the approval of the AICTE.”

Next scheduled date in the matter is 11.05.2018.

EduLegaL View:

The order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court will have its impact across all states in view of the interim stay on admissions, requiring all deemed and deemed-to-be universities to seek approval of AICTE.

With all due respect to Supreme Court and being fully cognizant of the authority of the Supreme Court, I feel that passing such a blanket restraining order specially when admission session is in process, is bound to case huge damage to Deemed Universities.

Few Days ago, several Deemed Universities were granted autonomy from regulation and now this order nullifies the euphoria of autonomy, which was generated. Supreme Court itself had categorised the Deemed Universities in 2 categories to draw its conclusion and hence it would have been advisable to look into individual matter rather than a blanket order. It is bound to cause suspicion in the minds of the students.

Several Deemed Universities were having interim order in their favour, they ought to have been heard, before the protection was taken away. It would also have to be seen that what will be the next course of action by AICTE, because many Deemed Universities under the interim protection has not applied to AICTE and the deadline in any case for applying has expired. Further it also has to be seen as to whether this order will be applicable qua the Respondents or will apply in rem.

AICTE Act excludes Deemed Universities from its purview and hence carrying out a legislative amendment, AICTE had no authority to bring the Deemed Universities under its control.

Argument Continues!

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

Read Order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court:

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NAAC releases Guidelines, Questionnaire for Student Satisfaction Survey, makes it critical element in Accreditation

In the year 2017, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND ACCREDITATION COUNCIL (NAAC), an autonomous body established by UGC to assess and accredit institutions and the grade the Institute had revised its assessment and accreditation process. One of the major features of this revised process was seeking response / feedback from the students about the information submitted by the Institutes and then giving weightage to the student’s response. Now NAAC has released detailed guidelines and also the questionnaire relating to the student satisfaction survey.

In this Survey during the process of Accreditation, students would be required to Questions, which would vary from specific teaching skills of the teacher, to his overall approach to the educational process. Specific skills of the teacher like, subject knowledge, communication skills, class preparation, Fairness of the internal evaluation process and use of ICT tools are part of the questionnaire. The overall approach of the teacher and institution with respect to providing the right environment, opportunity for growth, motivation, interpersonal relationships, feedback etc. forms the second major component of the questionnaire.

There are twenty objective questions in the questionnaire and one open ended question, question is open ended to elicit observations and suggestions for improvements providing an opportunity to the student to give suggestions and criticisms in their own words. Students will respond on a scale of 4 to 0, with the most positive response rated as 4 and most negative response rated as 0. The mean score for each question will be calculated and the overall mean will be arrived at. This figure will range from 4 to 0 and will give the mean satisfaction level of the students for the particular institute.

The institution is supposed to send a list of total student strength, with details of their student ID number, Aadhaar ID number (Any other Valid ID No. in the absence of Aadhaar), degree programme, email id and mobile number. NAAC will send online link to the survey to the email address/mobile no of the student, and the student will have to fill the survey before a stipulated date.

Curiously, for the purpose of conducting survey, a stratified random sample of students will be chosen. Response rate below 10% will not be considered. In sample, students would be spread evenly across different classes, year of enrolment and gender as far as possible.

The survey analysis score will be used as a key component of accreditation. The institution, teachers; have been warned by NAAC not to influence the students with respect to the survey and ensure that the process is genuine feedback for the institute.

EduLegaL View:

Globally, Student Satisfaction Survey (SSS) is administered annually to determine all students’ level of satisfaction with various student support areas and services. In India, though it has been done at informal level, this is the first time that it has been made part of accreditation process and also being given pre-determined weightage. This also is a great attempt to give voice to the students, the important stakeholder in the system.

I have my huge doubts on the methodology of the sampling and response rate of 10 % and above to be adequate for benchmarking the Institute. This size of sampling is never going to give accurate data and will eventually not support the manifestation of this idea.

Further, if it is to be done during the accreditation, then it means it will miss many batches of 2 years course, and thus missing a substantial size of stakeholders. To bring more consistency and meaning into this process, it should be conducted annually. But it should also not become a strategic tool in the hands of the students.

Ravi Bhardwaj | www.edulaws.com | www.edulegal.org | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

View the Questionnaire:

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Now, AICTE will regulate distance education programmes of Standalone Institutions

Standalone Institutions, which have been offering programme in distance education programmes for over 2 decades now, have seen see-saw of their fate in last 1 year. Starting with threat of closure under the UGC Regulations, 2017, then revived by a Court Order and now been shifted from UGC to AICTE, which is yet to frame any regulation, they have seen it all. But atleast they have a regulator now.

UGC had last year in June 2017, notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode.

Regressively, the Regulations dealt a big blow to the Standalone Institutions. Regulation 19[2] of the UGC Regulations prescribed that the Standalone Institutions cannot admit students beyond the academic year 2016-17, which meant they were asked to shut down. Else they were asked to convert themselves to Universities.

However, some of the standalone Institutions challenged the legality and validity of the Regulation 19[2] of the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017 interalia seeking interim relief that they should be allowed to continue admitting students for the academic year 2017-18. It was prayed to the Court that it should direct Government of India and UGC to consider constituting, Distance Educational Council of India, which was recommended by the Madhav Menon Committee.

The High Court after hearing the Petitioners, allowed the Interim Relief of the Standalone Institutions and permitted them to admit students for the academic year 2017-18. The Respondent Government of India and UGC during the hearing also informed the Court that they are considering to amend the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017.  In terms of submissions made before the High Court, UGC has notified the University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2017, thereby amending the Regulation 19[2] to give effect to the order of the Hon’ble High Court.

However, now it has transpired that UGC has taken a stand that it cannot govern and regulate the Standalone Institutions, as it regulatory spread is limited to Universities. Considering this and the piquant situation of their 2 decades of existence, AICTE has been vested with the power to regulate the Standalone Institutions and also to frame regulations for conducting open and distance learning programmes by Standalone Institutions.

AICTE, after being vested so, discussed the issue in detail in its 112th Meeting of Executive Committee held on 22.01.2018 and it was decided to collect information from all the concerned standalone Institutions, to facilitate the Council to provide approval for the Academic Year 2018-19, and also for framing of appropriate Regulations, keeping in view objectives of the proposed ODL Regulations, vis-à-vis the needs of such Institution imparting distance learning and also the aspirations of the learning community in ODL Mode.

AICTE has sought details of programme being conducted under the distance education mode, prior approvals by UGC, mode of conducting the programme, mode of examination, details of faculty etc.

AICTE has therefore written to the standalone Institutions seeking information by 15.02.2018.

EduLegaL View:

From the brink of closure to have a new regulator, Standalone Institution has come a long way in pursuit of their survival in last 1 year and the Government needs to be complimented for the same.

However, as we all know, AICTE covers the spectrum of “technical education” only and hence it will not be in a position to grant approval, which are beyond the definition of “technical education”. Many of these standalone Institutions have courses running diploma programme in different subjects of law, humanities, arts, so what happens to those courses? Will they again meet the threat of closure.

An effective solution is to create a Distance Education Council of India, which will regulate the entire Open and Distance Learning System, rather being split between UGC and AICTE, for different subject, the former regulating the Universities and the latter regulating the Standalone Institutions. Such situation also leads to anomalies in matters of policy decision.

The argument will continue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulaws.com

Supreme Court recalls the suspension order in Distance Education Engineering Degree Case, excludes Diploma Holders from AICTE Process

The Supreme has recalled its earlier order suspending all the Engineering Degrees acquired in distance education mode until the declaration of the result and has also excluded the Diploma Holders from the AICTE Examination / revalidation process. Earlier, in Judgement dated 03.11.2017, the Supreme Court had suspended all the Distance Education Degree for the students enrolled between 2001-2005 and for students enrolled thereafter, the degrees were rendered illegal and invalid.

However, Supreme Court was later approached with several application seeking clarification and modification of directions issued in its Judgment and Order dated 03.11.2017.

The various categories of the Candidates, who has approached Supreme Court seeking clarification were:

A] Those who were holding diplomas in Engineering, enrolled in courses leading to award of B.Tech degree through distance learning mode or have acquired Graduate Degree from Distance Learning Mode. Later, on the basis of these degrees underwent selection by Union Public Service Commission or any other statutory corporation and entered certain services and are presently engaged in the service on the basis of such selection by UPSC / statutory corporation. Some applicants were also those who have joined Private Sector, Corporate Sector or are in foreign countries.

B] The students though completed B.Tech courses in Computer Science through distance education mode in 2004 but instructions were imparted in ITM International and they were awarded degrees by Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Deemed to be University. Later they acquired degrees in M.Tech and other qualifications based on such B.Tech degree and have thereafter advanced in career.

C] The candidates had acquired first degrees in Engineering from a regular and approved Institution and as such their first degrees are not invalid or irregular on any count. However, these candidates had later acquired Master’s degrees in Engineering from Deemed to be Universities through distance education mode.

D] Those who were awarded diplomas in Engineering through distance education mode by the concerned Deemed to be Universities.

E] Those who had enrolled themselves in courses offered by Vinayaka Missions Research Foundation (VMRF) through distance education mode, which was granted Deemed to be University status for its excellence in subjects including engineering and technology unlike other Deemed to be Universities.

It was generally argued by the Counsels that an exception be made in favour of such candidates whose qualifications were independently considered by an authority such as UPSC and were selected through competitive selection process.

Mr. Kapil Sibal, learned Senior Advocate argued that in the main judgement, Court was principally concerned with first degrees in engineering which were acquired through distance education mode and not the Master’s degrees.

Mr. Dhruv Mehta, learned Senior Advocate argued that this Court was concerned with courses leading to degrees of Engineering and not to diplomas and as such rigor of the Judgment ought not to apply to pure and simply diploma holders. He therefore contended that the public notice issued by AICTE was beyond the scope of the matter.

Mr. Anupam Lal Das, learned Advocate submitted that VMRF was granted Deemed to be University status for its excellence in subjects including engineering and technology and therefore the case of VMRF stood on a different footing and the courses offered by VMRF were not in any way found to be on the wrong side.

One of the most important argument was regarding suspension of Degrees till the results are declared by AICTE, through an examination, which was to be conducted as per the direction of the Supreme Court. It was argued that may result in loss of job for candidates, who had independently undergone fresh selection and were directly appointed and even if they were to successfully pass the test conducted by AICTE, restoration of their original position and jobs would itself become a difficult proposition.

The Supreme Court while heard the matter at length on 08.01.2018 and the Judgement was pronounced on 22.01.2018.

The Supreme Court noted that earlier judgment pertained to validity of degrees in Engineering conferred by the Deemed to be Universities through distance education mode and this Court was not called upon to consider validity of diplomas conferred by such Deemed to be Universities. However the advertisement issued by AICTE covers diploma courses as well. The Court therefore validity of such courses leading to diplomas was not the subject matter of the judgment.

However, on the issue of having higher qualification on basis of such distance education degrees, the Court rejected the argument all such degrees whether post-graduate or graduate, were invalid and no distinction can be drawn.

The Supreme Court also considered the point that the candidates after securing the degrees in Engineering through distance education mode, have advanced in career and that their ability was tested at various levels and as such requirement of passing the examination in terms of the judgment be dispensed with in their case, however refused to make any exception in that case.

However, Supreme Court found some force in submission that if the suspension of their degrees and all advantages were to apply as indicated in the judgment, the concerned candidates may lose their jobs and even if they were to successfully pass the test, restoration of their jobs and present position would pose some difficulty and therefore granted a one-time relaxation in favour of those candidates who were enrolled during the academic years 2001-2005 and who, in terms of the judgment, are eligible to appear at the test to be conducted by AICTE.

The Court said that all such candidates, who wish to appear at the forthcoming test to be conducted by AICTE in May-June 2018 and who exercise option to appear at the test in terms of the judgment, can retain the degrees in question and all the advantages flowing therefrom till one month after the declaration of the result of such test or till 31.07.2018 whichever is earlier, however, at the same time clarified that if they fail or choose not to appear, the directions in the judgment shall apply, in that the degrees and all advantages shall stand suspended and withdrawn.

EduLegaL View:

Though it is great to see that Supreme Court has re-considered the aspect of suspension of the degrees, which is one of the positive of the Judgement, which means that Degrees will remain until the declaration of the result.

But I am mainly concerned with the students, who enrolled after 2005. If their degree was illegal, then certainly the degree for students who enrolled uptil 2005, were also acquired on grant of ex-post facto approvals, which was also against the law. Their case should also have been considered sympathetically. With all respect, while agreeing with the interpretation done by the Court “accommodative justice” should have been rendered in this case and not “adjudicative justice”.

In any case, now the argument cannot continue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | www.edulaws.com | www.edulegal.org

Read the Judgement:

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Hear affected parents, students before allowing raise in fees: Supreme Court directs Maharashtra Fee Regulating Authority

The Supreme Court in a breakthrough Judgement has directed the Maharashtra Fee Regulating Authority to hear all the concerned parties before allowing raise in the fees of a private Educational Institution.

The Supreme Court was considering:

Whether there should be a mechanism for hearing the affected students by the Fee Regulating Authority constituted under Section 11 of the Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions(Regulation of Admissions and Fees) Act, 2015.

The Fee Regulating Authority has been established under the provisions of the Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act, 2015). The purpose of establishing the said Committee is to ensure that the private Management does not resort to charging exorbitant fees from the students and indulging into undue profitary. The Fees Regulating Authority is constituted under Sub-Section 3 of Section 11 of the said Act.

The Petitioner, before the Supreme Court were also the unsuccessful Petitioners before the Bombay High Court. They had challenged, the order of the Regulating Authority vide which the fees payable by the petitioner were accepted for the academic year 2016-17 for M.B.B.S. Course at Rs.5,00,000/- p.a. and by subsequent order dated 4th May, 2017 fixed the fees at the rate of Rs.7,25,000/- per year.

The petitioners were admitted in the second batch of the concerned Medical College i.e. for Academic Year 2016-17. It appears that, at the time of admission, the fees payable by the students was yet to be determined and as such, the College initially asked the students to deposit an amount of Rs.4,09,000/-. However, all the students were put on notice that, the said fees was not final and the fees, as determined by the College would have to be paid by the students. Accordingly, an Undertaking of the students, as well as, their parents on an Affidavit before the Executive Magistrate was also taken on record

Subsequently the Fee Regulating Authority determined the fees payable at the rate of Rs.5,00,000/- per student. However, the College, finding that the determination of fees was not taking into consideration various factors, filed an application for review, which was allowed and the fees payable was determined at the rate of Rs.7,25,000/-.

The Committee comprises of a retired Judge, an eminent educationist, a Chartered Accountant, a Cost Accountant, an expert in the field of professional education, Registrar of the University, Director(Technical Education), Director(Higher Education), Member Secretary of Maharashtra Council of Agricultural Education and Research and an Officer of the State Government not below the rank of the Joint Secretary.

Being aggrieved, the students complained before the Authority that the number of faculties as shown were not available, expenditure as shown by respondent no.3 was not the actual expenditure.

Accordingly a fact finding Committee came to be appointed which inspected the College, its record and came to the conclusion that, there was no substance in the allegations of the petitioners.

Being aggrieved by the fixation of fees at the rate of Rs.5,00,000/- initially and thereafter Rs.7,25,000/-, the petitioners approached Bombay High Court.

The Bombay High Court taking cognizance of the provisions of the Act and Affidavit filed by the Fee Regulating Authority, came to the conclusion that procedure followed by the Authority cannot be faulted with. The Court also noted that students well aware that, the final fees would be determined later by the College and they would be required to pay the fees as determined then and they had given an Undertaking on an Affidavit to that effect. Resultantly, the Petition was dismissed.

