Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Deemed University and a Doomed Education

t is all very well that Kapil Sibal, the new HRD minister has decided to put on hold any further affiliation of private universities under Section 3 of the UGC Act which empowers the government to accord deemed university status to institutions of higher education – both in the private as well as the public sector. According to the UGC website, there are 124 deemed universities which have been accorded approvals and while some of these are reputed institutions like Jamia Hamdard and Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, there are several which have sprung up almost overnight and are connected to politicians. Under Section 3 of the UGC Act, deemed-to-be university status is granted by the central government to “educational institutions of repute who fulfill prescribed standards”.

Deemed University ; Doomed Education

While the provision has facilitated the private education sector, it has also provided a window to avaricious politicians and bureaucrats to create a web of money-spinning institutions. Of course the recent expose by the television channel Times Now the investigation exposes how Chennai-based colleges violate an SC order and state legislation banning capitation fee. Officials of Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) and Shree Balaji Medical College and Hospital were caught on camera demanding donations from a student who cleared his Class XII exams this year and the news spread rapidly because of the alleged involvement of a UPA government minister, who was sworn in barely days before.

There is a fundamental flaw about a policy wherein organizations which did not even exist till the other day, are straight away made universities while colleges of repute which have been in existence for half a century or more and have established a pedigree and a reputation struggle on as affiliated colleges and are only occasionally allowed to be autonomous colleges. When the first three universities of pre-Independence India started functioning in 1857, all the 27 colleges running at that time were brought under their ambit. From that modest beginning a century-and-a-half ago — when the Madras, Calcutta and Bombay universities were set up — the number of colleges has seen an exponential increase. Today, there are 343 university-level institutions, managing no less than 16,885 affiliated colleges.

But ultimately, it is not a matter of whether you are a deemed university or an autonomous college; it is all about the values that you profess; and that is some thing the honorable minister will not be able to do much about. It is a sad truth that educational institutions which is where values would be typically taught and practiced are corroding on the inside.

We find it convenient these days to condemn the racism against Indian students in Australia , but the inconvenient truth also is that while education in Australia or any where else outside may be expensive, they largely come with some assurance of quality and stamp of assurance. In India on the other hand, it is quite possible that if you have burnt hard earned money to go to a newly deemed university , you might only be getting a deemed education.

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