Curtains down on Viplav Sharma Case in SC, Decade of suffering for Deemed Universities ends, what next?

SC2A case, pending for last 1 decade has finally come to an end in Supreme Court on 26.08.2016. The PIL has been disposed off simplicitor noting the acceptance of assessment done by NAAC and criticizing the manner in which grading of the Deemed Universities was done by a Tandon Committee, by ignoring the Statutory Authorities and on basis of power-point presentation and not physical inspection.

During the intervening period, Deemed Universities were being treated as sub-standard institutions unworthy of academic and geographical expansion on basis of findings of Tandon Committee and infact some odd 40 of them were “doomed”, as they were de-recognised by the Central Government on the basis of findings of the Supreme Court.

In the year 2006, one Viplav Sharma filed a Petition [PIL] in Supreme Court raising some issues relating to Deemed Universities. During the course of proceeding, MHRD constituted a committee headed by Prof. Tandon to review the functioning of the Deemed Universities. The Committee on basis of power point presentation in a room, without conducting physical inspection graded Deemed Universities in A, B and C Categories. According to the Tandon Committee while “A”, satisfied the satisfied the criteria of Deemed Universities, “B” Category were granted 3 years to take corrective measures and “C” Category Universities were sought to be de-recognised. The then Central Government accepted the report of Tandon Committee. All the “C” Category Deemed University challenging the findings and approached Supreme Court, which ordered maintaining “STATUS QUO” in the matter.

The findings of Tandon Committee also prompted MHRD / UGC to notify the UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010, which was also challenged by several Deemed Universities in different High Court in the country. By Judgement dated 22.05.2014, the Regulations were quashed and were declared to be invalid and unconstitutional.

UGC Deemed University Regulations, 2010 declared illegal by Hon’ble Karnataka High Court

Summary of the Judgement of the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court on UGC Deemed Universities Regulations, 2010

Later, Supreme Court, though without commenting on legality of the Tandon Committee, expressed opinion that it is UGC which is mandated body to review Universities and asked UGC to inspect all the Deemed Universities and submit report.

For some reason, best known to UGC, it also followed the same process and methodology of Tandon Committee to assess the Deemed Universities. On being pointed out, SC reprimanded the UGC and asked them to assess Deemed Universities after conducting physical inspection.

SC disapproves UGC process of inspection by photographs and video-camera

UGC conducted inspection and found 7 of them to be still deficient, to which it granted a year to improve and remaining were cleared subject to approval by MHRD.

In the meantime, Supreme Court taking cognizance of the fact that NAAC, is a statutory autonomous body constituted under UGC Act, 1956 to undertake the functioning of assessment and accreditation, directed NAAC to assess the “C” Category Deemed Universities. NAAC after conducting inspection submitted its report. Surprisingly and contrastingly, many of those who were doomed by Tandon Committee got flying ranks from NAAC.

Decide on universities’ accreditation: SC to NAAC

Failed by Tandon Committee, passed by NAAC

During the proceedings on 19.04.2016, Supreme while accepting the NAAC Assessment, expressed its strong desire to dispose the PIL, with the observation that, “….. in all possibility, we would have closed the matter and a decade old public interest litigation which has, as submitted at the Bar, yielded certain results would have come to an end …..” . However, then Petitioner raised the contention that the Deemed Universities cannot use the expression “University”, in its name, as they are not Universities within the meaning of Section 2[f] and Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956. The Supreme Court keeping this issue open categorically observed that for all other purpose the Petition will not be heard on any other issue.

After come hearing which happened on 12.07.2016, 27.07.2016 and 29.07.2016, in the hearing dated 12.08.2016, the Petitioner expressed its desire to withdraw the Petition in light of order dated 19.04.2016. Finally in the hearing on 26.08.2016, the Supreme Court observing that, issue of using expression “University” by Deemed University was not an issue in the PIL , disposed the Petition. However, it did allow the Petitioner to take appropriate recourse available under the law regarding the issue of using of expression “University” by Deemed Universities.

So, finally curtain was drawn on the decade old Petition, which questioned the very existence of the Deemed Universities.

EduLegaL View:

EduLegaLIt was necessary that faith in power and mandate of statutory authorities should be restored. Tandon Committee had eroded this faith, which was further compounded by the inaction and reliance of MHRD on its findings. Finally and again Indian Judiciary has ended the continued agony and pain of a decade for Deemed Universities.

Issue, is what next, MHRD should disown Tandon Committee and its findings and should come clear on its policy relating to Deemed Universities. Right to establish and administer educational institution is a fundamental right, and it cannot be restricted by executive fiats, in nature of Tandon Committee. The field can only be governed and regulated by a just and fair law.