During the course of arguments, the Supreme Court was shown the Minutes of the Committee wherein it has observed that the members of the Committee interacted with the faculty and the students, apart from examining the books of account and the physical infrastructure of the Colleges, before approving the fee structure.

However, the Supreme Court took a view that the Committee ought to evolve a mechanism by which,

1] All the affected students are put to notice through the notice board of the concerned institutions; and 

2] Fix a particular date on which any aggrieved person can be heard by the Committee and/or present his or her view point by way of a representation.

This may be done forthwith prospectively. The Committee would be free to consider whatever issues are raised, and in particular, whether change of denominator every year should have bearing on the fee structure to be devised.

The Supreme Court however, refused to interfere with the order of the Bombay High Court and disposed the Petition.

EduLegaL View:

The Supreme Court no doubt has meaningfully compounded the object of the Act by allowing participation of the students and all the aggrieved persons, which would obviously include parents in the fee fixation process, which is a great step. In any case it is a fundamental right that an affected person has to be heard, which is guaranteed by Article 21 of Constitution of India and known “right to natural justice”.

However, such empowerment has to be exercised in a fruitful and meaningful matter and should not become cause of confrontation between the College and parents. “Reasonable surplus” has been an accepted theory by Supreme Court as well. However, the issue arises when different definition and denomination are being attached to the expression “reasonable”, which obviously is relative, and different for a parent and a Institution.

One of the reformative step, which Government should take to make this Act more effective is liberate the education sector from GST, in terms of services, which are availed for providing services to the students, this will obviously bring down the cost.

Argument Continues !

Ravi Bhardwaj | www.edulegal.org |www.edulaws.com| ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

Read the Judgement of Supreme Court:

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AICTE mandates Deemed and Private Universities to seek AICTE approval for existing Courses, goes beyond the Supreme Court Order

AICTE has now expanded its reach from Institutions to the Universities, pertinently Deemed and Private Universities and mandated them to seek its approval for for all their existing Technical Programme(s) and Course(s). This provisions has been made mandatory in the AICTE Approval Process Handbook for the academic year 2018-19,

In 1994 AICTE had introduced Regulations to say, “no courses or programmes shall be introduced by any Technical Institution, University including a Deemed University or University Department on College except with the approval of the Council”. However, later Supreme Court in case of Bharathidasan University and Another v. All India Council for Technical Education and Others declared said Regulation to the extent it required a University to have approval for introducing any courses or programmes in technical education, to be bad. However, they were required to conform to the standards and norms laid down by AICTE for the purpose of ensuring coordinated and integrated development of technical education and maintenance of standards.

1.3.5      Institutions Deemed to be University/ Private University seeking approval for the first time from AICTE shall submit an application as a new Technical Institution for all their existing Technical Programme(s) and Course(s). Institution Deemed to be University having multiple campuses should apply separately for each campus for approval.

The Supreme Court recently in case of Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp. Ltd. vs. Rabi Sankar Patro & Ors. [2017 (13) SCALE 148], while dealing with the issue of conducting of engineering courses in Distance Education mode, also  discussed the Bharathidasan Judgement, and dealt with the aspect, as to whether, a Deemed to be University is also entitled to the same protection, as is to a University, established under a State Law, i.e., to start new courses in Engineering without the approval of AICTE.

The Supreme Court for that purpose, categorised the Deemed Universities, as

1] The first category could be of a Deemed to be University, which was conferred such status for its excellence in a field of technological subject, is now desirous of introducing courses or programmes integrally connected with the area- in respect of which it was conferred Deemed to be University status. For example, an Engineering College which because of its excellence in the field was conferred Deemed University status, now wishes to introduce courses in subjects like Robotics or Nano Technology which are Engineering subjects and integrally connected with its own field of excellence.

2] The second category could be of a Deemed to be University which was conferred such status for its excellence in subjects which are completely un-related to the field in which new courses are sought to be introduced. For example an Institution engaged in teaching Fine Arts and Music, for its excellence in that chosen field- or for that matter an institution engaged in teaching Law had been conferred such status. Can such a Deemed to be University claim immunity from regulatory control of AICTE and say that it is entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses in Engineering on the strength of the decision of this Court in Bharathidasan.

UGC had argued that Deemed Universities in the second category mentioned above are not entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses leading to degrees in Engineering without the approval of AICTE. It was also argued that, the conferral of status is only because of excellence in a particular field or subject which then entitles the Deemed to be University to utilise its excellence to conduct research and achieve advancement in that field. However merely because such status was conferred on the concerned institution, in his submission, would not entitle it to similar protection in the second category cases, as available to a University by virtue of the decision of this Court in Bharathidasan Case.

The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that a Deemed to be University in the second category mentioned hereinabove is still an institution of the stature of a “technical institution” and if it desires to introduce new courses it must fulfill the requirements of 1994 AICTE Regulations. A Deemed to be University which has achieved excellence in a particular field may be given deferential treatment but nonetheless it has to satisfy the requirements for new technical institution.

It seems that the decision of AICTE is based on the Judgement of the Supreme Court and now all the  Deemed and Private Universities will now have to seek approval of their existing programme who are first time applicant.

“Programme” means the field of Technical Education, i.e. Engineering and Technology, Pharmacy, Architecture, Planning, Applied Arts and Crafts, Hotel Management and Catering Technology, MCA, Management (MBA/ PGDM/ PGCM)

The new direction of AICTE will now apply to 123 deemed universities across the country and 282 private universities that are currently functioning in various States.

EduLegaL View:

There are many questions arising out of this prescription,

Firstly, the case of the Supreme Court was only relating to Deemed Universities, then why has AICTE made the process of approval also necessary for Private Universities, which are established under the State Law? Has AICTE gone beyond the order of the Supreme Court? Is it not a case of over-reach of statutory powers?

Secondly, in respect of the Deemed Universities also, is it necessary for the second category Deemed Universities or for all, in either case, is it only for the new courses to be introduced or for all earlier courses also.

All needs clarity, as this will lead to another litigation.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

Read More:

Major setback for Deemed Universities, Supreme Court refuses to re-consider its dropping the University word direction, dismisses modification application

Upon direction of SC, UGC directs the Deemed Universities not to use the “University”, threatens action in case of non-compliance

Deemed Universities cannot use the word “University”: SC, ask UGC to implement the direction within 1 month

 

 

 

 

 

 

SC directs strict implementation of reservation for differently abled students in Institutions, issues directions to provide equal opportunity for movement, learning and pedagogy

The Supreme Court has while hearing a Writ Petition passed strict directions for implementation of reservation for differently abled students for admission to Higher Education Institutes in the Country.

The Supreme Court was hearing a Petition involving multiple issues relating to differently abled students, viz., non-implementation of reservation of seats in educational institutions, to provide proper access to orthopaedic disabled persons so that they are able to freely move in the educational institution and access the facilities and third was the issue pertaining to pedagogy i.e. making adequate provisions and facilities of teaching for disabled persons, depending upon the nature of their disability, to enable them to undertake their studies effectively.

We may add that a basic underline assumption, which is well recognised, is that everyone can learn; there is no such person as one who is ineducable; and that, accordingly, all disabled persons (from whatever disability they are suffering) have right to get not only minimum education but higher education as well. Not making adequate provisions to facilitate proper education to such persons, therefore, would amount to discrimination.

Interpreting under Section 32 of the Disabilities Act, 2016 to be mandatory, the Supreme Court has directed that all Government institutions of higher education and other higher education institutions receiving aid from the Government shall reserve not less than five per cent seats for persons with benchmark disabilities while making admission of students in educational courses of higher education each year. The Institutions have also been directed to submit list of the number of disabled persons admitted in each course every year to the Chief Commissioner and/or the State Commissioner (as the case may be), who shall verify as to whether these educational institutions have fulfilled the aforesaid obligation. The Apex Court has also clarified that appropriate consequential action shall be initiated against defaulting institutions.

 

The Court also felt that to ensure the level playing field, it is not only essential to give necessary education to the persons suffering from the disability, it is also imperative to see that such education is imparted to them in a fruitful manner, which can be achieved only if there is proper accessibility to the buildings where the educational institution is housed as well as to other facilities in the said building, namely, class rooms, library, bathrooms etc.

 

A lawyer can be just as effective in a wheelchair, as long as she has access to the courtroom and the legal library, as well as to whatever other places and material or equipment that are necessary for her to do her job well. A person who can’t hear can be a master carpenter or the head of a chemistry lab, if he can communicate with clients and assistants. A person with mental illness can nonetheless be a brilliant scholar or theorist.

The Supreme Court noted that UGC has specifically made provisions concerning ‘schemes for persons with disabilities’, in respect of Higher Education for Persons with Special Needs (HEPSN).

The Petitioner had also made lot of suggestions to improve the infrastructure, for the students. The SC considered those suggestions and ruled that insofar as suggestions given by the petitioner in the form of “Guidelines for Accessibility for Students with Disabilities in Universities/Colleges” are concerned, the UGC shall consider the feasibility thereof by constituting a Committee in this behalf. In this Committee, the UGC would be free to include persons from amongst Central Advisory Board, State Advisory Boards, Chief Commissioner of State Commissioners appointed under the Disabilities Act. This Committee shall undertake a detailed study for making provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy and would also suggest the modalities for implementing those suggestions, their funding and monitoring, etc. The Committee shall also lay down the time limits within which such suggestions could be implemented. The Expert Committee may also consider feasibility of constituting an in-house body in each educational institution (of teachers, staff, students and parents) for taking care of day to day needs of differently abled persons as well as for implementation of the Schemes that would be devised by the Expert Committee.

The Supreme Court has fixed deadline of June 30, 2018 for effecting better and accessible provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy for differently abled students.

EduLegaL View:

This judgement gives an insight into the affairs of our country. Firstly, a law is made, then an authority is created to enforce the law, as has happened in numerous case, a Public Interest Litigation or a Writ Petition is filed complaining of non-compliance of the law and seeking judicial directions to enforce the law. Then the Supreme Court passes directions for enforcement of law.

This is really not done. Why can’t we be self-disciplined and self-regulated in matters of social sensitivities and equal opportunity, instead Courts trying to tell us our obligations.

Read the Judgement:

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AICTE releases norms and standards for Management Education by PGDM Institutions, grants autonomy to frame curriculum

AICTE has notified All India Council for Technical Education (Norms and Standards for the conduct of Post Graduate Diploma in Management) Regulations, 2017 to properly regulate and enhance the quality of management education imparted in institutions who are offering Post Graduate Diploma Programmes in Management (PGDM).

These Regulations, broadly lay down norms and standards regarding academic calendar, admission, model curriculum and fee refund be spelt out precisely through regulation.

Most importantly, PGDM Institutions have been given autonomy to may devise their own curriculum for PGDM Programmes, however it shall be in conformity with the Model curriculum framed by AICTE and they shall incorporate significant part of academic components in their curriculum. The institutes have been asked to constitute Board of Governors (BOG) for ensuring the effective management of the institutions and planning strategy for future development.

The minimum duration of the programme shall not be less than 21 months, wherein the admission shall be started from 1st March and end by 30th June every year.

Most importantly, admissions to PGDM Institutions shall be made only from the candidates qualified from anyone of the six All India tests i.e.; CAT, XAT, CMAT, ATMA, MAT, GMAT or state level entrance examination. The candidates shall be short listed on the basis of the overall rank computed taking into account of the following components and their weights:

  • Score in the Common Admission test (CAT, XAT, CMAT, ATMA, MAT, GMAT) – 35 to 60%
  • Score for academic performance in X Std., XII Std., Under Graduate Degree/Post Graduate Degree – 5 to 25%
  • Group discussion/interview – 20 to 45%
  • Weightage for participation in Sports, Extra-curricular activities, Academic diversity and Gender diversity – 5 to 20%

The Institutes have been directed to display on the institution’s website the eligibility criteria, selection procedure and the merit list of the candidates who have applied for the programme and also to ensure that selection of the candidates shall be strictly on the basis of merit only. PGDM Institutions shall publish admission brochure well before the admission process is initiated.

The Institutions are also required to publish the fee being charged on their web-site and in admission brochure. The Institute shall refund fees collected after deducting an amount Rs. 1000/- as processing fee and return the certificates to the students withdrawing from the institutions before the last date of admission for whatever the reasons as per the procedure prescribed by AICTE. The last date for withdrawal of admissions for the purpose of refund of fees shall be 30th June every year.

EduLegaL View:

The Notification is a welcome step, as it grants some autonomy to the PGDM Institutes to frame their own curriculum. However, it is surprising to find that it has continued with its approach to deny the Institutes the right to admit students of its own choice and also to fix parameters for selection of students in the Institutes.

Many a time, a candidate after having some work experience desires to do some value addition and joins Management Education.  It has considered all the aspects to determine eligibility and prescribe weightage, however, surprisingly, it has not given any weightage to work experience.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

 

 

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AICTE starts registration for Distance Education Engineering Graduates enrolled between 2001-2005, include Diplomas / PG Diploma Holders, also

The Supreme Court while answering the question “Whether the concerned Deemed to be Universities in the present case, could start courses through distance education in subjects leading to award of degrees in Engineering – a) Without any parameters or Guidelines having been laid down by AICTE for conduct of such courses in technical education through distance education mode. b) Without prior approval under the AICTE Act” had ruled that the Deemed to be Universities in the present matter were not justified in introducing any new courses in Technical Education without the approval of AICTE.

It also set-aside the ex post facto approvals granted by UGC and their concerned authorities to the concerned Deemed Universities during the Academic Sessions 2001-2005 and declared that the degrees in Engineering awarded by concerned Deemed to be Universities to such students shall stand suspended.

However, giving life to the students affected by suspension, it directed AICTE to devise the modalities by 15.01.2018 to conduct an appropriate test/tests for the concerned students whose degrees stand suspended. It also allowed students to have two chances to succeed in the proposed entrance exam, failing which their degrees will get cancelled and benefits received by such students during employment shall be withdrawn.

AICTE now, acting in compliance with the direction of Supreme Court has issued a Public Notice calling upon all those candidates who have obtained Diploma/ Degree/ Post Graduate Degree in Engineering from any of the four Deemed to be Universities during the period 2001-2005.,

[1] JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Rajasthan (2) Advanced Studies in Education, Rajasthan (IASE) (3) Allahabad Agricultural Institute, (AAI) (4) Vinayaka Mission’s Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, (VMRF), to register online for the test, as directed by the Supreme Court.

It has also started a dedicated portal to that effect, where the candidates are required to share their personal details including mandatory Aadhar Number. The candidate, are also required to the copy of degree / diploma and also the final year mark sheet.

Registration is open till 15.01.2018 and the test will be conducted, as per AICTE during May / June 2018.

EduLegaL View:

AICTE has to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court and it has done so. However, some more clarity and consideration was required to be shown from AICTE. It should have declared the syllabus for the examination so that the candidates can start preparing for the same. It used to be a 4 year course earlier with almost 8 exams and now all is going to be crushed in 1 examination and hence a student ought to know portion of subjects to prepare for the examination.

AICTE had full freedom to devise the methodology and hence it ought to have also considered that many students may have travelled to different streams for livelihood, so is the test to be conducted in the original subject of the course or the present occupational field, for e.g., several mechanical and civil engineering graduates took to IT for livelihood, should not AICTE allow such candidate to show their proficiency in IT than mechanical, it may be a difficult process but will give meaning to the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | ravibhardwaj@gmail.com

Read More:

Major setback for Deemed Universities, Supreme Court refuses to re-consider its dropping the University word direction, dismisses modification application

Upon direction of SC, UGC directs the Deemed Universities not to use the “University”, threatens action in case of non-compliance

Deemed Universities cannot use the word “University”: SC, ask UGC to implement the direction within 1 month

AICTE Notice:

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Major setback for Deemed Universities, Supreme Court refuses to re-consider its dropping the University word direction, dismisses modification application

In a major setback to the Deemed University, the Apex Court refused entertain the application seeking re-consideration of its earlier order, by which it has observed that Deemed Universities are not entitled to use the word “University”. It had also directed UGC to ensure compliance of the direction.

