Deemed varsities are a big racket in Tamil Nadu

 Educationists and pedagogic experts say that it comes as no surprise. “It only confirms the extent of the rot that has set in in private higher education institutions which later got DU status; these have now become a byword for administrative arbitrariness and extortion,” says an expert who did not wish to be quoted. The proliferation of deemed universities in the state started after implementation of reservation in full force.

As this limited the expansion of general quota seats in government professional colleges, mainly engineering and medicine, the state began to encourage self-financing private engineering colleges since the early 1980s. On the one hand, there was the growing demand for seats and impatience in a burgeoning middle class, as a fallout of the quota regime. On the other, the economically better placed students began to migrate to neighbouring Karnataka and AP which took a lead in self-financing colleges.

In this backdrop, privatisation of higher education in TN began in a small way in the early 1980s. Interestingly, most of the private engineering colleges set up then were by well-to-do MPs from mainstream political parties including the Congress, the DMK and the AIADMK.

Several of the DUs facing derecognition are either owned or indirectly promoted by well-connected political personalities. For instance, Balaji Medical College and Hospital and its sister institutions in Chennai, promoted by the family of the present DMK Union Minister Jagathrakshakan, were in the eye of a storm last year when a TV channel did a sting on how they took capitation fees, banned by the Supreme Court. Jagathrakshakan, though, said he had quit the Trust before joining the UPA Cabinet last year.

Bharath University was founded by Jagathrakshakan, while Vel Tech has been promoted by the son of a former AIADMK bigwig and a comedian of yesteryears, Isarivelan.

Similarly, the brain behind Dr MGR University here is a former AIADMK MP, A C Shanmugham; the Periyar Maniyammai University is run by a Trust close to the Dravidar Kazhagam  led by K Veeramani.

“What matters is your political clout and hospitality-levels when UGC officials visit these campuses,”a professor at a women’s autonomous college here said.

Despite the ban on capitation fees and the DMK government fixing the fee structure for private engineering and medical colleges, there are fixers who sell management quota seats at  hefty premiums. The administration in the DUs are packed with promoters, relatives or people from their own respective caste/community.

Student unrest

Meanwhile, following Monday’s SC developments, students of some private engineering and medical colleges near Chennai went on the rampage in their campuses on Tuesday, protesting against the managements’failure to retain their DU status.

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