The government Monday awarded Institution of Eminence (IoE) status to three public and three private institutions — IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), BITS-Pilani, Manipal Academy of High Education, and Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute near Navi Mumbai.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) approved six names against the promised 20 slots. The government’s formal notification is expected soon.
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.
Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag. The private IoEs can also come up as greenfield ventures, provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.
The IoEs are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education institutions. For instance, they will be free to decide their fee for domestic and foreign students, and have a flexible course duration and structure.
Their academic collaborations with foreign institutions will be exempt from approvals of government or UGC except institutions based on a list of negative countries prepared by the External Affairs and Home ministries.
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.
The 10 government institutions, in addition to autonomy, will also get Rs 1,000 crore each from the HRD Ministry to achieve world-class status. The government will offer no financial assistance to the private institutions.
A total of 114 institutions and universities – 74 from public sector and 40 from private sector – had applied for IoE status. Out of these, 11 are central universities, 27 are state universities, 10 are state private universities and the remaining are institutes of national importance (INIs), deemed universities, stand-alone institutions and organisations that intend to establish universities.
The Empowered Expert Committee (EEC), which was entrusted to find 20 institutions out of 114 applicants, could only identify 11, of which six have been awarded the eminence tag, for now.
The four-member EEC is headed by former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and has Renu Khator, president of University of Houston, R Pritam Singh from the Management Development Institute and Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School, as its other members. The committee had each of the 114 applicants submit their presentations in advance. The members then met each applicant for about half an hour, of which 15 minutes were earmarked for a presentation and the remaining time spent on questions regarding the proposal.
Asked why the committee couldn’t finalise names of 20 IoEs, Gopalaswami told The Indian Express, “That was maximum. Is there a rule that if the government prescribes a maximum, we should suggest the maximum even if the institution is not suitable? The basic criterion is not the number. The basic criterion is whether the institution has the capability (to break into the top 100 global rankings).”
The Indian Express has learnt that IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Madras, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University were among 11 names suggested by EEC, but were not awarded the status.
“Out of the 11 names suggested by the EEC, only three were private. So, a decision was taken to announce equal number of institutes from public and private sector, which, consequently, limited the announcement of public institutions to three for now,” government sources said.
Out of the three private IoEs announced Monday, Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute which, at this moment, is just a proposal on paper, was selected under the greenfield category. According to sources, there were 10 other applicants under this category, namely Vedanta’s proposed university in Odisha, Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, Satya Bharti Foundation, Indian Institute of Human Settlement in Benguluru, Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar, Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune, KREA University in Chennai, DICE Knowledge Foundation, Acharya Institutes in Bengaluru and Indus Tech University in Delhi.
According to the proposal submitted by the Reliance Foundation, the Jio Institute is proposed to have 10 schools offering over 50 disciplines, including humanities, engineering, medical sciences, sports, law, performing arts, sciences and urban planning.
The Foundation has promised to hire faculty from the top 500 global universities, a residential university city for its teachers, set up inter-disciplinary research centres to provide solutions for real-world challenges and commit Rs 9,500 crore towards the institute’s funding, among other things.
Justifying Reliance Foundation’s selection over other 10 applicants, the HRD Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday that the Jio Institute proposal satisfied four parameters – availability of land, a core team with high qualifications and experience, funding and a strategic vision plan.
Gopalaswami said, “The applicant has to prove and demonstrate that it has a plan of action ready, that they are prepared in every which way and it is a doable plan. You cannot say that you have identified land, but don’t have possession of the said land or that it is under legal dispute. In each case, we questioned them about their plan and then we made our assessment, whether it is a feasible one or not. The committee then decided that the most feasible of all was only this (Reliance Foundation) proposal.”
The Jio Institute doesn’t get the IoE status right away, but a Letter of Intent, instead, for three years. In this time, it has to achieve all the milestones that it has promised to the EEC and the latter, after a review, will finally award the status to the institute.
As for the existing institutions that were named as IoEs on Monday, they will formally get the tag as soon as they sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the government.
Asked why an applicant with a good track record — ISB-Hyderabad, for instance — lost out to a proposed institute, Gopalaswami said, “Firstly, what came before us was not ISB, but a new institution they were also proposing to set up. Secondly, we haven’t selected any management institution, not even IIM-Ahmedabad, because they don’t figure in the international rankings. You have to be a comprehensive university, not a sectoral one.”
The EEC has recommended that the government should start a special programme for sectoral institutions like IIMs, TISS, TIFR and invest in them with a different set of defined goals.
Asked why the government decided to even consider greenfield projects, when there are already many good institutes existing in the private sector, higher education secretary R Subrahmanyam told The Indian Express, “Why not greenfield? The idea is to invite the best to set up world-class institutions. If a new player has the wherewithal to do it, then there is no reason that they should not be encouraged.”
The UGC has requested the expert group to continue their selection process to suggest nine more institutions it deems fit for the eminence tag, so that announcements for the remaining IOEs (seven public and seven private) can be made at the earliest. “We have identified the shortcomings (of the applicants who have not been selected) and asked them to come back after making amends,” Gopalaswami said.
“This decision is a landmark decision for following reasons – This was never thought of & tried; it is more than a graded autonomy, it is really a full autonomy to the institutes; the institutes can take their own decisions,” HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted.
“While today’s decision gives virtually full autonomy, it will also ensure that no student will be denied opportunity of education with various measures like scholarships, interest waiver, fee waiver and ensure all equity principles,” he posted.