“The UGC is further directed to take appropriate steps and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain Deemed to be Universities from using the word ‘University’ within one month from today.”

Following the direction, UGC directed the Universities by public notice dated 10.11.2017 to restrain from using the word ‘University’. It has also cautioned the Deemed Universities, that if the directions are not followed, UGC will initiate necessary action against the Deemed to be University in accordance with the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016.

Clause 20.0: “An Institution deemed to be university shall not use the word ‘University’ suffixed to its name but may mention the words “deemed to be university” within parenthesis suffixed thereto.”

Continuing with old liberty, UGC has however, permitted the Deemed Universities to mention the word “Deemed to be University” within parenthesis.

Recently by another notice of 29.11.2017 taking cognizance of non-compliance of its direction, it also threatened to recommend withdrawal of the Deemed University status.

In the meantime, some of the Deemed Universities approached Supreme Court seeking to be impleaded in the main matter, as they were not heard in the matter earlier and also further modification of the direction whereby they were restrained from using the word University.

It was argued by Deemed Universities that Section 23 of the UGC Act does not prohibit deemed varsities from using the word “university”.  It was also submitted that the Universities have been using the word for years and a huge amount of goodwill and reputation has been created due to such usage, and due to the direction of the Supreme Court.

No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to have the word “University” associated with its name in any manner whatsoever:

Provided that nothing in this section shall, for a period of two years from the commencement of this Act, apply to an institution which, immediately before such commencement, had the word “University” associated with its name.

The Supreme Court however rejected the arguments of several senior counsels Mukul Rohatgi, Gopal Subramanium, K.V. Vishwanath and refused to interfere with its earlier and dismissed the Petition. The Court was of the view that Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 permits only those universities, which have been established by a Central / State Legislation to use the word “University”, however a Deemed University is basically recognised as a deemed university and hence cannot use the word ‘university’.

EduLegaL View:

I have a question, if the Government allowed these Deemed Universities to use the word University whether actively or passively, then was the Government honest in making the argument of restrictive interpretation of Section 23 of the UGC Act to deny Deemed Universities the continuance to use the word University.

Now that the application seeking modification has also been dismissed, the only option left is to challenge the vires of Section 23 of UGC Act, 1956 to say that it discriminatory as against the Deemed Universities and hence violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India. It amounts to creating a class within class without any reasonable justification as both the categories of Universities engage in same function and activities.

Another option could be if government of India is persuaded to amend Section 23 of UGC Act to specifically include deemed University within the scope of Section 23 of UGC Act, 1956.

Read More:

Upon direction of SC, UGC directs the Deemed Universities not to use the “University”, threatens action in case of non-compliance

Deemed Universities cannot use the word “University”: SC, ask UGC to implement the direction within 1 month

UGC clarifies criteria for establishing Institutions of Eminence, No major breakthrough

The Government in pursuance of budgetary declarations intended to establish twenty ‘Institutions of Eminence’ to achieve world class status and accordingly UGC had notified UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017. The idea was to provide for a greater Academic, Financial, Administrative and other regulatory autonomy to educational institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions.

The Institutions declared as Institutions of Eminence were required to put emphasis on multi-disciplinary initiatives, high quality research, global best practices and international collaborations.

The regulations invited controversy right at the beginning itself, more so due to provisions like net worth value of around 3,000 Crore of the members intending to start the university. The application money of Rs. 1 Crore also raised many eyebrows. Most importantly, the trusts running the private educational institutions were apprehensive about creating a separate trust to administer and manage the institution of Eminence as the law required that these two trusts would be separated in terms of their character and composition. The private institutions were also worried about over-reaching powers of the Empowered Expert Committee which had been tasked with monitoring the development of the Institution of Eminence.

Post the Notification and amidst all the surrounding controversies, an interactive session was organized by the UGC to address the concerns and apprehensions of the Private players. As an outcome of the discussion, UGC has now come up with clarifications in this regard.

UGC has now importantly clarified that an existing College or a standalone institution (which is not a University or Deemed to be University) can apply for IoE under the Greenfield category.  This clarification bears significance as an independent institution not being a collection of several departments and faculties may also desire to achieve this precious tag.

Disappointing the Private educational institutions, UGC has maintained that the sponsoring organisation will have to create a separate organisation for the Institution of Eminence. This theory also finds its place in the present Deemed University Regulations, which is being contested by several Deemed Universities in various High Courts.

UGC has absolutely brushed aside one of the most important concerns regarding the net worth of Rs 3000 Crore, as eligibility criteria to apply for the Eminence category. To expect that in an ethical and honest institution, members would be having a worth of Rs 3000 Crore is at best a far cry.

The Regulations also provided that the composition of the Sponsoring Organisation could not be changed except in case of exceptional circumstances or as decided by the Empowered Expert Committee. Many participants during the interactive session had raised concerns in particular regarding such an embargo, however, UGC refused to consider their requests.

EduLegal View:

Apart from all other things, one of the concerns which were raised by me during the session was denial to this proposed Institution of Eminence, to use the word ‘University’. I had mentioned that to give full effect to the dreams and aspirations of creating world-class institutions, the Government should not shy from permitting these institutions from using the word ‘University’. In light of the recent Supreme Court Judgment, Government if agreeable to this suggestion may have to amend certain legislations.

UGC, while restricting the change in the composition of sponsoring organisation also lost sight of the fact that, these societies/ Trusts are governed by their own Memorandum of Association, Rules and Regulations and are mandatorily required to conduct elections. There was a situation of conflict of two laws which UGC could have handled more carefully, as if, the elections are not held, these Societies/ Trusts will be in violation of other laws which is also not advisable.

The UGC ought to have clarified that this net worth value would be of the University/ Sponsoring Organisation and not of the members. To maintain this criterion as against the members is bound to eliminate many competitive academic players and give more scope to rich industrialists. UGC has also refused to reduce the application money.

Ravi Bhardwaj, Advocate

www.edulegal.org | mail@edulegal.in

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Upon direction of SC, UGC directs the Deemed Universities not to use the “University”, threatens action in case of non-compliance

Recently, in a case involving the entitlement of the Deemed Universities to start courses through distance education in subjects leading to award of degrees in Engineering, has dealt a severe blow, to Deemed Universities, and restrained them from using the word “University”.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court before making such direction, had made following observation:

“We must also put on record what we have observed during the course of the hearing and consideration of the present matters. It has come to our notice that many institutions which are conferred the status of Deemed to be Universities are using the word “University”, which in our view is opposed to the spirit of Section 23 of the UGC Act. The UGC shall take appropriate steps fo stop such practice.”

After making such observation, the Apex Court proceeded to make the following direction:

“The UGC is further directed to take appropriate steps and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain Deemed to be Universities from using the word ‘University’ within one month from today.”

Relying on the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, UGC has issued direction to all the concerned Deemed Universities, to stop using the word University in its name. UGC in its letter has quoted, Section 23 of the UGC, 1956, which reads as under:

Prohibition of the use of the word “University” in certain cases: “No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to have the word “University” associated with its name in any manner whatsoever.”

UGC has also relied on the relevant provision of UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016 to take support to issue the direction,

Clause 20.0: “An Institution deemed to be university shall not use the word ‘University’ suffixed to its name but may mention the words “deemed to be university” within parenthesis suffixed thereto.”

Upon all these reliance, the UGC has directed the Universities to restrain from using the word ‘University’. It has also cautioned the Deemed Universities, that if the directions are not followed, UGC will initiate necessary action against the Deemed to be University in accordance with the UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016.

Continuing with old liberty, UGC has however, permitted the Deemed Universities to mention the word “Deemed to be University” within parenthesis.

However, historically in many case the declaration or grant of Deemed University, was with the name “University”, in such cases, UGC has asked Deemed to be University may submit a proposal with alternative name (without using the word ‘University’) to the UGC/Ministry of HRD so that necessary amendment can be made by the Ministry of HRD.

The Deemed Universities have been directed to treat the matter as MOST URGENT and comply with the direction within 15 days.

EduLegaL View:

UGC as any citizen/person of this country is obviously bound by the direction of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

However, it seems UGC while relying on UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016, has lost sight of the fact that these Regulations, replaced UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010, which has quashed and declared unconstitutional by the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court. UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010, also had similar prohibition. How is that, a prohibition invalid under 2010 Regulations, is treated to be valid under 2016 Regulations. Moreover, transfer Petition regarding the 2010 Regulations, was pending in Supreme Court, when this direction has been issued.

I have also mentioned earlier, the Apex Court could have come to this conclusion, however, in my most humble and respectful view, it would have been better if the Hon’ble Court would have discussed the merger of Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, which empowers Government of India to declare a Deemed University, with Section 2[f] of the UGC Act, 1956, which defines the word Universities and which according to UGC can use the word University. This discussion would have settled this discussion once and for all.

Also, a plain reading of Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 itself includes Deemed Universities in its ambit. Moreover, Deemed Universities are treated at par with other Universities for granting degrees in terms of Section 22 of the UGC Act, 1956. If one sees the governance and the organisational structure of a Deemed University, it is similar to any regular Universities.

Ravi Bhardwaj, Advocate | mail@edulegal.in

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A Deemed University is not at par with University: Penning a Respectful Dissent

The regulatory regime in education offered through the distance mode has been marred with controversies galore right from its inception. The Regulator viz. Distance Education Council (DEC) was created under statute 28 of the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985 (IGNOU) in the year 1992. What was perplexing was the fact that IGNOU was the largest player in education imparted through distance mode and the regulator was created under the IGNOU Act. Nonetheless, despite the said apparent conflict of interest, DEC continued to regulate distance education till the year 2012.

The Supreme Court of India in the case of Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Limited Vs. Rabi Sankar Patro (Civil Appeal Nos. 17869-17870/2017), while inter-alia dealing with the issue whether an engineering course could be offered through distance mode ended up entering a field that was totally unrelated to the case. After examining, in-extenso, the history of education imparted through the distance mode it came to a correct conclusion that imparting an engineering course through the distance mode was not permissible without the approval of AICTE. It also severely criticized the practice of grant of ex-post facto approvals which were completely opposed to the policy statements governing the issue. Also, the Supreme Court set-aside the ex-post facto approvals granted by UGC in cases of candidates enrolled during the Academic Sessions 2001-2005 and suspended the degrees of these candidates until AICTE devised modalities to conduct an appropriate test/tests in terms of the judgment.

The Supreme Court, however, directed cancellation of degrees of candidates enrolled after the Academic Sessions 2001-2005 and also directed withdrawal of benefits secured by such candidates. Unfortunately, these candidates did not have the benefit of an audience before the Supreme Court.  The Court further, taking a strong view of the matter, directed the CBI to carry out a thorough investigation into the conduct of the concerned officials who dealt with matters concerning grant of permission against the policy statement in this regard.

It is humbly stated that though judgment is correct in its interpretation of the policy statement which leans towards the lack of desirability of offering a technical course like engineering through the distance mode, yet the Court lost sight of the fact that the statutory regulator namely DEC and the joint committee consisting of AICTE, UGC and DEC had granted such permission to Institutions for some academic years. The regulatory regime was clearly in a state of chaos and the grant of permission further compounded a sense of confusion in the minds of the students. This lack of clarity in the regulatory regime resulted in offering of technical courses by Institutions for over two decades. While conceding to the fact that some of the deemed Universities may have indulged in malpractices yet the broad brush directions by the Supreme Court have the potential of taking away the livelihood of lakhs of students who may be gainfully employed in various organisations. The Supreme Court is known for its sense of justice and its magnanimous approach in dispensing justice. Article 142 of the Constitution has always been used to do complete justice between the parties and, therefore, the Supreme Court ought to have made the judgment prospective.

However, woefully, the judgment has created a class within a class between students who took admission during the Academic Years 2001-2005 and between students who took admission after 2005. It is humbly stated that this artificial classification is not correct since the only reason for protecting the first class namely students of 2001-2005 is the post-facto approval granted by the UGC. The Supreme Court has itself deprecated the practice of post-facto approvals in this very judgment and thus everyone should have been treated equally like apples in one basket by giving them one chance to make good the deficiency in their degrees.

The Supreme Court has further directed that the deemed to be Universities should stop using the word “University” within one month of the judgment. The Court has, however, not adverted to certain important sections of the UGC Act, 1956 and the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be University) Regulations, 2016. Section 2(f) of the UGC Act defines a “University” to mean a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act, and includes any such institution as may, in consultation with the University concerned, be recognized by the commission in accordance with regulations made in this behalf under this Act. Further section 3 postulates that the Central Government on the advise of the commission may declare an Institution for higher education to be deemed to be a University for the purposes of this Act and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a University within the meaning of clause (f) of section 2. The judgment of the Supreme Court has clearly missed the merger provision contained in section 3 which merges the deemed to be University post such declaration “as if it were a University within the meaning of clause (f) of section 2.

The Supreme Court has further missed the critical words employed in section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 which reads as under:

“No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to have the word University associated with its name in any manner whatsoever:……”

The expression “…… other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, …….” clearly means an institution declared as a deemed to be University under section 3 read with section 2(f) of the UGC Act which is a Central Act referred to in section 23 of the Act. Therefore, section 23 of the UGC Act itself permits the institutions deemed to be Universities established by and under the UGC Act to use the word “University”.  Furthermore by virtue of Section 22 of the UGC Act, the deemed Universities like any other University are entitled to grant degrees and, therefore, the deemed Universities must be treated at par with any other University in identifying itself as a University as associating the word University to its name is an integral part of its very existence.

The Supreme Court has further not even adverted to the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016 and has referred to the earlier regulations of 2010 which stand superseded by the 2016 regulations. Also, the impression the judgment holds with regard to the lack of regulatory regime for the deemed to be Universities is not correct as a detailed regulatory regime is envisaged in the regulations of 2016. Furthermore, the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body under the UGC Act, grades the institutions as A, B and C institutions on scientific parameters where the most important criteria is adherence to all applicable UGC rules and regulations.

 

 

(ANUPAM LAL DAS)

Advocate Supreme Court of India

Deemed Universities cannot use the word “University”: SC, ask UGC to implement the direction within 1 month

The Supreme Court which was deciding a case involving the entitlement of the Deemed Universities to start courses through distance education in subjects leading to award of degrees in Engineering, has dealt a severe blow, to Deemed Universities, and restrained them from using the word “University”.

The Supreme while declaring that without the Guidelines having been issued in that behalf by AICTE expressly permitting degree courses in Engineering through distance education mode, the Deemed to be Universities were not justified in introducing such courses has passed a series of directions, and one of them is that restrain Deemed to be Universities from using the word ‘University’.

During the hearing, of the above-mentioned matter regarding entitlement of Deemed University to start Distance Education Courses, it was argued by Mr. Maninder Singh, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for UGC that inclusive definition of “University” in UGC Act was in a completely different and limited context and the idea was essentially to recognize Deemed to be University for the purposes of funding and that such Deemed to be University is not a University for all purposes. He also placed reliance on Section 23 to submit that a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act alone is entitled to have the word “University” associated with its name which again signified the distinction between a University established or incorporated under a legislation as against a Deemed to be University.

Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 reads as below:

No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to have the word “University” associated with its name in any manner whatsoever:

Provided that nothing in this section shall, for a period of two years from the commencement of this Act, apply to an institution which, immediately before such commencement, had the word “University” associated with its name.

