Every year, before the academic session begins, the University Grants Commission (UGC) releases a list of fake universities that are functioning in India. For the past five years, there has hardly been any change in the list of 24 fake institutes, most of which are located in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
UGC’s list has names of eight fake universities in the national capital. We visited one of them — Vishwakarma Open University for Self Employment (VOUSE) — to check out the manner of its functioning. Operating out of a small room on the second floor of a dilapidated building near Mukarba Chowk since 1990, VOUSE claims 100 per cent placement and “affiliation” to over 80 institutes across the country.
Video | UGC lists this varsity as ‘fake’, director says ‘only non-affiliated’
‘Courses’ on offer
Besides certificate courses, VOUSE claims to offer 81 diploma courses of one, two and three-year duration, claiming to cover a wide range of fields — from engineering, medical, journalism to plumbing and mobile repairing. It also offers 180 “specialised paramedical courses” including radio diagnosis and cardiac technology.
The ‘university’ claims their successful alumni include actors like Saurabh Shukla and Hemant Mishra who have pursued mass communication from there.
Students, not experts, design curriculum here
Despite the diploma and certificate courses that VOUSE claims to offer, the ‘university’ doesn’t — shockingly — have a curriculum for any subject. If you believe VOUSE director Vijay Singh Mahajan, the curriculum is designed by students themselves.
Mahajan said: “Students interested in a particular course take interviews from 20 experts in that field. Talking to them will make them an expert.” While a traditional university conducts theory classes followed by fieldwork or practicals, VOUSE has a different methodology.
“We don’t give a list of books to students, unlike UGC’s universities. We first make students learn how to prepare a questionnaire, then take interviews or do fieldwork. The data they collect helps them in making a concept. The students have to revisit the field to check the theory they have developed is correct or not. We use a research methodology.”
He also cites an example. “In case someone wants to become a nurse, we ask them to find out what kind of books are available on General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM), price, publisher and contents.”
“When you list 20 contents on a page, you will know everything about the subject,” he believes.
While a traditional university hires teachers looking at their academic record and experience, it is professionals from the affiliated institutes who take tutorials.
What about practical classes?
Vice-Chancellor Leena Gupta said since VOUSE is affiliated to various institutes across India, their students can access “designated labs” and even get professionals to take classes.
In further defence, Mahajan says affiliated colleges may be granting degrees but are not providing skills. “UGC is creating nerds. These students are not industry-ready. An engineer needs 40 skilled hands working under him to complete a project. Who is skilling that staff? We have been doing it for years. They are preparing specialists but not the workforce. We are doing what UGC can’t,” he said.
‘We are making students skilful’
V-C Gupta said they have written numerous letters to UGC, HRD Ministry, Prime Minister’s Office and various state governments, for recognition but to no avail. “We might not have acres of land to run a campus but in all these years we have made the future of thousands of students,” claimed Mahajan. “Our request letters have been transferred from one department to the other. We have written to the PMO as well. Despite no recognition from the UGC, we are running successfully for 29 years,” he added
Mahajan told the indianexpress.com that the UGC should mark them non-affiliated and not fake. “Why are they calling us fake when they don’t fund us? Frauds are those who take students money, promise admissions and run away,” he said.
According to Mahajan, the universities affiliated to the UGC cannot provide admission to all aspirants. Their ‘varsity’ is at least making them skilful and through their NGO, Rashtriya Rozgar Mission, helping them secure a job, he said.
Why fake universities are not shut down
The malpractices cell of the UGC deals with matters relating to the functioning of fake or unrecognised universities in the country. Since these institutions are not established “under the state, Central or provincial act or an institution specially empowered to confer or grant degrees”, they are not recognised under Section 2(f) of the UGC Act, 1956.
Former UGC member MM Ansari said the UGC’s mandate is two-fold — one is to provide funds to institutes and the other is to maintain quality. The latter can be maintained by the Centre, state universities and deemed varsities. UGC cannot, therefore, take action against such standalone colleges. “Only consumer protection law can help but in most cases, no one files a complaint against such institutes,” said Ansari.
The reason, he cites, is that such ‘fake institutes’ provides vocational courses as well as helps in getting a job. “In many cases, these institutes enjoy support from local politicians. Moreover, they thrive because they provide a favourable environment where an institute gets students, teachers get salaries, students get diplomas and in some cases jobs as well. It is sort of a win-win situation for all stakeholders,” he said.