This conclusively proves that the “drawing room” method of out-sourced assessment by Tandon Committee was completely flawed. Eventually, the law of the country prevailed and Institutions have been given justice after long tiring struggle of 10 years. In true words, meaning, mandate and manifestation of law and supremacy of a statutory academic regulators has been restored.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Visit us at: EduLegaL

Visit our Search Engine: EduPedia

Prospectus / Admission Brochure has force of law : HC

Prospectus1In a landmark Judgement, Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a prospectus issued by the Institute has force of law and is binding on the student. In fact it also restricted the Writ Jurisdictions of High Court to say that even under Article 226 of Constitution of India, the High Court should strictly consider the terms of the prospectus and should not modify the same.

The petitioner was seeking quashing of order passed by the Punjab State Consumer Commission, Chandigarh vide which the appeal of the petitioner has been dismissed while upholding order by the Ludhiana District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, which concluded that  in view of Regulation 9(iii) of Prospectus issued by the Respondent-University, the petitioner was not entitled for the refund of fee of ` 10,000/-.

The Petitioner on being denied the relief of Refund of fee filed a complaint before the Forum filed on the ground of deficiency of service under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The said complaint was dismissed by the Forum on the ground that the petitioner had voluntarily decided not to join the college and there was no evidence that the seat had been filled up. The amount stood forfeited and therefore in view of the specific clause in the Prospectus, the complainant was not entitled for the refund of fee. The Petitioner carried forward his challenge to State Commission, where his Appeal was dismissed on similar grounds.

While disposing the Petition the High Court also justified the reliance upon Clause 9 (iii) of the Regulations saying that  the said clause is only meant to dissuade the students to seek admission in more than one institution thereby wasting seats depriving other students from admission.

The High Court also considered earlier judgement wherein while discussing the  scope and binding force of the provisions contained in the prospectus, the Courts have taken view that the prospectus issued for admission to a course, has the force of law and it was not open to alteration. It also relied on another Judgement which laid down a candidate will have to be taken to be bound by the information supplied in the admission form and cannot be allowed to take a stand that suits him at a given time. The High Court agreed with view that eligibility for admission to a Course has to be seen according to the prospectus issued before the Entrance Examination and that the admission has to be made on the basis of instructions given in the prospectus, having the force of law.

The High Court held that respondents cannot be held liable for any deficiency in service and the petitioner was not entitled for refund in terms of the above Clause of Prospectus. The High Court also pointed out that it has time and again been held that admission brochure or the prospectus has a force of law which is to be strictly followed.

Additionally, the High Court also pointed out that writ petition would not be maintainable in view of alternative remedy which was available to the petitioner under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 where under Section 19, the appeal would lie to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission.

The High Court proceeded to dismiss the Petition by saying that it is settled law that the provisions contained in the information brochure have the force of law and have to be strictly complied with. No modification can be made by the Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

EduLegaL View

Education Law and Policy

No doubt it is a good judgement and it is important that in a student-institute relationship, something has to be treated as sacrosanct and binding on both and undoubtedly, Prospectus is the most sacrosanct document.

However, there are many Institutions, which publish unfavourable terms in the prospectus in fine print, specially relating to refund of fees, jurisdiction, which are not specifically consented to by a student at the time of admission. Also, while taking admission, a student has legal disability to question such clause, so does it mean that an unreasonable clause, just because it is in prospectus, become undisputed truth.

I wish the High Court could have dealt with all such other issues, while laying down relating to prospectus.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Visit us at: EduLegaL

Visit our Search Engine: EduPedia

Disclose full information about distance learning programmes: UGC to Institutes

UGC2Noting that Institutions offering education through distance mode are not disclosing full information regarding their Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes to prospective students and the public, the UGC on Wednesday directed such institutions to put up detailed information covering all aspects of ODL programmes on their official websites.

The latest notification also comes in the light of reports earlier this year that some universities are violating UGCs policy by issuing misleading advertisements that their programmes are recognized by the UGC. Some Institutes were involved in conducting technical degree programmes in distance education mode.

Since December 2012, the UGC has taken over the regulatory functions with regard to Distance Education programmes in higher education from the erstwhile Distance Education Council. Since then, it has implemented several measures to maintain standards of distance education programmes.  Currently, a total of 128 universities and institutions offering academic programmes under ODL mode are recognised by the UGC.

Following this direction, along with the titles of the courses offered, the Institutions are now required to display information regarding approval of the statutory bodies of the University, upload complete approval letters of the regulatory bodies, and provide details of academic calendar of such programmes.

Moreover, to help prospective students get a comprehensive view of the course they wish to enrol in, UGC has also mandated disclosing information regarding number of students who enrolled, appeared, and passed the exam under ODL courses during the last three academic sessions. Details of faculty and the minimum qualification of subject coordinators and counsellors at the study centres are to be displayed online as well.