The Hon’ble Court on analysis of Section 3 of UGC Act, 1956 was of the view that UGC Act,1956 empowers conferring Deemed to be University status on an Institution which has achieved excellence in its chosen field so that its development in the concerned field and its attempts to attain excellence and conduct research. The Court also felt that it is precisely for this reason that there is a distinction between a regular University established under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act and an Institution Deemed to be University is maintained in the UGC Act.

On the issue of usage of the University by the Deemed University, the Court took a strong view that a Deemed to be University can certainly award degrees but cannot use the word “University” by virtue of Section 23 of the UGC Act and even after conferral of “Deemed University” status it still continues to be “an Institution Deemed to be University”. Surprisingly the Court also felt that if the Deemed University is equated with a University it would lead to incoherent and incongruous results, in its area of operation or the field of its activity would be completely unlimited and unregulated.

The Court drawing distinction between a Deemed University and a Regular University, observed that conceptually there is some difference between the status of a University established under a State law and that of a Deemed to be University. Normally, a University is established with an idea that particular areas or districts of the State need to be catered to. Such University is expected to satisfy the needs or aspirations of people in the area for education and correspondingly empowered to initiate new courses, keeping in tune with the needs of time. The expectations from a Deemed to be University are of a different dimension. What is expected is excellence, research and advancement in its chosen field for which such status was accorded. There is no embargo on such Deemed to be University in entering new areas of education or introducing new courses but in that case, it can’t demand or receive complete relaxation from regulatory regime. It must satisfy all those requirements which a normal institution is required to.

The Court therefore finally held that using the word “University” by institutions which are conferred the status of Deemed to be Universities is opposed to the spirit of Section 23 of the UGC Act and it also directed UGC to take appropriate steps to stop such practice and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain Deemed to be Universities from using the word ‘University’ within one month.

Background:

This debate around Deemed Universities using the word “University” has been quite long. Initially, they were permitted to use “Institution Deemed to be University” as suffix, later, vide communication dated September 13, 2006 the UGC permitted all deemed universities in the country to use the term university’ instead of deemed university.

However, a PIL / Writ Petition came to be filed in Delhi High Court questioning the practice of Deemed Universities using the word “University”. UGC appeared in the matter and informed the Delhi High Court that it had decided to withdraw the permission for deemed universities to use the word “University”.

After the disposal of the matter before the Delhi High Court, UGC directed all the Deemed Universities to withdraw the word “University” from their name, which challenged by Vellore Institute of Technology, SRM and Sathyabhama University in Madras High Court and Manipal University in Karnataka High Court. In both the matters, Interim Order was granted in favour of the Deemed Universities. In fact in Karnataka High Court, final judgement has also been passed in favour of Manipal University.

EduLegaL View:

I respectfully disagree with the Judgement of the Supreme Court. Perhaps, the Supreme Court was not apprised of the merger provision in Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956 which provides that once a Deemed University is declared, then all the provision of UGC Act, 1956 shall apply on such Deemed University. So, if a 2[f] University can use the word University, a Section 3 University [Deemed University] can also use the word “University”.

Moreover, Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 which has been cited to pass the restraining direction, itself permits the Universities, which are so established by / under a Central or State Act, to use the word “University”. A Deemed University is established “under” Section of UGC Act, 1956, which is a Central 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.

I do not think, the Deemed Universities by any provision of the UGC Act, 1956 is not entitled to use the “University”, however, we have to abide the Judgement unless re-visited.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

Read Judgement:

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On Challenge by Standalone Institutions in High Court, UGC again amends the Distance Education Regulations

On 23.06.2017, UGC notified the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, which was notified after 4 years of publication of the ODL Draft Regulations in 2013. Within 6 days it had to issue a clarification that notwithstanding the prohibition contained the ODL Regulations, Universities which were given recognition for the year 2017-18, shall continue to admit students. Thereafter, taking cognizance of the technical difficulty in operationalising the Regulations for the year 2017-18, UGC decided to suspend these Regulations for the academic year 2017-18 and make it operational only from 2018-19.

Regressively, the Regulations dealt a big blow to the Standalone Institutions. Regulation 19[2] of the UGC Regulations prescribed that they cannot admit students beyond the academic year 2016-17, which meant they were asked to shut down.

However, some of the standalone Institutions challenged the legality and validity of the Regulation 19[2] of the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017 interalia seeking interim relief that they should be allowed to continue admitting students for the academic year 2017-18. It was prayed to the Court that it should direct Government of India and UGC to consider constituting, Distance Educational Council of India, which was recommended by the Madhav Menon Committee.

The High Court after hearing the Petitioners, allowed the Interim Relief of the Standalone Institutions and permitted them to admit students for the academic year 2017-18. The Respondent Government of India and UGC during the hearing also informed the Court that they are considering to amend the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017.

In terms of submissions made before the High Court, UGC has notified the University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2017, thereby amending the Regulation 19[2] to give effect to the order of the Hon’ble High Court, to say:

“ ….. Certificates or Diplomas or Post Graduate Diplomas awarded by the Standalone Institutions which also have been approved by the Commission based on the policies of the then Distance Education Council of the Indira Gandhi National Open University for running Open and Distance Learning programmes till the academic year 2016-17 shall remain valid programmes in the field of Open and Distance Learning mode of education till the academic session 2017-18 and thereafter they shall be free to get converted their Standalone Institution status to University or Deemed to be University for the purpose of these Open and Distance Learning regulations, failing which, the Commission shall not accord any approval to the Open and Distance Learning programmes of Standalone Institutions.”

However, the breathing life for another academic year 2017-18 has come with the same rider as earlier, that the Standalone Institutions shall get converted to University failing which, the Commission shall not accord any approval to the Open and Distance Learning programmes of Standalone Institutions.

The High Court shall hear the matter further on 18.12.2017.

EduLegaL View:

The Regulations are also contrary to the “Right of Equality” enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, as neither there is any rationale nor there is any intelligible differentia in discriminating between a Central / State / Private University, a Deemed to be University, on one side and a Standalone Institution, on another side imparting education through Distance mode. Further, the decision of barring Standalone Institutions from imparting education through Distance mode has no nexus with the object sought to be achieved by the ODL Regulations 2017, in fact it frustrates the object.

Standalone Institutions like in Distance Education have historically been part of different educational streams in our country like Management, Nursing, Pharmacy and are managed by different statutory authorities created under different statutes and, therefore, there is no reason why “Standalone Institutions” cannot be allowed to participate in the ODL system, like others.

[pdf-embedder url=”https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.163/e3d.fb9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/University-Grants-Commission-Open-and-Distance-Learning-First-Amendment-Regulations-2017.pdf” title=”University Grants Commission (Open and Distance Learning) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2017″]

 

Distance Learning 2017 Regulations now to be operational from 2018: UGC realises the error

On 23.06.2017, UGC notified the UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, which was notified after 4 years of publication of the ODL Draft Regulations in 2013. Within 6 days it had to issue a clarification notwithstanding the prohibition contained the ODL Regulations, Universities which were given recognition for the year 2017-18, shall continue to admit students. Now, yesterday, UGC has decided to suspend these Regulations for the academic year 2017-18 and make it operational only from 2018-19.

Let us understand the relevant provisions of UGC [Open and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017, which led to this roll back by UGC, not once but twice, a first of its kind, that we have heard of:

Regulation 3 (2)

A Higher Educational Institution intending to offer a programme in Open and Distance Learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent years shall, notwithstanding that it has obtained permission from the then Distance Education Council or by the Commission for offering a programme in Open and Distance learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent years, shall make an on-line application in the format specified by the Commission, and upload the same on the specified portal along with scanned copy of the documents specified therein, at least six months before the commencement of the academic session of the programme intended to be offered by such Higher Educational Institution.

Regulation 3 (6)

Every Higher Educational Institution, in respect of which recognition for programme(s) has not been granted by the Commission, shall discontinue the programme(s) in Open and Distance Learning mode with immediate effect.

Regulation 3 (7)

No Higher Educational Institution shall offer a programme in Open and Distance Learning mode for academic session immediately after the notification of these regulations and for subsequent academic session and admit students thereto unless it has been granted recognition for the programme under clause (i) of sub-regulation (4).

A combined reading of these clauses meant that on the date of notification of these Regulations, everything comes to a halt in Distance Education. It also meant that older permissions have been rendered invalid and according to the Regulations, the application for approval has to be filed 6 months before the commencement of academic session. So any application even if made in July-August 2017, even if approved, would be applicable only for academic session 2018-19. Therefore, if the Regulations were to be read as notified, then it meant that there will no distance education courses and admission for the year 2017.

Read More: UGC notifies Regulations for Distance Education Institutes: More Pain than Gain

However, it seems late wisdom prevailed on UGC and it took cognizance of the fact that academic session 2017-18 is about to start in July, 2017, also there was protest all around from Universities which had valid recognition for year 2017-18 and UGC was forced to clarify that Universities, which were already approved/recognised for 2017-18 can continue to offer approved ODL programmes for academic year 2O17-18. UGC also clarified that for the academic session January / June 2018, all these Universities will have to make applications for recognition and/or starting of new programmes online shortly as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017.

Read More: Distance Learning Rules: Under pressure UGC issues clarification, Admissions Open for 2017-18 now

This did not end the confusion as the clarification published on 29.06.2017 left an important stakeholder “Standalone Institutions” out of the system, which it had continued to be regulate since the dissolution of DEC. UGC did not make any alternate arrangement for their regulation.

Therefore to address another error in the Regulation and further disadvantage to which Standalone Institutions, which were put because of the clarification, UGC has now issued another Notice, clarifying as under:

The UGC (Open and Distance L,earning) Regulations , 2017 have been notified in the Gazette on 23.06.2017. The process for admission for the year 2017-18 by the Universities/Institutions is ongoing. Keeping in view the para 3, sub-para (1) of Part-II of the said Regulations, it has been decided that the UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017 will be operationalised from the year 2018-19.

Therefore, it simply means that  UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017 though notified will be kept in abeyance or shall remain suspended for the academic year 2017-18.

Regulation 1 [4] of the UGC (Open and Distance learning) Regulations, 2017, provides that, “These regulations shall come into force from the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.”

EduLegaL View:

It is certainly appreciable that UGC has addressed the issue well as all the Universities / Institutions were undergoing admission process when the Regulations were notified, leaving all the stake holders high and dry. The deferment settles the atmosphere so far a Universities are concerned.

I feel that instead of notifying these piece-meal regulations, which covers some and does not cover all, the Government should consider establishing a Distance Education Council of India, which will be a statutory body, like AICTE, MCI, NCTE, etc.

The Regulations, in its present form in case highly discriminatory towards private participation. To start with a Private University is eligible to conduct ODL Courses only after 5 years of its existence and then they too have NAAC Grade also. These conditions have been waived for Open Universities, which are majorly controlled by Government. And further these Private Universities will have to offer the courses proposed to be conducted under ODL Mode in conventional mode as well.

A Regulator, is expected to be just and fair to all the participants of a system and allow them level playing field, more particularly, when it comes to contributing to the Index of the Nation.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

[pdf-embedder url=”https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.163/e3d.fb9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/UGC-Public-Notice-reg-Open-And-Distance-Learning-Programmes-UGC-Regulations-2O17.pdf” title=”UGC Public Notice reg Open And Distance Learning Programmes UGC Regulations, 2O17″]

 

UGC | Distance Education | Law and Policy

NAAC revises it Grading System and Process, Students get say in Accreditation of Institutes

NATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND ACCREDITATION COUNCIL (NAAC), an autonomous body established by UGC to assess and accredit institutions and the grade the Institute has revised its assessment and accreditation process and now the fresh applications will have to follow the revised process. One of the major features of this process of seeking response / feedback from the students about the information submitted by the Institutes and then giving weightage to the student’s response.

Under the new Assessment and Accreditation Process, the Institutions depending upon their eligbility shall submit Institutional Information for Quality Assessment [IIQA] and prepare the Self Study Report [SSR]. The Institutions, once SSR is prepared shall publish the same on its website. It is at this stage that a new element of student response and feedback has been introduced on the information, which has been submitted to NAAC and a student satisfaction will also be conducted.

NAAC will then independently verify and validate the information which has been given by the Institutes. Once the data is verified and certified then the process of assessment and evaluation will start only for those Institutions, which have qualified the assessment criteria. This will be followed by on site assessment and gradation.

Some of the salient features of the new system involves, External Verification and validation of data and also System validation, which is a great step towards strengthening the process. The pre-qualification will also be system based, reducing human intervention. This also reduces the role of Peer Team to a greater extent.

As part of the Student Satisfaction Survey, naturally the Institutes will have to share the contact the details and other data of students with NAAC.  Most importantly now the 70 % of the gradation assessment will happen only on the basis of data, data verification and student satisfaction survey, reducing the Peer Team contribution to 30 %.

NAAC had stopped receiving application for assessment and accreditation process after 31st March 2017 and it will commence for the Universities now, after implementation of the new grading system. The system was stopped to carry out an overhaul of its grading system, as there was lot of complaint in the accreditation process more particularly related to field visits of peer teams.

EduLegaL View:

This is a pathbreaking step taken by NAAC and we welcome it !

Taking feedback / response from students and giving it weightage is a global practice, however it was eluding India until now. This will be “truth” to the quality claims of the Institute.

Until now in the present system, Peer Team assessment which accounted for 100 % value in terms of weightage, consisted mainly of teachers and professors from other Universities / Colleges. With all due respect, the members obviously apart from their academic experience did not any specialisation of conducting accreditation work. With the external and system based verification and validation process, certification of data will gain strength.

Der Se Aaye, Lekin Durust Aye !

[pdf-embedder url=”https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.163/e3d.fb9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Revised_A_n_-A.pdf” title=”Revised_A_n_ A”]

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

 

Distance Learning Rules: Under pressure UGC issues clarification, Admissions Open for 2017-18 now

Few days ago, UGC notified the UGC [ODL and Distance Learning] Regulations, 2017 supposed to be pathbreaking initiative in streamlining the distance education system in the country. But due to some poor provisions, there was huge protest and UGC has been forced to issue clarification restoring the provision granted to Universities for 2017-18, which it had nullified in the notified Regulations.

The retracted clause in the Regulation provided that a University even if has valid recognition for the year 2017-18 has to discontinue admissions and has to apply afresh and that too atleast 6 months before the commencement of academic session. This meant that any University could have admitted students only for the academic session starting January 2018. This would have also meant that there would not be any admission for in the academic year 2017. This was until clarification issued, one of the most poorly visioned and poorly framed part of the legislation.

However, it seems late wisdom has prevailed on UGC and it took cognizance of the fact that academic session 2017-18 is about to start in July, 2017, it seems there was protest all around from Universities which had valid recognition for year 2017-18 and UGC was forced to clarify that Universities, which were already approved/recognised for 2017-18 can continue to offer approved ODL programmes for academic year 2O17-18.

UGC has also clarified that for the academic session January / June 2018, all these Universities will have to make applications for recognition and/or starting of new programmes online shortly as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017.

However, Institutions which have already submitted applications/representations for their recognition/approval and/or addition of new programmes need to apply afresh as per the UGC ODL Regulations, 2017.

The Regulations were framed 4 years after the draft of regulation of distance education was made available for public suggestion and system of distance education was transferred from the Distance Education Council, an entity under the Indira Gandhi National Open University, to the University Grants Commission.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt the Regulation scores high on ensuring quality, delivery, curriculum, assessment and other issues, but for sure it lacks vision and clarity in many sense. This roll back is classic example of lack of vision.

