Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Deemed doomed

The HRD ministry has decided to de-recognize as many as 44 "deemed universities", spelling uncertainty for nearly two lakh students enrolled with them. The ministry's decision amounts to an acknowledgement of irregularities in conferring the "deemed" tag to these institutions.

The 44 "deemed" universities are spread across the country, including one promoted by a minister, three government-sponsored ones and some in the National Capital Region. These deemed universities were found deficient on many grounds -- ranging from lack of infrastructure to lack of evidence of expertise in disciplines they claim to specialize in, according to the findings of a high power review committee appointed by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) emphasized that the affected students would be taken care of. The ministry's task force recommended that institutions not found fit for deemed university status revert back to the status quo ante as an affiliated college of the state university of jurisdiction, so that students complete their ongoing courses and obtain degree from the affiliating university. Similarly, medical and dental colleges not found suitable can affiliate to state university or state medical university. While these safeguards have been recommended, the students are nonetheless likely to go through a phase of uncertainty as they move from one university to another.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court of India, the HRD ministry said the review committee found only 38 institutes fit to have the deemed university status. Another 44 were found "deficient" in some aspects which need to be rectified over the next three years. With Supreme Court likely to approve HRD's action, it is unlikely that government will have to face any litigation.

The HRD ministry's review committee found the following glaring omissions in case of 44 deemed universities:

* Undesirable management structure where families rather than professional academics controlled the functioning

* Several institutions had violated the principles and guidelines prescribing excellence in teaching and research and were engaged in introduction of thoughtless programmes
* Little evidence of noticeable efforts in case of emerging areas of knowledge
* Little evidence of commitment towards research
* Institutions increased their intake capacity disproportionately
* Undergraduate and post-graduate courses were fragmented with concocted nomenclatures
* Higher fee structure than prescribed