Further, a list of study centres and examination centres with complete addresses and details of course co-ordinators and support services will now be available on their programme websites along with the information regarding availability of online Self Learning Material (SLM).

The UGC also took cognizance of the practice followed by some institutions of asking personal details from students before giving out basic information regarding these courses and has directed them to upload complete information in a transparent manner within 15 days.

Prior to this notification, released on August 24, UGC had come out with a policy of forbidding institutions to conduct examination for their distance learning programmes outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction. Distance education institute, therefore, cannot conduct examination outside their States or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

EduLegaL View:

Education Law and Policy

Misleading Advertisement by Educational Institutions is biggest corruption in education. The solution is absolute transparency and disclosure. This is a positive step towards eliminating Misleading Advertisement.

In any case, “Right to Information” is a fundamental right and it should certainly extend to providing information to the prospective students so that they can make the correct decision.

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

Advertising watchdog pulls up 23 educational institutions for misleading ads

In May 2016, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against twenty-three different educational institutions for violating ‘ASCI Guidelines for Advertisement of Educational Institutions.’

1ASCI_380These institutions include not only private coaching classes but also online certification training providers, private educational societies, and a UGC recognised University. The upheld complaints relate to false claims regarding high rankings in competitive exams, high salary packages in placements, and claims of having the best faculty. Other complaints included unsubstantiated claims of providing hundred percent placement or being the best in their respective field.

The guidelines were issued by the ASCI after taking into consideration the high value that parents put on the education of their children and great personal sacrifices they make for ensuring it. The advertising content guidelines apply to ads of all educational institutions, coaching classes, and educational programmes.

The guideline, among other things, mandates institutions to not make claims regarding extent of batch placed, highest or average compensation of students placed, or marks and ranking of students passed out unless they are substantiated with evidence. They also forbid advertisements which lead the public to believe that enrolment in the institution will provide the student a job unless the advertiser is able to submit substantiation to such effect and also assume full responsibility of the same.

They further prohibit institutions and programs from claiming recognition, authorisation, accreditation, or affiliations without having proper evidence.

Against this context, the notification released by the ASCI on August 4, 2016 mentions that the CCC found following claims in the advertisements by 23 different educational institutions as not substantiated and, thus, violating the ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions:

  • Apeejay Education Society: The advertisement’s claim, “Highest Salary 6.2 L & Avg Salary 3.6 L”, was not substantiated with evidence to prove that the students have availed the claimed salary packages.
  • Clat Forum: The advertisement’s claims, “Meet the toppers of CLAT”, “Neha Lodha” shown as “Clat ’15 Topper”, were false and were misleading by implication. As per data submitted by the complainant and information available in the Public domain, Akash Jain was the Clat ’15 Topper.
  • Simplilearn Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (Simplilearn.com): The advertisement’s claim, “World’s largest Professional Certifications Company” was not substantiated and was grossly misleading.
  • Aldine Ventures Pvt. Ltd. (Aldine CA): The advertisement’s claim, “study from India’s best final faculty” and “Study from India’s best CPT faculty”, were false and misleading. The advertisement contravened Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs.  
  • Bhanwar Rathore Design Studio: The advertisement’s claims, “India’s No.1 Design Entrance Coaching Canter” and “Highest selection record from BRDS as compared to any coaching institute in India,” were not substantiated with authentic comparative data or with a third party certification. Such a comparative claims are not practically possible given the vast nature of the field of education and presence of a large number of institutes across India.  
  • Legal Edge Tutorials: The advertisement showcasing the comparative data of various criteria indicated, showing Legal Edge to be better than other similar institutes, is not substantiated and is misleading.  
  • Made Easy Institute (GATE, ESE & PSUs Exams): The advertisement’s claims, “India’s Best Institute for IES, GATE & PSUs”, “Crack in 1st attempt”, “ Best faculty”, “Best study material”, “Best results”, “Best pool of faculty in India”, “Best infrastructure & support”, “Maximum selections with toppers”, “The ONLY institute which has consistently produced Toppers in ESE, GATE and PSUs”, “The results in ESE 2015 4 streams 4 first ranks, 38 selections in top 10, 350 selections out of total 434 vacancies” and “The results in GATE 2016 1st Ranks in ME, EE, EC, CS, IN & PI, 53 selections in top 10, 96 selections in top20 & 368 selections in top 100”, were not substantiated with authentic evidence. There was no validation by an independent third party for the claims as well. Also, the claims were considered to be misleading by exaggeration 
  • Pratham Education (Crash Course Batch 2016): The advertisement’s claims, “6 All India Rank 1’s in Entrance Exam of 2015”, “Crash Course Batch 2016”, “AIR 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17 & 20 in Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies”, “AIR 1, 2,3,4,5,7,11, 13, 15, 16, 18 & 20 In IP University BBA Course”, “AIR 1 In IP B.Com”, “AIR 2,4,5,7,8,9,13,16,17,18,19 In Delhi University BBE Entrance in 2015”, “AIR 5,38,45 in IP BJMC & AIR 2,4,16,19 in Delhi University BMMMC Entrance in 2015”, “51 out of Top 100 Final selections in Delhi University BMS/BBA (FIA) Entrance in 2015”, “23 Final Selections in the Oberoi’s Entrance in 2015, were Pratham Students” and “37 Final selections in IN IIM Indore in 2015”, were not substantiated and were considered to be misleading by ambiguity and implication.
  • Rau’s IAS Study Circle: The advertisement’s claim, “8 in top 20”, “39 in top 100” and “396 Total Selections”, were not substantiated with supporting data and are misleading.