It is almost impossible for a dual mode University to now get fresh recognition because of requirement of full time dedicated staff. Secondly Private Universities will be eligible to run Open and Distance Learning Programmes, which have been conducted by the university in conventional mode for a minimum period of five years. This means that first they have to wait for 5 years and secondly they will have to run all those courses in regular mode also. I do not understand this, if they have qualified to be a University why are they not qualified to offer ODL Programmes.

The biggest sufferers are standalone institutions, which have been conducting the Distance Education. The Regulations has given them a death blow. They can function only till the time their present permission is valid and not thereafter. This is really regressive. How can a system, which has continued for decades be shut suddenly …

I do not know, whether these Regulations was to promote Distance Education or only to regulate Distance Education. I think later is true because I am not able to find any in this Regulations, which promotes distance education.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

[pdf-embedder url=”https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.163/e3d.fb9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ODL-CLARIFICATION.pdf” title=”ODL CLARIFICATION”]

 

 

UGC notifies Regulations for Distance Education Institutes: More Pain than Gain

UGC has finally notified the much-awaited Regulations to govern the Open and Distance Learning in India laying down the minimum standards of instruction for the grant of degree at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels, through Open and Distance Learning mode.

Earlier, Distance Education was governed by Distance Education Council, a body established under Statute 28 of IGNOU Act, 1985. Later in 2013, on recommendation of Madhav Menon Committee Report, DEC was dissolved and all its powers and functions came to be vested in UGC. Later, UGC constituted a body, Distance Education Bureau to look after Open and Distance Learning.

In December 2013, UGC had also issued Draft Regulations for the public feedback and comments ad nothing happened for next 4 years until these Regulations were framed. In fact MHRD had later published Distance Education Council of India Bill for public feedback in 2014 and that bill is still facing dust.

The new Regulations, apply to a University referred to under clause (f) of section 2 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, an Institution Deemed to be University under section 3 of the said Act, for all degree programmes of learning at the undergraduate and post-graduate level, other than programmes in engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture, physiotherapy and programmes not permitted to be offered in distance mode by any other regulatory body.

Now, all the Universities engaged in Distance Education will have to apply afresh under these Regulations to UGC. On inspection, the Expert Committee will then submit its recommendations which shall be placed before the Commission for its consideration. The Commission if satisfied grant recognition to such Higher Educational Institutions for a period of five years.

All the Universities shall have a designated School or Centre of Distance Education for operationalising the programmes in Open and Distance Learning mode and shall adequate academic, technical, administrative staff and infrastructural resources. The Institution shall also be required to publish all information regarding permission, courses, syllabus, schedule on the website.

The University shall now have to establish a Centre for Internal Quality Assurance exclusively for programmes in the Open and Distance Learning mode and follow the Quality Assurance Guidelines on learning materials in multiple media, human resources, curriculum and pedagogy. It also provides that Teacher and equivalent academic positions in the School or Centre for distance education Learner Support Centres shall be appointed or as per the minimum qualifications laid down in the University Grants Commission (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in the Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2010 as modified; and there shall be positions for Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor in the School or Centre for Distance Education for performing academic functions.

The Regulations also mandate that the Universities shall take such measures as are necessary to blend Information Communication Technologies (ICT) for enhancing effectiveness of teaching – learning process, and administrative functioning in respect of status of admissions, registration, for managing teaching-learning activities through on-line support for interactive learning with learner feedback, to facilitate the use of Open Educational Resources (OER), Massive Open Online Courses and for continuous as well as comprehensive evaluation, certification, and other aspects of student support.

In respect of fees, it has asked the Universities to settle the fee structure in manner that it provide opportunities for Higher Education to a larger segment of the population and to promote the educational well-being of the community in general and is affordable to all the stakeholders.

The ‘Examination Centre’ shall be established within the territorial jurisdiction of the Higher Educational Institutions. Examination Centre shall be located in Government schools such as Navodaya Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Sainik school etc. including approved affiliated colleges under the University system in the country and no Examination Centres shall be allotted to any private organisations.

The Regulation has also paved way for online delivery of courses and credit transfer. The Regulations also provide that in case of violation of the Regulation, the Commission may withdraw the recognition of the Institute.

EduLegaL View:

I had thought that the Regulations, which have taken 4 years to come, will have little to comment upon. But these Regulations left lot to be desired.

If the Regulations are to be read, then there will no distance education courses and admission for the year 2017, as the older permissions have been rendered invalid and according to the Regulations, the application for approval has to be filed 6 months before the commencement of academic session. So it means, no approval in this year, WHAT A LOSS ….

Secondly, the biggest sufferers are standalone institutions, which have been conducting the Distance Education. The Regulations has given them a death blow. They can function only till the time their present permission is valid and not thereafter. This is really regressive. How can a system, which has continued for decades be shut suddenly …

Now, another blow to Private Universities, which will be eligible to run Open and Distance Learning Programmes, which have been conducted by the university in conventional mode for a minimum period of five years. This means that first they have to wait for 5 years and secondly they will have to run all those courses in regular mode also.

It has also ill aimed to restrict the intake of the course to say it would be expected to restrict total intake capacity for Open and Distance Learning programme to the capacity specified for a similar programme being conducted in the conventional mode by the Higher Educational Institution where the Study Centres or Learner Support Centres is located but in no case it should exceed two times of that. In conventional mode the intake is around 120 per division and moves to maximum of 500 – 600 per programme. This is a serious deficiency. How can intake be restricted in Distance Education Courses.

Lastly, the most draconian provision, now onwards for any Institution, other than an Open University to start a Distance Education Institute, should offer similar programme in the conventional mode of classroom teaching. So, now Distance Education will be run as an incidental activity and not principal activity. We will not be able to see a Private Institute / University specialising in Distance Education.

I do not know, whether these Regulations was to promote Distance Education or only to regulate Distance Education. I think later is true because I am not able to find any in this Regulations, which promotes distance education.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

[pdf-embedder url=”https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.137.163/e3d.fb9.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ODL-REGULATIONS.pdf” title=”ODL REGULATIONS”]

Medical Admissions in Deemed University: UGC issues direction for All India Quota Counselling

UGC in a further bid, to ensure transparency in medical admissions, has directed 34 deemed universities to participate in the common counselling conducted by the Director General Health Services (DGHS) for admission in undergraduate medicine courses for the All India Quota.

The Apex Court this year, had directed that there will be Common Counselling for admission to All India Quota seats in Government Medical Colleges as well as Deemed Universities which shall be conducted by the DGHS. For the purpose of filling the State Quota, Supreme Court had directed that Common Counselling for State Quota seats in Government as well as Private Medical Colleges affiliated to State Universities shall be conducted by the State Government or the authority designated by the State Government. Supreme Court also made it clear that this would also include colleges/institutions run by religious and linguistic minorities.

After the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) declares results of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the health ministry conducts counselling for 15% seats under the all-India quota and state government for the remaining 85% seats.

UGC has relied upon order of Supreme Court dated 09.05.2017 to direct the Deemed universities to participate in the common counselling to fill the all-India quota seats. Interestingly, the Supreme Court also went ahead to observe that the Deemed Universities have “ALL INDIA CHARACTER”.

It has also been provided that during the common counselling conducted by the State Government, the representatives of the medical colleges particularly representative of minority institutions should be a part of the admission/counselling committee

It has been amply clarified that Common counselling conducted by the DGHS/State Government will not in any manner affect the rights of minority institutions to admit students of their respective minority community. The minority quota seats, if any, in institutions run by minorities will be filled up by minority students only. Therefore, the rights of minority institutions are fully protected.

EduLegaL View:

Well! The directions are good enough and will certainly ensure more accountability and transparency in the process.

But what happens to remaining 85 % seats in Deemed Universities? Since the Supreme Court has held that the “Deemed Universities” have ALL INDIA CHARACTER, will the same also go to DGHS, this needs clarity, as I believe “domicile” concept may not be relevant to Deemed Universities. Or it may also happen that State Government may ask the Deemed Universities to surrender their 85 % quota.

Secondly what happens to medical admissions in Private Universities established by state legislature? They also stand at the same par with the self-financed deemed universities. Why this discrimination or rather why this vagueness?

Government need to clarify on all these issues.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

Medical Admissions | NEET | UGC | Supreme Court | CBSE

 

 

 

 

MHRD, UGC advises digital payment in educational institutions, asks them to prepare action plan

UGC on instructions of MHRD, with the objective to bring to bring transparency and propriety desires that all monetary transactions of the educational institutions may be done using digital modes of payment (viz online IMPS/BHIM/Debit Cards/AEPS) under the National Digital Payments Mission (NDPM) of MHRD.

UGC has also outlined services, which should be covered under the Digital Payment mode, which starts right from, all receipts and payments related to the functioning of the institutions vis. Student fees, exam fees, vendor payments, salary/wage payments etc. shall be made only through online or digital modes.

UGC also expects that for all students’ service in the hostel and otherwise digital mode should be used for all transactions. In fact, it also desires that Institute should encourage Canteens and business establishments on the campus to use only digital modes for their receipts and payments.

Universities have been asked to identify all transactions being carried out in cash currently and find ways for replacing them with digital modes. To make this a reality, UGC has asked the Institutions to prepare an Action Plan to identify all transactions being carried out in cash currently and find ways for replacing them with digital modes so that implementation can begin from the forthcoming academic year. The Institutions have been asked to appoint a Nodal officer so that the necessary action on the above activities can be initiated in a time bound manner.

UGC wants to keep track of the implementation on a monthly basis and has asked the Institutions to forward monthly report on the above to University Grants Commission for compilation and onward transmission to the MHRD.

Ravi Bhardwaj | EduLegaL

UGC proposes Regulations prescribing Gradation of Universities, granting academic and operational autonomy

UGC, the apex Regulating Body for Higher Education, has proposed ‘UGC (Categorization of Universities for Grant of Graded Autonomy) Regulations 2017’, which aim to divide all UGC-recognised public, private and deemed universities into three categories, based on parameters relating to grades / ranking by NAAC / NIRF. UGC has further proposed to amend other Regulations, which grant academic and operational autonomy to these Institutions depending on the grading.

The Commission proposes to categorize Universities into Category I, Category II and Category III and has prescribed parameters for the same.

According to the proposed Regulations, Category I, will comprise of those Universities, which have either accredited by NAAC with a score of at least 3.5 or ranked in the top 50 institutions of National Institutions Ranking Framework (NIRF) for two consecutive years. To be eligible for ‘Category II’, universities should either have been accredited by NAAC with a score between 3.01 and 3.49 or ranked between 51 and 100 in the NIRF ranking. Any University, which is not falling in Category I and II, will fall in Category – III.

Consequence to the grading of the Universities, UGC has proposed amendment in several other Regulations, relating to foreign collaboration, appointment of faculty, deemed universities granting academic and operational autonomy to the Universities, based on their categories.

The most notable departure is in the case of inspection and review of the Category I Institutions, wherein in case there is requirement of any external review by the Commission then it would be sufficient that the institution sends a report to the Commission in a prescribed review format. Similarly, for a Category II institution, the review can be done by the Institution itself through external peer review mechanism wherein the peer team members shall be chosen by the Institution themselves from representatives of Category I institutions, and the review report shall be sent to the Commission after completion of the review.

In terms of academic autonomy, the Scheme for Autonomy of Graded Universities, proposes that a Category I institution may start a new course/programme/Department /school/centre in self financing mode in disciplines that form a part of its existing academic framework without approval of the Commission. A Category I institution may also start skill courses under the guidelines of Ministry of Skill Development in self-financing mode without approval of Commission.

UGC has also proposed to give impetus to research and innovation culture by allowing Category I institution to open research parks, incubation centres, university society linkage centres, in self financing mode, either on its own or in partnership with private partners, without approval of Commission.

All Category I and Category II institutions would be automatically deemed to be under section 12B of the University Grants Commission Act and no inspections by the Commission would be required for the same.

A Category I institution may hire, without approval of the Commission, foreign faculty having academic qualification from an institution figuring in top five hundred of any of the world renowned ranking frameworks (such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings or QS or Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University), upto 20% of its total faculty strength. The remuneration for such a faculty shall be based on mutual agreement between the Institution and the hired faculty.

Similarly in terms of International Collaborations, Category I Institution, will now require prior approval of Commission for academic tie ups with Foreign Educational Institutions. However, Category – II Institutions, will require the approval of the Commission.

A Category I Institution would be free to admit, without approval of the Commission, additionally foreign students on merit subject to a maximum of twenty percent of the strength of admitted domestic students. The Institution would be free to fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction.

A Category I Institution, while following the pay scales as laid down by the Commission, may build in an incentive structure to attract talented faculty. Such incentive structure shall be strictly merit based with clear defined transparent and objective criteria and should not be universal. The Commission shall be informed of the incentive structure within thirty days of approval by the statutory bodies of the Institution.

The biggest beneficiaries in case of private sector Institutions, seems to be the Deemed Universities. A category I Deemed University, may conduct joint academic programme(s) with other Universities / institutions deemed to be universities in India and abroad without the prior approval of the Commission. A Category I institution or a Category II institution with accreditation above 3.25 may offer courses in the open and distance learning mode provided it satisfies all the conditions laid down under UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017.

Similarly, the Deemed Universities, which are categorised in I category, now shall not be limited in terms of off campus, which are earlier limited to five in number.

EduLegaL View:

Good! Great!

This is a bold step in liberalising the educational eco-system of the country. UGC has finally realised that excellence cannot be achieved by regulations and it can only be achieved by a sufficient grant of autonomy to the Higher Education Institutions.

Academic and Operational Autonomy is one of the many facets of the fundamental right to establish and administer an educational institution, and the proposed regulations seeks to achieve those manifestations.

 

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

UGC allows IGNOU and State Open Universities to conduct Ph.D., not in “distance mode” but in “regular mode”

In a pathbreaking move , UGC has now permitted IGNOU and other State Open Universities to conduct Ph.D and M.Phil Courses in Distance Education Mode, provided they are conducting these courses with approval of UGC, but surprisingly under “regular mode”.

In the year 2009, UGC had passed Regulations barring PhD Degrees in Distance Education Mode. However, there was widespread protests by various universities. protesting the ban on the ground that their respective laws, passed by Parliament or legislatures, allowed them to offer such courses.

Therefore, in the year 2011, UGC in its meeting decided that an Open University may be permitted to conduct M.Phil./Ph.D. programmes through distance education mode subject to the condition that it does so strictly as per the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2009. Accordingly, it also decided to make required amendments in the UGC Regulations, 2009.

However, in the year 2016, UGC notified University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.PHIL./PH.D Degrees) Regulations, 2016 and in supersession of 2009 Regulations, clarified that no University; Institution, Deemed to be a University and College shall conduct M.Phil. and Ph.D. Programmes through distance education mode.

In lines of the the UGC [Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil / Ph.D] Regulations, 2016, not long ago, UGC had issued a Circular Ph.D. only done in Regular Mode is to be considered as valid.

However, UGC it seems, continued with its change of stand approach and has now permitted the IGNOU and other State Open Universities to conduct Ph.D and M.Phil Courses in Distance Education Mode, in non-technical programmes, provided they are conducting these courses with approval of UGC. It is rather notably surprising that ODL based Universities have been asked to offer courses in full time / part time mode, which is the playing field of the conventional mode of education.

Prior to this, UGC had also announced that Central Universities, IGNOU and State Open Universities who have been recognised by UGC for conducting courses in Open and Distance Learning Mode, can without seeking prior approval of UGC, offer short term Diploma and Certificate Courses of less than 1 year. However, the Institution is expected to inform UGC about the decision to commence such Diploma and Certificate Course.

EduLegaL View:

I welcome this move, but I level this as Liberation with Discrimination. Why this continued discrimination against Private Players? UGC has granted this autonomy only to Central and State Open Universities, excluding Private Stand Alone Institution this is absolutely unfair and unjust. A Government should always endeavour to provide level playing field when it comes to competition and also contribution to the nation.

