The government issued formal orders this week notifying its decision to award Institute of Eminence (IoE) status to Birla Institute of Science and Technology (BITS) after a two-month delay.
As first reported by The Indian Express on July 25, HRD Ministry issued Letters of Intent (LoI) to five out of six IoEs. BITS, which was selected along with Manipal Academy of Higher Education and Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute under the private institution category, was left out because of its standoff with UGC over the legality of its off-campus centres.
The HRD Ministry had decided that BITS would get the LoI only after its Hyderabad and Goa campuses are regularised by UGC, even though the announcement regarding its eminence status had already been made by the government. The premier engineering school then applied afresh and its off-campus centres were approved by UGC and officially notified on August 20.
The confrontation between BITS and UGC dates back to November 9, 2015 when the higher education regulator issued notices to 10 deemed universities, including BITS, directing them to shut down their off-campus centres on the ground that they were set up without the UGC’s permission and, hence, violate the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2016.
BITS-Pilani subsequently went to Delhi High Court, which asked the regulator to not take any coercive action. The institute had argued in court that the Goa and Hyderabad centres were established in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and, hence, pre-date the Deemed University Regulations, which are prospective in nature. BITS has withdrawn its court case after the UGC approved its off-campus centres.