It further states that the complaints against advertisements of all educational institutes mentioned below were also upheld mostly because of unsubstantiated claims that they ‘provide 100% placement’ or because of their claims to be the ‘No.1 in their respective fields’:

Penguin School of Business Management (Lifetime 100% Job Guarantee), KL University, SCMS Group of Educational Institutions, Ucmas West Bengal, Apollo Engineering College, Bakliwal Tutorirals (IIT), Gurukul Institute (Personal Coaching for Spoken English), Amirta International Institute Of Hotel Management & Catering Technology (International University Diploma), Apeejay Education Society, Lloyd Business School, IMS-NOIDA (IMS Ghaziabad), United Group of Institutions (United Institute Of Management), Utkal University and New Delhi Institute Of Management.

EDULEGAL VIEW:

edulegal imageIn todays globalised and technology driven era, consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements trying to promote different products. This promotion, although harmless when done judiciously, becomes damaging when it exploits the information asymmetry among the general public and misleads them.

Considering the significant role that education plays in the development of human capital of a nation, any misleading and deceptive information regarding the same can cause a substantial damage to the social and economic development of a country. It is therefore important that such unsubstantiated and misleading claims are dealt with promptly and sternly.

At present there is no central statutory agency or uniform legislation regulating the advertising industry in India. Therefore, a comprehensive law on advertising in all forms of media providing more clarity and acting as a one-stop window for all cases relating to advertising is highly desirable.

UGC asks colleges to submit online compliance of anti-ragging measures

UGC2Reiterating its tough stance on the issue of curbing the menace of ragging, the UGC recently released a notification asking colleges to submit an online report of compliance of Anti-ragging Regulations of 2009. It has further warned educational institutes of punitive action if they do not act in accordance with the Regulations or fail to take adequate steps to prevent ragging and punish perpetrators of incidents of ragging suitably.

‘Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutes, 2009’ were notified by the UGC in pursuance to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in the University of Kerala v. the Council of Principals of Colleges in Kerala’.  These regulations are mandatory and apply to all Universities. Among other things, they require institutes to step up anti-ragging mechanism by adequately publicising its anti-ragging stance through various mediums, setting up of anti-ragging committee and squad, installing CCTV cameras at vital points, organizing workshops and seminars on eradication of ragging, and displaying anti-ragging posters at prominent places.

They further require colleges to have regular interaction and counselling with students, to mention anti-ragging warning in the institution’s prospectus and information booklet, and to hold surprise inspection of hostels and other premises vulnerable to ragging practices.

Against this background, UGC has requested universities to instruct all colleges under their purview to submit an online compliance of anti-ragging regulations. The notification also states that the National Anti-ragging Helpline has been set up for students in distress.

Citing the second amendment in the UGC regulations, the notification further makes it compulsory for each student and every parent to submit an online undertaking every academic year at www.antiragging.com and www.amanmovement.org. The expanded definition of ragging to include racial, ethnic and casteist remarks as broadened by the third amendment has also found its mention in the notice.

EduLegaL View:

edulegal imageConstant reiteration of anti-ragging policy is a necessary and a positive step against curbing the menace of ragging that has infected higher educational institutions in India for a long time. Eradicating this menace by creating awareness on its ill-effects can only be achieved with a sincere co-operation from institutions. Latest UGC notification requiring online submission of compliance report is a constructive step towards that goal.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read other related stories:

Now, racial, ethnic and casteist remarks also ragging: UGC amends the Regulations

Racial and ethnic discrimination may be included under Ragging

Vocation degree (B. Voc) now at par with other Bachelor degree: UGC

UGC2In a step to further strengthen its commitment towards facilitating mobility between vocational and general education and developing a consistent and standardised framework for recognition of vocational degrees, the UGC recently released a notification allowing recognition of the B. Voc degree for competitive exams such as UPSC and Staff Selection Commission as well as for admission into trans-disciplinary programmes. The move intends to bring the B. Voc degree at par with other Bachelor level degrees.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has launched a scheme on skill development based higher education as part of college/university education, leading to Bachelor of Vocation (B.Voc.) Degree with multiple exit options such as Diploma/Advanced Diploma under the NSQF.  To this end, the B.Voc degree was specified by UGC under section 22(3) of UGC Act, 1956 and notified in official Gazette of India dated 19th January, 2013.

