Science institutes' degrees in jeopardy

While the Centre has lofty plans for a decade-long expansion to more than double the number of higher education institutions in the country, this callousness will cost the students their degrees since they will not be worth the papyrus they will be printed on. The prized IISER, which is modelled on the elite Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, can award MSc degrees to the outgoing batch but these might not be recognised by other institutes and create complications ––academic and professional–– for students. 

For the better part of four years, the Human Resource Development Ministry did practically nothing to come out with a legislation in Parliament. The ministry woke up late and incorporated IISER in the National Institute of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which was cleared by the parliamentary standing committee in the last winter session that concluded without transacting any business.

Flagship project

As a result, the future of 82 students, who will be graduating from IISER’s Pune and Kolkata centres by April-May, is in jeopardy. But, sources said, the situation could still be redeemed if the National Institute of Technology Bill is passed in the budget session and if Parliament is allowed to function smoothly.

If it does, the complications can be averted but in the event of an unrelenting Opposition, the government will end up having egg on its face as the IISER centres have been labelled as one of the flagship projects of the UPA government.

In the last five years, five IISERs were established in Pune, Kolkata, Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram.  They offer doctoral and post-doctoral studies also.

“They are cutting a very thin line. This could have been avoided, had the HRD ministry been more proactive in propagating the IISER legislation rather than clubbing it with the NIT Bill at the last moment,” a top government official told Deccan Herald.

The institutes were told that since the IISER was created under executive orders they could go ahead with awarding degrees to outgoing students. “But in the absence of a legislation, that degree may not be recognised by other institutes,” an IISER director said.

Sources, however, clarified that the HRD ministry had no executive power enabling institutes to award degrees. The executive powers are only valid in awarding diplomas.
Since the Bill is already pending in Parliament, an ordinance route cannot be pursued, officials said, adding that no other option was left and Parliament will have to pass the proposed legislation so that IISER did not suffer any embarrassment.

When fully functional, all the IISER centres are expected to admit 200 students from the plus two level for the five-year integrated BSc and MSc programmes. Since they are functioning out of rented locations, the intake is low at the moment. The first batch from Kolkata and Pune comprises 38 and 42 students, respectively.

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