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.
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
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