The notification mentions that B. Voc should be recognised “for competitive exams conducted by Union/State Public Service Commission, Staff Selection Commission or other such bodies where the eligibility criteria is “Bachelor Degree in any discipline.” It further states that “students with B.Voc. degree should be considered eligible for the transdisciplinary vertical mobility into such courses where entry qualification is a Bachelor Degree without specific requirement in a particular discipline.”

Edulegal View

edulegal imageThis is a welcome move by the UGC that will further open up various avenues and pathways to increase employability of candidates outside of conventional education, which, in turn, will contribute toward productivity at a national level to boost India’s competitive edge at a time when there is still a shortage of skilled manpower to address the increasing needs and demands of the economy.

No provisional Admission, in absence of affiliation, recognition: HC

 

                  “Orders permitting provisional admission of students imposing conditions such as making it clear to the students that against the refusal to grant extension of approval, the writ petition was pending and any admission made would be subject to the outcome of the petition and students shall not be entitled to claim any equity on the basis of the interim order, in my view, create a lot of uncertainty. It puts the career of students, who take provisional admission, at risk. The mere fact, that students are willing to take such a risk, does not justify putting them at such a crossroad unless the peculiar facts of the case warrant such an interim order.”

…. Delhi High Court

delhi high court1The Delhi High Court rejecting a prayer for Interim Stay on the NO ADMISSION Order by AICTE to a Delhi based Institution and also for allowing Provisional Admission subject to disposal of Writ Petition, has held that allowing Provisional Admission in absence of affiliation, recognition has cascading effect and may also lead to further litigation and harassment of students.

The High Court was hearing a Petition filed by Guru Teg Bahadur Institute of Technology and Guru Teg Bahadur Polytechnic Institute challenging letter by AICTE whereby these Institutes have been placed under NO ADMISSION category status for the academic year 2016-17 and the intake of students has been set to “zero”. The Petitioners were seeking ad-interim stay of the operation of the letter and a direction to AICTE to grant extension of approval for the academic session 2016-17 during pendency of the present petition. It was contended that because of the categorization as NO ADMISSION, grave prejudice and loss is being caused to the Petitioners. It was further contended that the Expert Visiting Committee had reported nil deficiency for the Petitioner Institute and despite that, the AICTE has placed the Petitioner Institute in NO ADMISSION category.

The petitioners eventually sought that admissions may be permitted to be made provisionally and subject to the outcome of the present petition and the concerned students would be put to notice, prior to admission, that the subject petition is pending and that the admission is subject to the outcome of the said petition. He further submits that the petitioners are willing to undertake that if the petitioners do not succeed in the present petition, they would have the students accommodated/adjusted in other colleges.

AICTE however, relied upon the Schedule laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of Parshavanath Charitable Trust, wherein it has laid down the time schedule for inspection, grant of approvals and admissions and specifically declared it to be the law and to be strictly adhered to by all concerned. It was submitted by AICTE that even if the petitioners remove all the deficiencies today, to the satisfaction of AICTE, AICTE can only grant an approval for the following academic session.

aicte_2AICTE also opposed the grant of provisional admission and argued that in case the Petitioner Institute was even provisionally permitted to take students, the entire exercise conducted by the UGC spanning over two months would be set to naught. The inclusion of seats of the Petitioner Institute in counseling, at this stage, would have a rippling effect where the candidates who have already taken admission may seek to take admission in the Petitioner Institute resulting in vacation of the seats that have already been allotted and further, the candidates in some other Institutes may then want to shift to the seats which fall vacant on account of shifting of the candidates to the Petitioner Institute. This, it is contended, would result in upsetting the entire process of counseling. The fresh process of counseling would take a considerable time to be completed.

The Court felt that granting an ad-interim stay of the impugned letters of AICTE would amount to stay of the direction of AICTE placing the petitioners 1 and 3 in NO ADMISSION category, which would imply that the petitioners would be permitted to admit students without there being any approval of AICTE or affiliation with the University or Technical Board, as the case may be.

The Court also observed that in case, the Petitioner Institute is provisionally permitted to admit students, the entire exercise of allocation of seats/counseling undertaken over a period of two months in various institutes would be set to naught. It would have a cascading effect of unsettling the entire allocation of seats and would disrupt the academic schedule. Further, in case the petitioner does not to succeed in the Writ Petition, the students admitted by interim orders, would have to be adjusted in different institutes in and around Delhi which may not be possible on account of unavailability of seats at that point of time and may also lead to litigation and harassment to students.

