The informal group of ministers tasked with examining the HRD Ministry’s proposal to set up 20 world-class institutions is learnt to have raised concerns regarding the possible impact of the entry of foreign students and teachers on the reservation policy followed in student admission and faculty recruitment.
The group — comprising HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, Textile Minister Smriti Irani, Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — has also red-flagged the provision that permits transfer of the ‘Letter of Intent’ or LOI, issued by the empowered committee of University Grants Commission (UGC), from one private player to any other party. It has also asked the ministry to consider diluting the clause that mandates each institution to enrol at least 15,000 students in 15 years.
The Union Cabinet in its June 7 meeting had taken up for discussion the UGC’s Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations, 2017, aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class campuses. The Institutions of Eminence are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to others.
The Cabinet’s approval, however, was deferred and the regulations were referred to the group of ministers when concerns were raised over the impact of greater autonomy. The group held two meetings in June and have suggested changes to the regulations.
Under the proposed regulations, the institutions will be at liberty to admit foreign students and hire foreign faculty up to 30 per cent of the total strength of the class and teachers, respectively. Worried that this provision could adversely affect the reservation policy currently applicable to student admission and faculty recruitment, the group of ministers has asked HRD Ministry to categorically mention the affirmative action policy in the regulations.
Further, the UGC regulations have a provision under which private players with an impressive proposal to set up an institution of eminence can have their plans green-lighted by the government in shape of a ‘Letter of Intent’. The LOI can be transferred to another player under exceptional circumstances. The panel red-flagged this clause fearing misuse of the LOI.
As for the rule prescribing minimum enrolment of 15,000 students in 15 years, the group has recommended that the institutions should be free to fix this number as they may like to specialise in an area which may not require a large number of students.
The panel has suggested that collaboration between these institutions and a foreign university should be limited to foreign institutions which figure among the top 500 in global rankings. It has also raised concern about the freedom given to such institutions to keep the duration of courses flexible. The ministers were not convinced about the provision, especially in the context of Delhi University rolling out a four-year undergraduate degree programme and then withdrawing it. The HRD Ministry is yet to take a final call on the suggestions.