UGC instead of issuing these policies in piecemeal manner, should now issue a comprehensive regulation to govern open and distance learning system. It is shocking that there are no regulations governing, open and distance education.

The Draft of the National Education Policy also recommended setting up of an autonomous body, for the regulation and maintenance of standards in the ODL/Massive Online and Open Courses system. A Parliamentary Standing Committee also directed the HRD ministry earlier this year to speed up the process of appointing a distance education regulator.

UGC should grant the same operational and academic autonomy to private players, else it is again going to lead to confusion, chaos and litigation.

Distance Education, in country like India should be allowed to have level playing field and this will immensely help in contributing to the CAGR target so also the research quotient. I think the policy makers have again got wrong this time.

 

Ravi Bhardwaj

Education Laws | Distance Education | Law and Policy

 

 

UGC withdraws direction to disclose Aadhar details for Ph.D. Scholars

UGC by issuing a Public Notice has decided to withdraw the order to all the Universities to make Aadhar details of PhD scholars public, saying publishing and displaying the unique identification number is prohibited.

The decision comes when the Supreme Court is hearing several petitions concerning disclosure of Aadhar IDs for government schemes and government compliances.

“It is informed that the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 prohibits publishing and displaying the Aadhaar number publicly. Therefore, you are requested not to publish or display the Aadhaar number of the scholars publicly,” UGC secretary J.S. Sandhu said in a communication to Universities.

The Commission, in its 521st Meeting held on 22nd February, 2017, has decided to request all the universities to upload data regarding Ph.D. on their website on the parameters mentioned in the proforma attached alongwith and therefore by letter dated 10.03.2017, UGC had asked all universities to upload the details of PhD scholars on their websites in a proforma prescribed by it. The details sought in the proforma included PhD registration number, details of supervisor, funding agency (if any), topic of research and Aadhaar number.

A similar situation had arisen last year as well, when it was mandatory for the students to submit their Aadhaar number for grant of all scholarships, including fellowships for higher education.

However, later, by way of clarification of earlier letters dated 29.06.20.16 and 20.07.2016, UGC clarified that any student who have applied or wishing to apply for scholarship/fellowship shall not be denied benefit thereof due to non-availability of Aadhaar No./Card, however, the applicant would have to provide an alternate means of verification of identity and concerned bank account to the satisfaction of the competent authority

EduLegaL View:

The basic facet of a statutory regulatory authority is to act in just, fair and reasonable manner.

How was it fair and reasonable for UGC to ask the Universities to disclose the Aadhar details of Ph.D. Scholars. Furthermore, when similar such directions issued in past were withdrawn then what was the need to tread the same path again.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

NAAC moots continuous Academic and Administrative Audits

National Assessment and Accreditation Council [NAAC], in deviation of its 5 year Audit has now proposed continuous Academic and Administrative Audits for improving quality for different levels of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and for its sustenance.

NAAC feels that establishing Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) and undergoing External Quality Assurance process is not enough to continuously strive for excellence but there has to be continuous monitoring and evaluation of the institutional processes for which the Institutions should built a structured system of internal and external review.

NAAC feels that Academic and Administrative Audit (AAA) are very essential for the excellence in Higher Education and therefore expects the Institutions to undertake continuous Academic and Administrative Audits (AAA) and has therefore released an advisory to all accredited HEIs who volunteer to undertake AAA.

NAAC defines Academic Audit as a scientific and systematic method of reviewing the quality of academic process in the institution, whereas Administrative Audit is defined as process of evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative procedure which includes assessment of policies, strategies & functions of the various administrative departments, control of the overall administrative system etc

The Major objectives of continuous Academic and Administrative Audits (AAA), which can be done internally by IQAC and externally by the University (for Colleges) or by other peers should be to understand the existing system and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Departments and Administrative Units and to suggest the methods for improvement and for overcoming the weaknesses, to identify the opportunities for academic reforms, administrative reforms and examination reforms etc. and to evaluate the optimum utilization of financial and other resources.

NAAC expects that each HEI may evolve its own guidelines and methodology by learning from good practices followed by leading institutions within and outside India. HEIs can device its own process including self-evaluation by faculty and administrative units, schedule of onsite visit, format of report and outcome etc. The successful practices can be adapted to suit specific context and requirement of HEI. NAAC has also suggested that an internal exercise of assessment and audit every year and involvement of external peers once in a three or five years could be a good option, through good experts as peers for AAA.

Once the Audit is done, the outcome of AAA may be placed before Internal Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC) and Governing Bodies (GB) of the HEIs. Plan of action can be prepared to implement the suggestions accepted by IQAC and GB. It is important that HEIs should formally prepare the guidelines / statues / ordinances for AAA, so that it becomes an institutionalized practice.

EduLegaL View:

Now this is called Reform !, I have always said that this 5 year Cycle business is good but not good enough to create world class Institutions.

Assessment of Quality is certainly an important action, however, to my mind, more important is retention and maintenance of quality. Accreditation by NAAC now is one time process and hence it is natural that an Institutions prepares well for the same, but it is this proposed Academic Audit, which will ensure continuation of quality in the institution and also the justification to the grade that it has achieved.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

NCERT to be declared Institution of National Importance, MHRD proposes legislation

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), which was set in 1961 to assist and advise the Central and State Governments on policies and programmes for qualitative improvement in school education, is now proposed to declare along with its constituent units as an Institution of National Importance (INI). A draft Bill for this purpose has been prepared.

NCERT has consistently played a significant role by providing surveys, research and development inputs in formulating the National Policy on Education (NPE 1968, 1986) and has developed four National Curriculum Frameworks (1975, 1988, 2000 and 2005) followed by preparation of Syllabi, textual materials, supplementary teaching learning materials and innovative training programmes at preservice and in-service levels.

As on today NCERT does not have a degree awarding status and hence it passes its innovative pre-service teacher education programmes in its five Regional Institutes of Education, which are affiliated to the local universities in different regions which approve their courses and provide degree. This makes NCERT dependent on the affiliating universities for approval of its courses, and is, therefore, not in a position to introduce further innovations in content of these courses due to the rigid norms of the affiliating universities.

Realising this difficulty and to overcome, Government has proposed to bring NCERT under legislative framework declaring it as Institution of National Importance, which also enable NCERT to award degrees and diplomas and promote quality in research and training in the field of education. The objective of the Council, proposed are:

  • to assist and advise the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, in the formulation and implementation of its policies and programmes in the field of education, particularly school education and teacher education

  • to advise and support the State Governments and other educational organisations and institutions on matters relating to school education

  • to undertake, promote and coordinate research and development in all branches of education

  • to develop and organise courses and award degrees, diplomas, certificates in the fields of teacher education and school education

  • to provide extension services to institutions engaged in educational research, teacher education and school education to establish linkages and network with national and international institutions in the field of education

  • to act as a clearing-house for ideas and information on all matters relating to school education

Once enacted, NCERT will be able to develop and organise courses, including innovative courses, for pre-service teacher education, leading to graduate and post-graduate degrees, doctoral, postdoctoral and other academic distinctions in all branches of education.

Another important feature of the proposed legislation is that NCERT will be able to acquire patent or licence relating to invention and improvement in education and also to undertake and provide consultancy in all branches of education.

As part of Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy (PLCP),  the draft Bill has been placed on the website of MHRD for the information of the public and will be taken into consideration on or after the expiry of thirty days from the date of this Notification.

EduLaws:

 

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No detention policy under RTE Law, does not apply to minority schools : HC

The Bombay High Court speaking through the Chief Justice, Dr. Manjula Chelur and Justice M S Sonak has rejected the challenge of a parent against a minority school, which decided to detain his child, due to absenteeism.

The Petitioner, natural guardian of the student, approached the Court approached the Court with complaint of intentional deprivation of Right to Education to his daughter and seeking directions against the School to allow the students to continue her future education in Lokhandwala Foundation School, an unaided minority institution. The Petitioner was mainly relying on Section 16 of RTE Act which says that no child admitted to the school be held back in any   class   or   expelled   from   school   till   completion   of   elementary education.

The petitioner admitted his daughter in this school from nursery class.  When studying in 5th Std, she remained absent for three months during the second term of the school.   However, shortage of attendance condoned and management permitted her to appear for the final examination.  During   the   Academic   year   2013­-14, she   attended   the school between June to August, and abruptly absented from school since 30th August 2013.  The Management then decided not keen to allow his daughter to appear for the examination.
Thereafter he sought intervention of the Government authorities seeking assistance in terms of Right to
Education Act, 2009, which directed the School to promote the child. The School was also threatened with withdrawal of ‘NOC’ granted to them. Maharashtra   State   Commission   for Protection of Child rights in terms of Maharashtra Right of Children for free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011 (for short ‘Rules of 2011)   directing   the   respondent   authority   to   take   action   so   that the student is able to complete her elementary education.  The school however refused to abide by all this directions.

The Court while writing the judgement observed that in the case on hand, the child and its parents are seeking implementation of provisions of Right to Education Act which provides not to expel, not to withhold a child from its school once admitted till it completes elementary education.  On the other hand, the Court was dealing with the rights conferred upon the minority institution to establish and administer the school.

The Court also dealt with the issue that, having regard to the fact that the  institution  in  question  is  a  minority  institution, whether  one could impose the terms of Right to Education Act, compelling the respondent institution to re­admit the student to the respondent institution recognizing the right of the student under the Right to Education Act that she cannot be expelled or withheld in terms of section 15 and 16 of the Act.

The Court while referring to earlier judgements opined that that the application of 2009 Act, to   minority   schools (aided   and   unaided) would   lead   to abrogation   of   right   of   the   minorities   under   Article   30(1)   of   the Constitution.   The Court also observed that it is also well settled that even in the case of minority institutions when it comes to imposition of regulations by the State, such regulations have to be followed by the institution so long as they do not invade into the constitutional protection   conferred   upon   the   minority   institutions   under   the Constitution of India.

The Court therefore dismissed the Petition denying   the   relief sought   by   the   petitioner   seeking   re­admission   to   the   respondent institution in question in terms of Sections 15 and 16 of the Act and was of the opinion that rights of the parent / child must yield to   the   right   of   the   minority   institution   protected   under   the constitution.   The   constitutional   protection   given   to   a   minority institution   recognizing   their   right   to   establish   and   administer educational institutions stand on a higher pedestal than the rights conferred upon the student under Right to Education Act, a statute in terms of Article 21­A of the Constitution.

The Court before parting with the judgement also noted that the present case is not a case where the child is totally denied of a right under  Education Act in terms of Section 15 and 16 of the Act since State, in the present case, is coming   forward   to   provide   admission   in   any   other neighborhood   school   upon   which   the   State   can   impose   such obligation and directed the state accordingly to provide admission to the student to any of the neighborhood school to a class which is appropriate to her age and further, allow her to take examination, if any, for this academic year of 2016 and 2017.

Cabinet approves amendment to ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’

The Cabinet has approved the amendment to Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 thereby extending the period for teachers to acquire minimum qualification prescribed by the academic authority to extend the period for such training for four years up to 31st March, 2019.

The Proviso to Section 23(2) of the Act specifies that all teachers at elementary level who, at the commencement of this Act, did not possess the minimum qualifications as laid down under the RTE Act, need to acquire these within a period of five years i.e., 31st March, 2015.

However, several State governments have reported that out of a total number of 66.41 lakh teachers at the elementary level, 11.00 lakh are still untrained (of this, 5.12 lakh are in Government and Aided Schools and 5.98 lakh are in private schools). Therefore amendment was effected to ensure that all teachers, in position as on 31st March, 2015, acquire the minimum qualifications prescribed by the academic authority, it is necessary to carry out appropriate amendment in the RTE Act, 2009 to extend the period for such training for four years up to 31st March, 2019.

The Government feels that this will enable the in-service untrained elementary teachers to complete their training and ensure that all teachers at the elementary level in the country have a certain minimum standard of qualifications. It is also the belief of the Government that this would also ensure that the Teachers would attain minimum qualifications as considered necessary to maintain the standard of teaching quality,  which would ultimately result in improvement in overall quality of teachers, teaching processes and consequently learning outcomes of children.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, is effective from 1st April, 2010. It envisages free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6-14 years.

EduLegaL View:

In jurisprudence, it is said every right has a corresponding “duty”. We have “fundamental rights” in India, which are guaranteed. We also have “fundamental duties” under our Constitution, which are not enforceable.

If a child has been fundamental right to education under Article 21A of Constitution of India to ensure that that the said right is exercised in purposeful manner, all the stakeholders connected with such fundamental right to fulfil their duties and obligation. Else, the right may be exercised but the purpose of building an educated and updated India may not be served.

Mention Aadhaar, Affix Photographs in degrees: UGC

The University Grants Commission (UGC) with a view to bring uniformity and transparency within and across the system of higher education in the country, its 521st Meeting held on 22nd February, 2017 has decided to direct all the universities and educational institutions to introduce identification mechanisms like students’ photographs and Aadhaar numbers besides other security features in degrees and certificates awarded by the Institutions.

UGC noticing the ill-effects and malpractices of forging mark-sheets and degrees, with the aid of technology has issued this directive to the Institution to introduce security features in the marksheets and certificates issued by university to students. According to UGC, such features, are useful for the purposes of verification and curbing duplication.

According to UGC, the identification mechanisms should include inscribe the name of the institution, mode of delivery (regular, part-time or distance), affixing photograph and Unique lD/Aadhaar number in students’ certificates. The idea behind this directive to associate the identity of the student with the document, as the marksheets / degrees are used several times in life of a person for various purposes.

UGC has asked Universities to ensure that the details are mentioned correctly in the academic certificates and has further urged the Universities to implement the changes at the earliest in the interests of students.

EduLegaL View:

Well done UGC!

Fake degrees are a big problem in India. There are several cases involving falsification of degrees. This initiative will certainly help in reducing academic corruption. Similarly, verification of educational credentials is a huge task in India because of the voluminous number of students, colleges and Universities.

But, my question is what happened to the Academic Repository? Is that not enough? Why duplication of exercise in an attempt to avoid duplication?

All the efforts should lead to creating the repository, as the present directive will cater only to the awardees henceforth, but what about the passouts?, Academic Repository is the answer, I think the Government has taken some steps, but it needs realisation.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Ph.d in Distance Education Mode, invalid: UGC

UGC, continuing with its somersault relating to Ph.D Degrees in Distance Education Mode and in another snub to HRD Ministry has clarified that acquisition of doctorate degree from distance is not to be considered as valid academic degree. It has also further proceeded to clarify that Ph.D. degrees pursued in regular mode only be considered as valid.

In the year 2009, UGC passed Regulations barring PhD Degrees in Distance Education Mode. However, there was widespread protests by various universities. protesting the ban on the ground that their respective laws, passed by Parliament or legislatures, allowed them to offer such courses.

Therefore, in the year 2011, UGC in its decided that an Open University may be permitted to conduct M.Phil./Ph.D. programmes through distance education mode subject to the condition that it does so strictly as per the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2009 and the principal guide should be from within the Open University and a joint guide, wherever necessary, may be from outside the University. Accordingly, it also decided to make required amendments in the UGC Regulations, 2009.

However, in the year 2016, UGC notified University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.PHIL./PH.D Degrees) Regulations, 2016 and in supersession of 2009 Regulations, clarified that no University; Institution, Deemed to be a University and College shall conduct M.Phil. and Ph.D. Programmes through distance education mode.
Later it was widely reported in media in August 2016 that the Centre has lifted the ban on open universities offering MPhil and PhD programmes in non-technical subjects through distance learning mode, thus allowing more students to acquire the qualifications through UGC-approved institutions.