The Court also made following important observation on the concept of provisional admission:

“Orders permitting provisional admission of students imposing conditions such as making it clear to the students that against the refusal to grant extension of approval, the writ petition was pending and any admission made would be subject to the outcome of the petition and students shall not be entitled to claim any equity on the basis of the interim order, in my view, create a lot of uncertainty. It puts the career of students, who take provisional admission, at risk. The mere fact, that students are willing to take such a risk, does not justify putting them at such a crossroad unless the peculiar facts of the case warrant such an interim order.”

The Court eventually rejecting the prayer for Interim Relief and dismissed the Petition.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt the observations of the Court are appropriate, but there are many cases, where the authorities acting in adhoc and arbitrary manner deny the right to an Institution to admit students. We all know about such cases, and they are plenty in number.

The Institute then goes to Court, hires lawyer, attends hearing in anticipation of justice. As an Institute is made to suffer even in genuine cases, shouldn’t the concerned office or authority be also held accountable for acting in adhoc and careless manner.

There has to be balancing of roles. It is important to protect the rights of a students but is it also not right that only the Institution cannot keep suffering.

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read other related Judgements:

Granting Admission without affiliation has become disease leading to disaster: Supreme Court

 

 

UGC Notifies Regulations for Credit Framework for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

UGC2UGC recognising the need to widen the access to higher education through technology has released the Credit Framework for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by establishing a indigenous platform of learning, named as SWAYAM (Study Web of Active Learning by Young and Aspiring Minds) and also prescribed regulatory mechanism to allow seamless connect between the online learning and the regular class room learning.

The Regulations, shall facilitate transfer of credits of such students who are enrolled as regular/part-time students in any educational institution in India through ‘Four quadrant approach’, wherein the

Quadrant-I is e-Tutorial: that shall contain: Video and Audio Content in an organised form, Animation, Simulations, Virtual Labs,

Quadrant-II is e-Content: that shall contain: PDF/e-Books/illustration, video demonstrations, documents and Interactive simulations wherever required. •

Quadrant-III is Web Resources: that shall contain: Related Links, Open Content on Internet, Case Studies, An ecdotalin formation, Historical development of the subject, Articles and

Quadrant-IV is Self-Assessment : that shall contain: MCQ, Problems, Quizzes, Assignments andsolutions, Discussion forum topics and setting up the FAQ, Clarifications on general misconceptions.

The ‘National MOOCs Coordinator’ (NMC) a Nation level agency designated under the Regulations, for coordinating the production of the online courses and for overseeing their quality shall identify the Institutions, which desire to offer online courses in the forthcoming semester on SWAYAM Platform. The Institution keeping in view their academic requirements, decide upon the courses, which it shall permit for credit transfer.

However, there are some limitations on an Institution offering course on SWAYAM Platform. The Institution has to show that there is non-availability of suitable teaching staff for running a particular course in the Institution or the facilities for offering the elective papers (courses), sought for by the students are not on offer in the Institution, but are available on the SWAYAM platform and also that the courses offered on SWAYAM would supplement the teaching-learning process in the Institution. In any case, the Institution has to ensure that the physical facilities like Laboratories, computer facilities, library etc, essential for pursuing the courses shall be made available free and in adequate measure by the parent institution. The parent institution must also designate a course coordinator/facilitator to guide the students throughout the course and to facilitate/conduct the Lab/Practical sessions/examinations.

mooc3Every student, aspiring to have credit transfer through MOOC Courses, would be required to register for the MOOCs for that course/paper. Their performance would be evaluated by a host institution and the PI shall be responsible for evaluating the students registered for the MOOCs course launched by him/her. The evaluation should be based on predefined norms and parameters and shall be based on a comprehensive evaluation throughout the length and breadth of course based on specified instruments like discussions, forums, quizzes, assignments, sessional examinations and final examination.

The Regulation, though paves route for online learning, but surprisingly it leaves discretion with the PI to decide on the mode of conducting the final examination, which may also be pen and paper method.

After conduct of the examination and completion of the evaluation, the PI through the host institution shall award marks/grade as per the evaluation scheme and communicate to the students and parent institution, which shall incorporate the marks/grade obtained by the student, in the marks sheet of the student that counts for final award of the degree with the proviso that the programs in which Lab/Practical Component is involved, the parent institution will evaluate the students for the practical/Lab component and accordingly incorporate these marks/grade in the overall marks/grade.

The parent Institution shall give the equivalent credit weightage to the students for the credits earned through online learning courses through SWAYAM platform in the credit plan of the program for the purpose of credit mobility.

UGC has also asked the Universities to amend their Ordinances, Rules, Regulations etc., to incorporate provisions of these Regulations for the purpose of seamless Integration of MOOCs and also has warned them from refusing any student for credit mobility for the courses earned through MOOCs.

