THE HRD Ministry on Tuesday issued official orders notifying UGC’s decision to award the ‘Institute of Eminence’ (IoE) status to five out of the six selected institutions.
Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), which was selected along with Manipal Academy of Higher Education and Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute under the private institution category, will get the Letter of Intent (LoI) only after its branches in Goa and Hyderabad are “regularised” by UGC, said ministry sources.
Clause 6.1(i) of the UGC’s IoE Regulations states that a private deemed university will only be eligible to become an institute of eminence provided it satisfies all provisions of the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2016.
On November 9, 2015, 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.
The off-campus centres in Goa and Hyderabad continue to function, but the UGC maintains that they are illegal.
This seems to have put the HRD Ministry in a bind, which has decided that BITS will be given the LoI once the institute withdraws its court case and formally applies for UGC’s approval of the Goa and Hyderabad off-campus centres.
Speaking to The Indian Express recently about BITS’ eligibility for IoE status, Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) chairperson N Gopalaswami had said, “We have already said in our report (submitted to the government) that if there are any doubts on any issues (related to eligibility), it is for the UGC to decide. We didn’t want to become the appellate authority over UGC for cases between them and anybody else. We select on the basis of merit, as per the provisions (of the regulation).” The four-member EEC has been entrusted with the responsibility of finding all 20 IoEs.
The Indian Express could not reach UGC Chairman DP Singh and BITS-Pilani acting registrar Sivasubramanian for comment on Tuesday.
The Union Cabinet had approved UGC’s ‘Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations 2017’, in August 2017. The regulations are aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class institutions since the country has little representation in the international ranking of educational institutions.
Once identified, the target for the IoEs would be to break into the top 500 in at least one internationally reputed ranking framework in 10 years and come up in the top 100 over time.