Redeeming act

The Central government’s decision to derecognise 44 deemed universities is an acceptance of the fact that conferment of this status on these institutions was a subversion of the aims of higher education in the country. The list of 44 contains six from Karnataka and 16 from Tamil Nadu. The wholesale creation of deemed universities by the UPA-I government when Arjun Singh was heading the HRD ministry was scandalous and had invited criticism from educationists, parents of students, media and others. The norms and guidelines were rarely followed and 126 institutions managed to acquire the status. With more than one-third of them now found to be unfit for the status it is clear that the whole process was marked by irregularities. The revocation decision is on the basis of a review of the working of these institutions and the facilities offered by them to students. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal now says the Centre is ready to abolish the concept of deemed university itself.

What has come to light is shocking. These institutions considered the deemed tag as only a licence to turn themselves into commercial educational shops, profiteering by the sale of education. The student intake and fees were increased astronomically without providing the necessary facilities for the students. Physical infrastructure was inadequate and teaching facilities poor. There was no professionalism in the management of the institutions with individuals, families or a closed circle of persons with no background or expertise in education controlling the affairs. Courses with fanciful names, which did not help students, were offered and there was no attempt to promote excellence and research which was an important aim of the plan to create these universities.

The decision has created a sense of uncertainty and worry for lakhs of students and their parents. The government has instructed that the institutions should revert to their earlier status of university affiliation so that the students can continue their studies and get their degrees. It must be ensured that the interests of students and their future are not adversely affected. It is a shame that a country that wants to improve the standards of higher education and become a knowledge superpower has found itself in such a mess. The present decision should mark the beginning of the cleansing of the system, and those responsible for the irregularities should be brought to book.

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