UGC shall notify a Standing committee to resolve any issues that may arise in the implementation of these regulations during the transition period of three years.

EduLegaL View:

No doubt it is a good start! and a great leap for wider access to higher education.

But, I think the slowly the “centralized” system of e-learning has to give way for independent online hosting of courses also.

Today there is no regulation in the country, which empowers an Institution to conduct online learning. The proposed Distance Education Council of India Bill makes provision for the same. It is required that regulation should be in place obviously with prescribed standards to allow Institutions to conduct online course, and not just enabling credit transfer.

Ravi Bhardwaj

 

No Examination Centre outside State for Distance Education Institutes: UGC

UGC2UGC has now issued a circular that a Distance Education Institute cannot conduct Examination outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

UGC, taking cognizance of the fact that some Institutions / Universities / Institutions Deemed to be Universities are conducting examinations for their Open and Distance Learning (ODL) programmes outside the State of their location or beyond their territorial jurisdiction, in violation of UGC policy on ODL norms and territorial jurisdiction.

UGC feels that such practice of conducting examination outside is wholly illegal and have asked the Institutes to stop setting up examination centres and conducting exams outside the State of their locationexam-centre2
or beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

Edulegal View:

I feel this circular is against the ethos of open and distance learning. What is the harm if one State based Distance Education University, though not operating outside the state, for the convenience of students outside the state, conducts examinations for them outside the state.

Does this circular mean that, a student residing in Punjab but enrolled in a Distance Education University based in UP has to travel all through to UP to give examination, then what is the benefit of open and distance learning?

I can understand that a Distance Education University should not have franchise centres outside the state, that is alright, but why ban examination centres, what is the justification, what are we going to achieve ?

Are we trying to restrict the choice available to a student, because a distance learning student would generally not like to travel distances only for examination purposes. Are we trying to create monopoly or geographical restriction in education sector ?

Ravi Bhardwaj

Read the Notification:

UGC Notice on Examination Centre for Distance Education Institutes

 

 

EduLegaL Analysis of the UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2016 : Big Positives, Few Drawbacks, Huge Confusion

UGC2The UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2016 has replaced the UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010 and admittedly there are some positive departures.

Some of the salient features / new features of the New Regulations are:

A) Introduction/ recognition of NIRF: MHRD had launched National Institution Ranking Framework (NIRF), last year and also declared the rankings in April this year though the participation in this framework was not substantive. The Regulations seek to recognise NIRF ranking as an eligibility criteria to be declared as a Deemed University. It prescribes that the proposing institution should be in top 20 in any specific category and in top 100 of overall ranking of NIRF.

B) Section 8 company can also be Deemed University: Section 8 companies are basically body corporates established under the Companies Act, 2013 established for charitable purposes. The new Regulations recognises that the proposed Deemed to be University can be a section 8 company which is a positive departure as earlier only Society or Trust were permitted.

C) Full disclosure regarding fee structure: The Regulation puts obligation on the Deemed University to declare its fees and charges in its prospectus and in its website. It also restricts the Universities from charging exorbitant entrance test fees other than recovering reasonable cost incurred in conducting the entrance test.

D) Compulsory publication of prospectus: It has directed all the Universities to publish its prospectus at least 2 months before commencement of classes, a prospectus detailing all the components of fees, refund rules, intake, eligibility criteria, process of selection, details of teaching faculty, ranking and accreditations, physical and academic facilities and infrastructure, syllabus, etc. The said information is also required to be published on the website.

E) Ban on misleading advertisements: The new Regulations has taken cognizance of the ill practice of publishing misleading claims in advertisements relating to recognition, facilities, infrastructure, performance and issued strict warning and instructed that not deemed to be University shall indulge in publishing such misleading claim.

F) Prescription of Timelines: The New Regulations seek to prescribe timelines for the processes involved in declaration of Deemed to be Universities / Grant of Off Campus Centres, which is a good initiative. However, there is no default consequence prescribed and hence the prescription of such timeline will only remain directory and not mandatory.

G) Introduction of Letter of Intent Scheme: The regulations have introduced the concept of Letter of Intent (LOI), which will prima facie indicate that the Deemed University has vested right to start an Off Campus / establish a Deemed University under De Novo Category, provided it starts the operations within 3 years of the issue of LoI.

H) Restriction on Off-Campus/es: No Deemed University shall be allowed to have an Off-Campus within the first 5 years of its operations. However, beyond that it can established 2 off-campuses in any period of 5 years.

I) Academic Reforms: Institutions, under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) can have a credit exchange matrix with other UGC recognized institutions for the benefit of their students. It has been mandated that such institutions will review the syllabus every 3 years at least. Industry collaborations and research projects would not need specific approval of the UGC nor would be for new departments in core subjects for which the institution was established.

