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

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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.

HC directs all Universities to evolve mechanism to decide eligibility at the beginning of academic year

” ……  A provisional admission does not create any vested right in the students. A provisional admission is a concession, which is granted to a student and the same cannot be elevated to a position of a creating a vested legal right. … ” 

“……… We therefore direct the State Government and the respective Universities in the State of Maharashtra to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible….”

The Bombay High Court, while being pained to see students-institutions wasting time in litigation in Court, has directed all the Universities in the State to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible.

The Petitioner in question could clear her backlog of the first year (IInd Semester- Applied Mathematics) subject, only in November, 2015 and before passing the same was granted admission to the Third year (Vth and VIth semester) which was wholly impermissible. The College and the University, for these reasons refused to allow the petitioner to appear for the viva- voce examination of the VIth semester which is to be held on 18th April,2016 and her form was not accepted.

The Petitioner then approached the Court seeking direction to allow the Petitioner to appear for the Viva Voce examinations and the written examinations for the sixth semester and continuation of studies in the seventh and thereafter in the eight semester in the engineering course in the Information Technology faculty.

The Court declined to entertain the petition relying on a rule that a candidate to be eligible to obtain an admission for the Third Year (V & VI semester) should have passed Semester I and II examination and when the Petitioner approached for admission to third year (V and VI semester) in the Academic Year 2014- 15 and was given provisional admission had not cleared the IInd semester examination namely the subject ‘Applied Mathematics’ in which she had failed and hence the Petitioner was not eligible for admission to Third Year.

The Court also ruled that a provisional admission does not create any vested right in the students. The Court also observed that a provisional admission is a concession, which is granted to a student and the same cannot be elevated to a position of a creating a vested legal right. The Petitioner in the present case was given provisional admission and hence she could have claimed any vested right.

Before concluding the Judgement, the Court made following observations:

“ We would be failing in our duty if we do not sound a note of caution in such cases which would be in the interest of the institutions and the students. We are at pains to see number of such cases coming to the court at the fag end when the examination is about to commence. This is routinely happening. Many times it is seen that the institution is at fault for not scrupulously enforcing norms of the University in respect of matters which the University would want the institution to do. The students also many times being aware of the rules try to exploit the situation and try to create equities, and then approach the court at the fag end. In all these situations the students may ultimately suffer huge loss in terms of their academic career. Such situations which are not conducive to anyone are required to avoided. All mischief’s if any at which ever level are required to arrested and remedied at the threshold. This would result in maintaining of academic standards. It is least expected that the students and the institutions waste their time in litigation in Courts. We therefore direct the State Government and the respective Universities in the State of Maharashtra to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible. If the institutions and colleges are guilty of making such admissions/ when are against the rules stern action should be taken against such colleges which would be deterrent to these colleges to deviate from the binding academic rules.”

Thus the Court has directed all the Universities in the State of Maharashtra including Deemed Universities to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible. The Court has also warned the Institutions and has cautioned that if the institutions and colleges are guilty of making such admissions/ when are against the rules stern action should be taken against such colleges which would be deterrent to these colleges to deviate from the binding academic rules.

EduLegaL View

 There is no doubt that in spirit, this Judgement is very good and will help in maintaining academic and administrative discipline. However, it is also important to note that considering the diversity of this country and different timings and processes all over the Country, it is almost impossible to determine eligibility at the time of admission.

There are many situations, when essential documents required for eligibility like Migration Certificate, verification of caste certificate, equivalence of a foreign degree from AIU consumes time. Additionally, the Institutions are also working a huge volume. In some case, even results of compartment / improvements are also declared and hence with utmost respect to the Judgement, such blanket process and deadline cannot be laid down.

Yes, I agree that this should certainly happen before the commencement of the second year, so that a student does not waste his time, as has also been observed by the Court.

However, this Judgement certainly gives me a thought and if it has to become a reality, we should have UNIFORM ACADEMIC CODE in the Country, when all the examinations start on same and results are declared on the same date throughout the country.

UNIFORM ACADEMIC CODE ! Another debate in making !

MHRD constitutes committee to deliberate on setting up Yoga Department and start courses in Yoga in Universities

MHRD after deciding to set up Department of Yogic Art and Science in the Universities during a consultative meeting with Vice Chancellors in Bangalore on 2nd January 2016, has now constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. H.R. Nagendra. Chancellor, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana, Samsthana, Bengaluru to look into the various aspects pertaining to setting up of Departments of Yogic Art and Science.