Now this clarification has again, overruling all earlier decision and making it clear that Ph.D acquired only through regular mode will be valid.

UGC has further clarified Regular Mode Ph.D Degrees either to be pursued full time or part time to be treated as valid degrees.

EduLegaL View:

I fail to understand the discrimination between conventional mode of education and distance education mode. Discrimination in technical subjects may be understandable but discrimination for non-technical course fails the test of reasoning and rationale.

Distance Education, in country like India should be allowed to have level playing field and this will immensely help in contributing to the CAGR target so also the research quotient. I think the policy makers have again got wrong this time.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Education Laws | Distance Education | Law and Policy

edulegal, ravi bhardwaj, distance education, ugc, education news, education law, phd, mphil, regular mode

Denial of Admission to a colour blind student by FTII, upheld by HC

The Bombay High Court has dismissed a Petition filed by a student, challenging denial of admission to him, to Film and Television Institution of India, Pune on the ground that he is colour blind and hence unfit for the course.

The Petitioner had applied to the Film and Television Institution of India at Pune for being admitted to the Post Graduate Diploma Course in Editing. After being shortlisted, he was medically examined by the Medical Officer, in his vision test, he was found to be colour blind. Resultantly, the admission was declined   to   the   Petitioner, in   view   of   the   FTII Rules that the candidates suffering from colour blindness are not entitled to get the admission in various courses including the course in question.

The Petitioner’s case was that “colour blindness” is neither a blindness nor a low vision within the meaning of Section 2(b) of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (For short “Act of 1995”) and as such denial of admission on the basis of colour blindness is illegal. It is also the case of the Petitioner that #FTII has not taken into consideration   the   suitability   of   colour   blind   students   for   each individual course run by it but has arbitrarily put a clause in the eligibility criteria that the candidates suffering from colour blindness will not be suitable for the course which are not suitable for visually handicapped candidates.  The   Petitioner   has   further   stated   that   first Respondent has assigned no reason as to how the colour blindness would affect the Petitioner’s ability to pursue the said course.

FTII replied to the Petition saying that the Petitioner was shortlisted for three years  Post Graduate Diploma Course in Editing but as per the FTII Rules, the shortlisted candidates are required to undergo a medical test. In his medical test the Officer after examining the Petitioner has found that the Petitioner is colour blind (Red, Green, Blue in both eyes > 60%). He accordingly vide  his  report   dated  28th  July,  2016  opined  that  the Petitioner’s colour blindness is a disqualification for admission of the Petitioner for the course of Editing.

In reply it has been further stated that nature of studies and the professional assignments carried out during the academic session or in the professional life of a student for the course in question, demands in­depth knowledge of various colour shades, colours   schemes, colour   matching, colour   continuity   and distinguishing ability between different colours.  FTII further mentioned that it had   set   up   an   Admission Committee  comprising   of   experts   from   various   fields  and the rules regarding eligibility has been framed after expert advise.  It has been stated   that   the   colour   blind   students   are   forbidden   from   taking admission as the courses for Cinematography/Camera, Editing, video Editing, Art Direction and Animation. These are courses which require studies   and   professional   assignments   which   demand   in­depth knowledge   of   various   colour   shades, colours   scheme, matching, colour continuity and detailed colour distinguishing ability. It is also submitted that it is impossible for a colour blind student to carry out the intensive studies & perform accurately in future professional life.

The Court before dealing with the issue of the Petition observed that the courts should be slow to interfere with the opinions expressed by the experts and it would normally be wise and safe for the courts to leave the decisions of academic matters to experts who are more familiar with the problems they face than the courts generally can be.  The Court also noted that the Petitioner has not alleged malafide in not granting admission to him, by the first Respondent.

The Court therefore observed that in the circumstances when the expert body of the first Respondent   having   fixed   the   eligibility   criteria   and   after due consideration have carved out six courses in which the candidates suffering from colour blindness are not found to be suitable for being given   admission, the   action   of   the   first   Respondent   denying   the admission to the Petitioner holding him to be not eligible, cannot be said to be illegal or arbitrary.

The Court therefore eventually, noting the Petitioner   being   a   candidate   suffering   from   disability   of   colour blindness, cannot claim admission in the course in question in which according to the FTII Rules framed by the expert body of the first Respondent dismissed the Petition.

The Court also observed that in the absence of any malafide or arbitrariness on the part of the first Respondent rejecting the Petitioner’s prayer for grant of admission, no case to invoke extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is made out.

EduLegaL View:

It is right that the Courts should not generally interfere in academic matters and such matters should be left to wisdom of academic experts. However, what I thought that the Court could have done some accommodative justice in this case, rather than, doing adjudicative justice.

I wish FTII to further the interest of the candidate, offered some other course to the student, if offered within the Institute, which could have kept his aspiration going in his pursuit. Sometimes, some alternates, are better than denials, because denials are always demoralizing to aspirations. But in any case it was a matter of institutional discretion and individual choice, so I have very little to comment.

 

Ravi Bhardwaj

Higher Education | Admission | Eligibility | Rules

AICTE amends Laws to make racial, ethnic and casteist remarks, a ragging crime

AICTE, the apex regulator of technical education, has amended the Ragging Regulations and warned the students from indulging into behaviour of bullying or isolating fellow students on grounds of race, colour, caste, gender or religion.

Earlier, in light of some unfortunate incidents UGC by Gazette dated 29.06.2016, had similar amendment in the Clause 3 of UGC Regulations on Curbing the menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009.

The Amendment notified by AICTE and notified on 22.02.2017, would now mean that “any act of physical or mental abuse (including bullying and exclusion) targeted at another student (fresher or otherwise) on the ground of colour, race, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender (including transgender), sexual orientation, appearance, nationality, regional origins, linguistic identity, place of birth, place   of residence or economic background”, would also mean “Ragging”.

Taking cognizance of this heinous crime, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of “University of Kerala v/s. Council, Principals, Colleges and others” had constituted a Committee to address the issues of ragging and also frame regulations to arrest the menace of Ragging. UCG in the year 2009, with the objective to prohibit, prevent and eliminate the scourge of ragging had notified UGC Regulations on Curbing the menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009.

The Regulations, broadly define “Ragging” as any conduct which has the effect of ill-treating a junior or fresher to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension leading to a sense of shame, or embarrassment affecting the physique or psyche of such fresher or any other student. Ragging is also defined as an act to derive a sadistic pleasure or showing off power, authority or superiority by a student over any fresher or any other student. This includes disrupting studies, financial extortion, sexual abuse etc.  A student who is found guilty of ‘Ragging’ may be suspended from attending classes and academic privileges.

The Regulations also provides that the Institute can also withhold scholarship/ fellowship and other benefits or debarring them from appearing in any test/ examination or other evaluation process and withholding results. In extreme cases, it may also result in cancellation of admission or rustication from Institution.

The Regulations recognizes that the Institution has vital role to play in curbing the menace of Ragging and hence it has warned the Institution that it fails to take action in case of Ragging then the Council may withdraw any allocated grants and declare that the erring Institution is ineligible for consideration for any assistance and it does not possess the minimum academic standards. In extreme cases, it may also lead to withdrawal of affiliation / recognition.

UGC has also launched a dedicated website for this purpose: www.antiragging.in. According to the statistics available on the website, since the year 2009, a total of 3932 complaints have been lodged till date.  A maximum number of 704 Complaints have been lodged in State of Uttar Pradesh followed by 471 from Bengal and 409 from Madhya Pradesh. Notably, 210 Complaints have been lodged from State of Maharashtra.

The ragging complaint have seen rise from 423 in 2015 to 515 in 2016, almost rise by 25 %, this is serious issue and raises concern on the level of implementation and enforcement of the Ragging Regulations. In the year 2017, as of today around 79 Complaints have been lodged.

Further studying it Gender Wise, it is seen that out of all the Complaints 85 % of the Complaints have been made by male students, remaining 15 % accounting for complaint by girls.

EduLegaL View: 

Ragging is worst possible heinous crime, which affects the youth and has to be tackled at all levels. Government has made laws and regulations to address the situation and problem has been arrested to a substantial extent.

Though the mechanism has been strengthened to punish the crime of ragging but the rising figures raises certain doubts on the implementation and enforcement of regulations. I believe, the Regulations needs to be relooked to see a successful achievement. We have Regulations in place, but what we lack is the monitoring mechanism to see its spirited enforcement.

The amendment in the Regulations to protect a person from any conduct of physical or mental abuse relating to caste, race, sex of a person is also found in Article 15 and 16 of Constitution of India and the amendment further propagates the mandate of the Constitution.

Good One !

Ravi Bhardwaj

SC issues Notice to Centre, CBSE, MCI, DCI on Petition seeking to Include Urdu In NEET

The Supreme Court today issued Notice to the Government of India, Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India and CBSE seeking their response on a Petition to include Urdu in the National Eligibility-Cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical and dental courses.

Presently, NEET Exams are scheduled to be held in several Indian languages, apart from English, including Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Assamese and Bengali etc. The Petitioner have therefore approached Supreme Court with plea that exclusion of Urdu Language is discriminatory and is thus violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India.

The Petitioner, Student Islamic Organisation [SIO] also brought to notice of the Court that Urdu is widely spoken language in the Country and is presently at number six amongst the languages spoken in India. In fact the Urdu Language is also listed in Schedule VIII of the Indian Constitution. It was also mentioned to the Court other languages, which was lower in order in terms of spoken language have been excluded and Urdu has not been included, which is neither justified nor has any rationale.

It was also pointed out to the Court that a large number of students study science in Urdu language and NCERT books are also available in Urdu Language. It is also the case of the Petitioner that Urdu has also been accorded official language status in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.

In fact some of the states have now made an official request to include Urdu as one of the language for NEET Exams. In reference to Maharashtra, it was pointed out that though Urdu is not a State official language, however, in just 6 out of the 9 divisional  Boards of the Maharashtra State Board of  Secondary and Higher Secondary  Education, the number of junior colleges in  which the medium of instruction is Urdu is  as high as 227. The total number of such junior colleges in the entire state is thus  much higher.

The application form for NEET 2017, scheduled to be held on May 7, is already out and the last date for submission of forms was March 1. The Bench therefore considering the urgency of the matter, agreed to examine the plea and granted one week time to Centre and MCI to respond and adjourned the matter to 10th March 2017. Though on the last occasion, SC had refused to hear the matter on urgent basis and even CBSE had refused to postpone the deadline for NEET registrations.

EduLegaL View:

On first principles, the issue raised seems to be genuine on the issue of “discrimination”.

In fact, medium of instruction is a matter of great debate among teachers, educationists and parents. It is now widely acceptable that the easiest language to learn is the language spoken at home, the mother tongue. Any other language of instruction, may injure the entire learning process.   We should give more importance to our mother tongue.

But for a career pursuit or advanced learning, at a stage, when we have crossed the level of primary and secondary learning, to my mind the language should be one in which it should be possible to promote advance research work in that language, whichever be that language, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali etc.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Education News | Higher Education | Medical Education

 

 

Law Degree Verification: SC asks Universities to verify degree without charges

The Supreme Court in the matter deciding the validity of Bar Council of India (Certificate of Practice) Verification Rules, directed all the universities on Wednesday to verify educational certificates of law degree holders without charging a fee from the Bar Council of India (BCI) or State bar councils.

Supreme Court in its earlier order dated 20.10.2016 instructed the University Grants Commission to request the universities to carry out the verification of certificate(s) filed by the advocates in respect of their law degrees with the concerned Bar council.  The Court also instructed that if any fee is required to be paid for such verifications, the universities may request the concerned Bar councils to pay the same.

In light of the order, UGC requested all the Universities to take appropriate urgent action in this regard and issued a public notice. In last hearing on 10.02.2017, it seems that some report was made to the Court about charging of fees by the Universities / Colleges for verification of degrees. After perusing the report, it seems that Supreme Court directed University Grants Commission to be present in the Court on the next date of hearing. Subsequently, UGC referring to the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, issued notice and directed all the concerned Universities to be represented on the next date of hearing that is 28th February, 2O17.

BCI later moved an application before Supreme Court seeking waiver from payment of verification of fees as the charges being levied was varying from Rs. 200 to Rs. 2000 from University to University. BCI informed the Court that it will have to incur almost 60 Crores for the purpose of verification, which is not in a position to pay.

The Supreme Court, by way of Interim Order, directed all the universities on Wednesday to verify educational certificates of law degree holders without charging a fee from the Bar Council of India (BCI) or state bar councils, within 4 weeks from the receipt of such request. The Court also however clarified that the order was interim in nature and a final direction regarding the cost would be taken once the petitions challenging the BCI’s rule is decided.

BCI Certificate and Place of Practice (Verification) Rules 2015 makes it mandatory for all lawyers to re-register in a new format where they have to compulsorily submit all their certificates starting from class X board results. Verification of degrees under these Rules have been mandatory on several counts, and majorly it includes fake practitioners, bogus voting etc.

EduLegaL View:

There are instances, which have also been reported in media, where person impersonating as lawyer have been found to be pleading case before the Court. The objective of the Rule is to verify the certificates and genuineness of the enrolment certificates submitted by the advocates. So, what is wrong with this Rule? I do not know why should it land in Court?

In fact, many lawyers, without informing the Bar join services. Any wrong practice within any profession must be curbed. How does one regulate the profession. These Regulations, would certainly fall within reasonable restriction on the fundamental right to practice own profession.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Education News | Higher Education | Education Law and Policy

 

Now, Grievance Redressal will be a factor for Accreditation, Renewal of Approval: AICTE

AICTE, acting on instructions of MHRD has asked the Institutes to structure, the process of online registration, monitoring and disposal mechanism of grievances of all the stake holders, including students and faculty.

The directives has come from MHRD on the backdrop of casual handling of the grievances and also taking cognizance of the fact that several Institutes have not yet developed the online mechanism for registration and disposal of grievances. Several grievances were lodged with the central grievance portal of the Indian Government, which also indicated that the existing mechanism is not working effectively.

AICTE has therefore it has directed all the Institutes to set up online mechanism on urgent basis. It has also requested the Institutes to indicate the details of online Grievance Redressal Mechanism names, contact nos. and e-mail IDs of members of the Grievance committee should on a notice board/flex board of the College to ensure publicity/awareness of the establishment of Grievance Redress Mechanism/Students Grievances Portal. For the purpose of effective monitoring, online monthly Status Report regarding the number of grievances received, disposed off and pending on the last day of the previous month should be informed to AICTE.

AICTE has also taken the issue seriously and co-related the issue of online mechanism of grievance redressal to accreditation and approval. It has mentioned clearly in its circular that the performance of the grievance redress mechanism may be taken into account by the Accreditation Agencies and the Council itself at the time of renewal of their permission/approval every year.

EduLegaL View:

“Right to remedy” is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of India and equally important and fundamental is to prescribe, just and fair procedure to pursue the right to remedy. AICTE has taken right step by prescribing the procedure and linking performance with the compliance of procedure.

However, question to be asked is, AICTE notified the Grievance Regulations in 2012 leading to appointment of ombudsman and also prescribed provisions for consequences for violation, which includes withdrawal of recognition and grants. The recent directive itself admits that several Institutes have violated the Regulations.  Then, what is the action taken against the erring Institutes for violation? Till how long a regulator will only believe in warnings? Are laws not sought to enforced and effectively enforced?

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

UGC to review the no-expansion rule for “B” Category Deemed Universities

It seems finally, UGC has decided to give last rites to the only surviving recommendation of Tandon Committee that “B” Category Deemed Universities should not expand. Another recommendation, i.e., de-recognition of “C” Category Deemed Universities was laid to rest by Supreme Court last year, by recognising NAAC as the criteria for gradation and rejecting the Tandon Gradation.

