In what could make it more tedious for educational institutions to enter into agreements with foreign institutions, the government has instructed that all Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with financial implications on the government be routed through the human resource development (HRD) ministry.
In a circular dated September 8, the HRD ministry has instructed all bureau heads in the ministry to circulate instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office to this effect to all institutions and bodies under them for “strict adherence”.
In an office order dated August 12, the PMO has said the “institutions coming under MHRD should seek prior approval of the ministry before signing MoU with foreign institutions in case it has financial implication on the Government of India”.
Sources, however, said the HRD ministry has raised objection to this. The ministry wants “financial implications” to be defined clearly, and not be left as a broad category, since most MoUs would have some sort of such implication.
Earlier this year, following a cabinet circular asking all ministries and departments to ensure every MoU signed by an agency with any foreign country or agency be routed through the cabinet, the HRD ministry had written to the cabinet secretariat seeking that higher educational institutions that sign a number of MoUs with foreign universities be exempted.
Following this, the cabinet secretariat in July communicated to the ministry that higher educational institutions including the IITs, IIMs and central universities won’t need a Cabinet nod for collaboration with foreign institutions.
This was, however, in contrast to the ministry’s own internal note prepared in January this year where it proposed that while signing any MoU for collaboration with foreign universities, Indian institutions must refer to the ministry of external affairs’ advisory in context of “national interest”, as well as keep the MHRD “informed”. This note was, however, later buried.
Meanwhile, the prime minister had also expressed displeasure with the delay in getting the MoUs vetted by the cabinet after they were signed.
On August 14, the cabinet secretariat wrote to the Secretary, Higher Education in the HRD ministry, noting that cabinet notes on MoUs were being brought to the cabinet for post facto approval or with considerable delay from the date of signing of such MoUs and that the prime minister had “expressed displeasure” in this regard. The PM, according to the note, had directed that all MoUs that are signed and are required to be brought before the cabinet for post facto approval or information should be submitted within one month of the signing of the MoU.