A least two private higher education institutes, Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) in Odisha and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in Tamil Nadu, which were declared ‘Institutions of Eminence’ (IoEs) on August 2, 2019, are ineligible for the coveted status. The Indian Express has found that the two institutes do not meet the eligibility criterion on the net worth of the sponsoring organisation members.
According to the University Grants Commission’s regulations on the IoE scheme, the sponsoring organisation is a “charitable or a not-for-profit Society or a public Trust or a Company incorporated under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013” applying to upgrade an existing private institution or a new one to an IoE.
The eligibility criterion states the collective net worth of the members of the sponsoring organisation should be Rs 3,000 crore for existing institutions and Rs 5,000 crore for new ones.
However, the applications filed by VIT and KIIT show that both have provided the market value of current assets, such as land and building, as the net worth of the sponsoring organisation.
KIIT’s application pegs the net worth of its four-member sponsoring organisation, KIIT Society, at Rs 10,000 crore. “The society is a non-profit organisation. The net-worth of individual members of the society do not contribute towards financing the Deemed to be university. Net worth of the organisation is around (Rs) 10,000 crores,” the application, accessed by The Indian Express, states.
It then lists the value of KIIT Society’s cash in hand, bank balance, investment in fixed deposits, loans and advances, land and building, among other things, in the net worth statement.
VIT has shown the current market value of the land and building of the VIT campus in Vellore and Chennai campuses as the net worth of its sponsoring organisation, VIT Trust, which has seven members.
Interestingly, OP Jindal Global University — also among the private IoEs and awarded at the same time as VIT and KIIT on August 2, 2019 — has given industrialist Navin Jindal’s net worth of Rs 3,392 crore to satisfy the said eligibility criterion. Navin Jindal is one of the seven members of the Om Prakash Jindal Gramin Jan Kalyan Sansthan, which is the sponsoring organisation in OP Jindal Global University’s application for the IoE status.
Similarly, Shiv Nadar University, also a private IoE, has provided the net worth of industrialist Shiv Nadar (Rs 32,936.85 crore), his wife and philanthropist Kiran Nadar (Rs 18,922.43 crore) and daughter and CEO of HCL Enterprise Roshni Nadar Malhotra (Rs 5,972.39 crore) in its application. All three are members of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, the sponsoring organisation of Shiv Nadar University.
Questions sent a week ago to the Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare, University Grants Commission Chairman D P Singh, Registrar and Vice-Chancellors of VIT and KIIT on email went unanswered.
The above eligibility clause was at the source of a lot of heartburn among many private higher education institutions as it had left them out of the application process. This issue was also raised at a workshop organised by the HRD Ministry on October 27, 2017, for “sensitising potential applicants under private sector” for the IoE scheme.
In a clarification issued by the ministry on November 17, 2017, on the request made by private institutions to reduce the eligibility net worth of Rs 3,000 crore, among other things, the government wrote, “The reduction in eligibility net worth cannot be considered.”
On September 24, 2019, at the official inauguration of Symbiosis International’s (SI) Noida campus, Vidya Yeravdekar, pro-chancellor of the deemed university, spoke about the said criterion from the stage, in the presence of HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, and requested him to reconsider it. Stating that SI’s Trust members are dedicated educationists and not worth Rs 3,000 crore, Yeravdekar made a pitch for tweaking the criterion to consider the Trust’s value instead of its members.
“Sir, please consider the cases of good institutions, whose members may not be worth so much, but the Trust will be. I am positive you can bring this change,” she had said at the inauguration.
Symbiosis stood 23rd in the QS (India) Rankings 2019, while VIT ranked 44 and KIIT fell in the 61-65 band. However, in the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF), Symbiosis International stood 82 overall, and VIT and KIIT ranked 32 and 50, respectively. Both QS (India) Rankings and NIRF were used by the HRD Ministry to select the final seven private institutions, out of 15 recommended by the expert panel, for the ‘Eminence’ status.
The IoE scheme, a pet project of the Prime Minister’s Office launched under the NDA-II government, is aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class institutions.
The IoEs are proposed to have greater autonomy, including on deciding the fee, and course duration and structure. Their academic collaboration with foreign institutions will also be exempt from approvals. The 10 government institutions, in addition to autonomy, will get Rs 1,000 crore each from the HRD Ministry.
The scheme first ran into controversy in July 2018, with the selection of Reliance Foundation’s non-existent Jio Institute among India’s first six IoEs (three public and three private). The announcement of the second and final tranche of IoEs was in August last year, in which seven private and seven public institutions were awarded the status. VIT, KIIT, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Bangalore, Jamia Hamdard in New Delhi, OP Jindal University in Haryana, Shiv Nadar Universty and Satya Bharti Foundation’s proposed institute were among the seven private IoEs announced last year.
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