The Tandon Committee was set up during the pendency of Viplav Sharma’s Case in Supreme Court. The Committee without visiting the educational Institutions on basis of presentation, graded Deemed Universities in 3 Categories, A, B and C, meaning “A” Category can continue as Deemed Universities, “B” Category were given 3 years to improve but were denied expansion opportunities and “C” Category were sought to be de-recognised. A litigation followed thereafter for 8-9 years and lesser said the best.

On the recommendation of the Tandon Committee, UGC had also notified UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010, which was challenged in several High Courts and finally quashed by Karnataka High Court. UGC has now, by replacing the old Regulations, has notified UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2016, addressed several concerns of the Deemed Universities.

After the initial Tandon Committee, MHRD had constituted, a Task Force in 2011, to review the compliance reports from the “B” Category Deemed Universities. This Task Force, following the same board room method, did elevate some Deemed Universities, but several continued to be in “B” Category and victim of “no-expansion” policy. The Task Force later resigned and there was absolute vacuum rendering the “B” Category Deemed Uiversity absolutely helpless with no option left other than to knock Court or be at mercy of the executive. There was no authority to listen to their claim of compliance, improvement etc.

“Expansion” in broad terms in academia would mean academic or geographical expansion. During the period of the policy, the “B” Category Deemed Universities were neither allowed to start new discipline / faculty, nor permitted to open new off campus. This was serious blow to operational autonomy of the Deemed Universities, which were continued as Deemed Universities. After the conclusion of “C” Category case in Supreme Court, even the “C” Category was not facing this embargo.

It seems taking cognizance of this vacuum, MHRD and UGC after discussion have decided to review the Policy of not allowing “B” Category Deemed University to expand or considering upgradation of “B” Category Deemed Universities.

EduLegaL View:

It is really wise step. But what needs to be seen, is the process and procedure, which UGC / MHRD will prescribe for reviewing the upgradation and the pending expansion claims, especially in light of the new Regulations of 2016. Many of the upgradation claims and expansion proposal was made during the Regulations of 2010.

I have always maintained that, as is, establishment and administration of educational institution, a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of India, so is “expansion of an educational institution”. Therefore any restriction on the fundamental right can come only by way of law and not by notification. MHRD erred in passing notification and disallowing B Category from expansion.

Ravi Bhardwaj

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The UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2016 has replaced the UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010 and admittedly there are some positive departures. Some…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAAC set to revise Assessment Criteria, Weightage, Grading System, seeks response

NAAC, has decided to review and revise its existing processes, methodology, criteria, key aspects, indicators, weightages, grading system and guidelines etc., leading to accreditation of an educational Institution and has therefore sought feedback from stakeholders.

NAAC, which is an Autonomous organisation of the UGC is involved in the process of Assessment and Accreditation. NAAC realises that the process of accreditation has been dynamic and proactive, as per the fast-changing socio-techno and educational scenario and this this exercise of NAAC is an attempt to reconcile its system to the changing educational ecosystem, to further to enhance the quality of and learning at Higher Education Institutions.

In the feedback form, released by NAAC it is seen that NAAC is interested in seeking feedback on many critical issue leading to accreditation. The methodology, amongst them has taken the largest space, which as of now, includes, Letter of Intent (LOI), Submission of Self-study Report, Onsite Visit, Guidelines for Institutions and Guidelines for Peer Team etc.

NAAC is also interested to know as how to improve the objectivity of assessment process and know about the Innovative steps / methods, which can be adopted Assessment and Accreditation.

Earlier, NAAC was using the four-point grading (A, B, C and D) with CGPA and descriptors for each of the alphabetical grade assigned. There was an opinion amongst the academics that four-point grading does not render clarity on the quality and standards of educational institution as the bandwidth of full 1 CGPA, is quite long and normally used to accommodate huge number of Institutions. Hence as part of reform in the grading system, a Seven Point Grading System was introduced in July 2016, wherein universities and colleges would be awarded A++, A+, A, B++, B+, B, C and D grades on scale of 4 CGPA.

EduLegaL View:

Assessment of Quality is certainly an important action, however, to my mind, more important is retention and maintenance of quality. As part of reform, I would seriously like to suggest to strengthen the Internal Quality Assessment, which an Institution does on regular basis and also a critical analysis of Annual Quality Report that they submit to NAAC.

Accreditation is one time process and hence it is natural that an Institutions prepares well for the same, but it is the IQAC and AQAR that signifies the continuation of quality in the institution and also the justification to the grade that it has achieved.

Also Read:

NAAC notifies new Rules, Good Institutions to get 2 years extended accreditation

In series of reforms, Educational Institutions, which have shown consistent highest grade performance in the assessment and accreditation exercise, conducted by NAAC, is now set to receive 2 year extension…

 

NAAC notifies new Rules, Good Institutions to get 2 years extended accreditation

In series of reforms, Educational Institutions, which have shown consistent highest grade performance in the assessment and accreditation exercise, conducted by NAAC, is now set to receive 2 year extension of their accreditation grade.

The executive council of NAAC in its 73rd and 75th meetings held on 12th July, 2016 and 22nd December, 2016 respectively, took the decision to grant decision with immediate effect.

NAAC has decided to grant extension of the validity period of NAAC accreditation from five years to seven years for third cycle for those institutions, which have obtained highest grade for two cycles continuously provided the institution again obtains highest grade in the third cycle also. The same provision will be applicable for the subsequent cycle after the institutions obtains highest grade continuously.

As per the existing rules of NAAC, an Institution is required to apply for re-assessment six months before the expiry of accreditation period and the time for assessment used to be longer and more than often than not cross the validity of accreditation, leaving an unexplained gap. NAAC has taken cognizance of this gap.

As per the UGC (Mandatory Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2012, notified on January 19, 2013, it is mandatory for every higher education institution to get accredited by an accreditation agency after passing out of two batches or six years, whichever is earlier, in accordance with the norms and methodology prescribed by such agencies or the UGC.

It has accordingly decided that in case an institution applies for reaccreditation within the stipulated period of six months before the end of the cycle of accreditation, as per NAAC guidelines, the gap period between two consecutive accreditations will be approved.

It has moved further, to accommodate those, who have not applied according to the guidelines, even to those Institutions, it has decided that period for approval would be one year between the two consecutive accreditation cycles.

EduLegaL View:

I think this is a good step, and it recognises the maturing educational ecosystem of the country. This will also encourage the educational institution to maintain high level of consistency in their quality and delivery, which can only be achieved by improvement on the existing processes.

I still believe 5 years is a longer period for assessment of an educational institution, when the learning, pedagogy and outcome are changing so rapidly but again our country is very vast and to assess all the institutions in shorter period is also not possible, probably NIRF is an answer but it has not received good response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UGC grants autonomy to Open Universities for Short Term Courses

In a pathbreaking move towards decentralisation and deregulation, UGC has decided to grant autonomy to Central and State Open Universities to start short term Diploma and Certificate Courses.

Until now and after transfer of power from erstwhile, Distance Education Council to UGC, it was Distance Education Bureau, a Department of UGC, which was responsible for according approval to Institutions engaged in the field of Open and Distance Learning for conducting Diploma and Certificate Courses.

However, no UGC has announced that Central Universities, IGNOU and State Open Universities like YCMOU, Nashik and other State Open Universities, and who have been recognised by UGC for conducting courses in Open and Distance Learning Mode, can now without seeking prior approval of UGC, offer short term Diploma and Certificate Courses of less than 1 year. However, this autonomy comes with the restriction that these courses should not be related to technical, medical, or para-medical fields or should not have any hands-on training as component.

IGNOU and other State Open Universities, who are approved by UGC can now with prior approval of their Statutory Bodies like Board of Studies, Academic Council, etc,  can without seeking approval of UGC can start course for the academic year 2017-2018. However, the Institution is expected to inform UGC about the decision to commence such Diploma and Certificate Course.

EduLegaL View:

Why this continued discrimination against Private Players? UGC has granted this autonomy only to Central and State Open Universities, excluding Private Stand Alone Institution this is absolutely unfair and unjust. A Government should always endeavour to provide level playing field when it comes to competition and also contribution to the nation.

UGC instead of issuing these policies in piecemeal manner, should now issue a comprehensive regulation to govern open and distance learning system. It is shocking that there are no regulations governing, open and distance education.

The Draft of the National Education Policy also recommended setting up of an autonomous body, for the regulation and maintenance of standards in the ODL/Massive Online and Open Courses system. A Parliamentary Standing Committee also directed the HRD ministry earlier this year to speed up the process of appointing a distance education regulator.

UGC should grant the same operational and academic autonomy to private players, else it is again going to lead to confusion, chaos and litigation.

Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

Revise Curriculum, Make Students Employable: UGC to Institutions

UGC recognizing the need for updated knowledge and skills, has asked the Educational Institutions, to review and revise the curricula of all academic departments once in every three years.

UGC feels that in a world changing at breakneck speed, any conceptual innovations and technological breakthroughs are subjected to further alterations and up-gradation within a short span since their launch and in such a vibrant climate, the responsibility to address the needs created by self-activating change lies at the door of educational leaders, classroom teachers, academic administrators, and community leaders. According to UGC, the most efficient way to do the same is periodic curriculum revision.

The issue was therefore discussed at the Highest Level, in a recently held meeting of the Group of Secretaries on Education and Social Development with the Hon’ble Prime Minister and it was recommended that curricula of all academic departments in Universities should be reviewed and revised at least once in every three years.

The meeting not only decided upon the requirement of revision but also set the mandate for such revision to focus on the existing and potential demand and supply of skill sets to make the University/College students employable.

The Institutions have therefore been directed to take immediate action so that the curricula of various programs offered are revised and adopted for quick implementation.

 

EduLegaL View:

We feel that review should not only be restricted to syllabus and curricula, it should be expanded to include method of teaching, imparting instructions, evaluation and assessment and only when such holistic revision is undertaken then the entire exercise will achieve its absolute manifestation.

We say so because curricula are further integrally with all other serial elements of education. Many a time the syllabus changes but the teaching methodology still takes an ancient look, which does not hep the situation.

Having said that, even starting with periodic revision of curricula is a good initiative and we welcome that! This also seems to be in furtherance of establishing and expanding “Skill” as an integral part of educational ecosystem in India.

 

 

 

 

 

UGC to Deemed Universities: Admit students under MBBS / BDS Programme from NEET Merit List

UGC2In a major policy decision by way of clarification, UGC has notified that Deemed Universities programmes will have to admit students from the all India merit list of the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), for their MBBS / BDS in their medical Institutes.

UGC has taken support of Regulation 6.3 of the UGC [Institution Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2016, which reads as under:

“ Admission of students to an institution deemed to be university, public or private, shall be made in the following manner: In case the appropriate statutory authority has specified the process of selection for admission to any course, or programme of study in any institution which includes conducting competitive admission test for ascertaining the competence of any person to pursue such course or programme of study, in that case, no person shall be admitted to such course or programme of study in such institution, except through an admission test conducted by a recognized body or such institution or a group of institutions if such institution or group of institutions have been so authorised by the Central Government or a State Government or any statutory authority.”

 Relying on this Clause, UGC has said that Medical Council of India is the appropriate authority for regulating admission and other issues in field of education and it has notified NEET as the entrance test for admission to Medical Colleges all over India. UGC has also clarified that CBSE is the recognised body authorized by the Central Government to conduct the NEET.

SC2Pertinently, as per the directives of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the Ordinances promulgated by the Central Government on 24.05.2016, NATIONAL ELIGIBILITY CUM ENTRANCE TEST-II (UG), 2016 was to be conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, Delhi for admission to MBBS/BDS Courses in Medical/Dental Colleges run with the approval of Medical Council of India/Dental Council of India under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. The responsibility of the CBSE is though limited to the conduct of the entrance examination, declaration of result and providing All India Rank to the Counseling Authorities and Admitting Institutions.

Therefore, UGC on instructions of MHRD, proceeded to rule that :

A) All institutions deemed to be universities (deemed universities) shall be part of the common counselling for admission in medical courses organised either by the state government or Central Government or through its agencies based on the marks obtained in NEET,” the UGC has told deemed varsities.

B) If the state government is unable to hold the common counselling or the deemed universities offering MBBS or BDS were not covered in the counselling, the Universities will be required to put up a transparent system of admission on basis of inter-se merit list in which no student is denied from applying for admission in a Deemed University.

UGC has also sought compliance from the Deemed Universities after the closure of admission process.

EduLegaL View:

“Chaos to existing confusion” or “confusion to existing chaos”, this is how I describe this situation. Sometimes delayed wisdom is more injurious than an inadvertent mistake.

The UGC Deemed University Regulations referred in the clarification was notified on 11th July 2016. Why did it take UGC so long to make this clarification. The delay becomes more questionable when Bombay High Court has granted stay in favour of Deemed Universities in a case involving similar notification from Government of Maharashtra.

Now, what will happen, Deemed Universities will again approach Court, being armed with the earlier order. The Court may / may not grant STAY. But agony of a student and confusion in the environment will continue. In fact many Deemed Universities may have taken effective steps to complete their admission process by now.

Such delay causes lot of confusion in the regulatory regime and also difficulty for students and complications for the concerned Institute.

 

A stich in time saves nine !

Aadhaar not mandatory for Scholarship: UGC recalls earlier Notice

aadhaar2UGC, in a major course correction and in a major relief to the student community has clarified that it will not now be mandatory for students to submit Aadhhar Number / Card for availing Scholarship / Fellowship under various Government Schemes.

Earlier, UGC following the instructions of MHRD had issued a Notice on 29.06.2016 that from the financial year 2016-17 onwards the Aadhaar has been mandatory for disbursement of all Government subsidies /Scholarships / Fellowships which are to be disbursed directly into the beneficiaries’ account.

It also requested the students that that in case some of the beneficiaries do not have Aadhaar Cards they should get themselves enrolled immediately and obtain Aadhaar Card to prevent any hardship to the fellows/scholars and to allow seamless flow of the scholarships/fellowships to the beneficiaries.

This Notice was followed up with another reminder on 20.07.2016 and UGC again cautioned that Aadhaar will be used as an identifier for availing benefits of the UGC scholarship/fellowship schemes. It also requested the applicants to provide their Aadhaar number while applying for any UGC fellowship/scholarship schemes.

UGC2In response to several complaints and difficulties faced by a large number of students, UGC in clarification of earlier letters dated 29.06.20.16 and 20.07.2016, it is hereby clarified that any student who have applied or wishing to apply for scholarship/fellowship shall not be denied benefit thereof due to non availability of Aadhaar No./Card. In such an eventuality, the applicant wourd have to provide an alternate means of verification of identity and concerned bank account to the satisfaction of the competent authority.

EduLegaL View

EduLegaLThe earlier direction of UGC to make Aadhaar Card for availing Scholarship / Fellowship benefit was contemptuous as it was violation of the order of the Supreme Court which restricted mandatory provision of Aadhaar Card only for certain government schemes. It seems wisdom has prevailed though off late on the regulator and it has made amends.

Having said that it will be beneficial for governance and implementation that student scholars and fellows should get them enrolled and be part of Direct Transfer of Benefit Scheme. Reasons have their own equity but such equity should be allowed for infinity and all the stakeholders should at the earliest join the uniform path / mainstream.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Cabinet approves establishment of Higher Education Financing Agency

The Cabinet has approved the creation of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) to give a major push for creation of high quality infrastructure in premier educational institutions.

The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with an authorised capital of Rs.2,000 crore. The Government equity would be Rs.1,000 crore.

The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crore for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.

The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.

The HEFA would finance the civil and lab infrastructure projects through a 10-year loan. The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ (earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc) of the institutions. The Government would service the interest portion through the regular Plan assistance.

All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA. For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market. Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals.