The Prime Minister’s Office and the National School of Drama are in disagreement over the status to be granted to the premier institute of theatre. The PMO recently returned a Cabinet note for granting the status of “Institute of National Importance” to NSD. Instead, it suggested that NSD be declared a “Deemed University” and permission of the HRD Ministry be sought for the purpose.
In the last decade, this is the second attempt of the Centre to convert NSD into a Deemed University, a move opposed by the theatre institution. At present, NSD is an autonomous institution under Ministry of Culture, whereas, deemed universities and institutes of national importance come under HRD ministry.
An institution of higher education, other than universities, working at a very high standard in a specific area of study, can be declared a Deemed University by the Centre on the advice of the UGC. India has 123 deemed universities, which are required to meet several UGC guidelines. On the other hand, an Institution of National Importance is established by an Act of Parliament and enjoys greater autonomy. IITs, AIIMS, NITs are among selected institutions of national importance.
Speaking to The Indian Express, NSD Director Waman Kendre said he is not aware about the PMO’s suggestions. He, however, added: “We do not want to be listed among deemed universities. We want to save our unique identity. We would like to be an Institute of National Importance. NSD’s contribution to the country is even more,” Kendre said.
He noted that NSD “is ranked among the top ten institutes of theatre in the world”. “The NSD has contributed to several fields, including theatre research, theatre technique, films,” he said.
With an intake of just around two dozen students every year, the school has among the toughest entrance exams.
In 2005, the UPA government had moved a similar proposal granting the status of Deemed University to NSD, a move that was opposed by the theatre fraternity. The Deemed University status, in fact, remained operational in HRD ministry’s records for several years until it was revoked in 2011 after NSD did not comply with the stipulated UGC requirements to function accordingly.
Subsequently, NSD formed a committee to consider the Centre’s proposal. It then unanimously rejected the tag of Deemed University, and proposed that it should be declared an Institute of National Importance. “In 2005, the Centre had wanted to give us the status of Deemed University. The entire theatre fraternity had opposed it,” Kendre said.
Another former NSD Director said the status of a Deemed University would have serious repercussions for NSD it would invite regular interference by the UGC.
Curiously, a separate government note issued recently underlines PMO’s disagreement over the status and puts the onus on NSD to present its case. “Director, NSD should explain the relevance of NSD to PMO and sort out the issues,” the note said.