J) Infrastructure: Some relaxation in the infrastructure requirememts has been made considering that land has been expensive and also is not available easily in abundance. There will be barrier free access for specially abled students in all places. There will also be adequate health care facilities for students, staff and faculty within the campus.

K) Generally speaking otherwise, the provisions of the earlier Regulations have been continued. The other mandatory Regulations like Ragging Regulations, Gender Sensitization, Sexual Harassment Regulations have again been made mandatory through these Regulations.

Sponsoring Society / Government vis-a-vis Deemed University Reforms

Role, Authority and Limitations of Sponsoring Society / Government in a Deemed University has been the major point of struggle between the Deemed Universities and the Government. UGC Regulations of 2010 limited the role of Sponsoring Society to a bare minimum, resulting in litigations in various High Courts, challenging the validity of the UGC Regulations of 2010. Still the proceedings are pending in various High Courts. In fact Karnataka High Court has declared the Regulations to be unconstitutional. Madras High Court has upheld the same, but status-quo has been maintained by the Appellate Court.

The New Regulations has made substantive and positive attempt to reduce this conflict, let us see how:

A) Government Nomination on Board/Council of Deemed University: Earlier, there was a nominee of Central Government to be appointed in consultation with UGC. Similar provision was also for Finance Committee. Under the new Regulations, Government Nomination is restricted only to such Universities, which are controlled and managed by Government or receiving grants more than or equal to 50 % of its expenditure. In all other cases, now UGC will have a nominee.

B) Increased Representation of Sponsoring Society in Deemed University: Under the old Regulations, number of nominees of Sponsoring Society on the Board of Management was limited to maximum of two members. Under the new Regulations, the nomination strength has been increased to four members.

C) President of the Society can be Chancellor of Deemed University: Under the old Regulations, it was mandatorily prohibited that President of the Sponsoring Society or his/her close relatives cannot be Chancellor of the Deemed University. Such restriction has been done away with in the new Regulations, restriction being that the person should be a distinguished academician and the maximum term that he can enjoy is 2 term of 5 years.

D) Provision for Pro-Chancellor: This is an interesting creation in the new Regulations. The Sponsoring Body can also appoint a Pro-Chancellor, who would discharge the function of Chancellor, in his / her absence.

Drawbacks / Regressive Provisions:

Though, honestly admitting it has certainly made few positive departures, but it also has some drawbacks:

A) Restriction on using the word “University”: Though the new Regulations has reformed to some extent this regressive clause, which was also existing in the earlier Regulations, but denying a Deemed University to use “University” as a suffix to its name is certainly regressive. The only consolatory departure being that the expression “deemed to be University” can be used after the name. Not Done !

B) Restriction on conducting Distance Education Programme: It bars Institutions declared as Deemed Universities under or after the Old Regulations to conduct Distance Education programmes. Surprisingly, it says that Institutions, which were conducting such programme can continue to operate. There is no reasonable justification for this disadvantageous distinction. This is arbitrary !

C) Distinction between Government and Private Deemed Universities: One can understand concessions / exemptions in financial incurring when it comes to a Government Deemed University. But at many places unreasonable favour has been given to a Government Deemed University over a Private Deemed University like number / restriction on off-campuses, which are purely academic matters and which should be judged on level grounds.

Confusion and the Chaos

The New Regulations, has also left some confusion and chaos in the Regulatory Regime of Deemed Universities.

A) We all know scores of litigations are pending challenging the Old Regulations on various grounds. In fact considering the diverse geography of challenge and universal applicability of the Regulations, MHRD has preferred Transfer Petition before the Supreme Court. Some of the grounds of challenge has been accepted and remedial provisions included. But some still continue. So what happens to those litigations and the transfer petitions. Will it partially survive or a fresh petition will have to be filed. A Delhi High Court Judgement has also quashed the earlier guidelines. Now the situation is earlier Guidelines are quashed, the Old Regulations are quashed, the New Regulations continues with many of the provisions, which were in the quashed Regulations. So what to follow? I wish Government should have come with clarity on all these issues!

B) There is another huge confusion on applicability of the New Regulations to the old proposals. Though the master provision says that the New Regulations will be applicable, but at the same time it also says that Deemed University should undertaking to that effect and should comply with the Regulations within 2 years. What is a Deemed University denies to file this Undertaking? or takes a stand that many of the provisions are quashed in the earlier Regulations and hence cannot be complied with as it will be illegal. I do not have an answer, the only answer being that there is no clarity !

C) What about the GHOST OF TANDON. They should have clearly denounced Tandon Committee, which involves fate of more than 50 deemed universities today. A clarity would have rest so many issues to rest especially regarding expansion of deemed universities.

Ravi Bhardwaj