The Committee will deliberate on other pertinent issues including starting courses and programmes like Certificate, Diploma, Degree, Post Graduate Degree/ Diploma and Research in Yoga and the levels at which they can be offered. This will also mean that the Committee will have to determine eligibility qualifications for students joining Yoga and faculty teaching Yoga.

Infact things come out as expected then Yoga will part of NET Examination which is conducted by UGC every year. The Committee has also been asked to see whether existing departments of yoga in Universities can be upgraded to be developed as Departments Yogic Art and Science.

The Committee also consists of Prof. Suresh Lai Barnwal, Prof. Ishwar Bhardwaj, Prof. Neel Kamal, Swami Atmapriyananda, Pandit Radhey Shyam, Prof. O.P.Tiwari Kaivalayadhama, Prof. Subramanayam, Prof. P.Venkat Rangan and Sri Rupen Bhowmik.

The Committee has been asked to submit its Report within 45 days.

Ranking Framework for Universities released under NIRF

After releasing the Framework for Engineering Institutions on the day of launch of National Institutional Framework by MHRD, followed by Ranking Framework for Pharmacy and Architecture Institutions, MHRD has now released the framework for Universities and colleges.

India has a complex University / College Structure. Though UGC Act, 1956 defines University, as one established and incorporated under Central / State law, however it also empowers MHRD to recognize certain Institutions as Deemed University. This legislative provisions has ensured that we have Central and State Universities, which are funded / aided by Government. India also has Private and Deemed-to-be-Universities. The Central, Private and Deemed Universities are generally Unitary in character with schools in many disciplines, each of which individually offers all levels of degree programs: from Bachelor’s to the Doctoral. The State Universities are “affiliating” in character where there are several colleges, both undergraduate and post graduate colleges leading to a Bachelor’s / Master’s degrees (and some times Diplomas) in a variety of disciplines like Sciences, Arts, Engineering and others.

UGC, which is the regulator for Universities with a larger objective to improve ranking of Indian universities in World University Rankings appointed Expert Committee for developing a ranking system for colleges and universities based on National Institutional Ranking Framework developed by the Core Committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

UGC in recent communication to the Educational Institutions had urged the Vice Chancellors for personal indulgence and asked them to register their universities on NIRF portal and provide data as per the instructions. Universities were also requested to direct the colleges affiliated to the University to register, so that the national ranking could be made available to the students from the next academic session.

UGC highlighting the importance of participation in the Ranking Framework process said, “You may agree that providing the best learning experience in the ideal environment is the ultimate objective of every higher learning institution. The objective becomes all the more highlighted when institutions are constantly adjudged on the basis of excellence in teaching and learning, excellence in research, innovations and excellence in management. With regards to this, Ministry of Human Resource Development has come up with National Institute Ranking Framework for universities and colleges, which will evaluate them on quantifiable parameters leading to ranking of institutions”.

The National Institutional Ranking Framework [NIRF] outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country. The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions. The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources,” “Research and Professional Practices,” “Graduation Outcomes,” “Outreach and Inclusivity,” and “Perception”.

NIRF is projected to enable parents, students, teachers, educational institutions and other stakeholders to rank institutions on basis of set objectives, in a transparent process.

EduLegaL View:

The Framework has come with clarification by way of statement, “ Thousands of institutions would volunteer themselves to the ranking exercise with an aim to assess themselves on the qualitative parameters…”

This is good, as till now it was appearing, as it was another mandatory participating process, burdening the Institutions. Now the Institutions can take a long breath. But the question is, will any Institutions even dare to ignore this “voluntary” request.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

India’s 17 in Top 800 Universities of the World

In the 12th edition of the annual rankings released by ‘Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16”, 17 Indian Universities have featured in list of top 800 Universities of the World.

India with 17 institutions on the list, India is now at par with its BRIC counterpart Brazil.

India has two institutions in the top 400, the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Other Indian institutions featuring the list:

A] 401 – 500 Category: Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

B] 501-600 Category: Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, Jadavpur University and Panjab University.

C] 601-800 Category: Aligarh Muslim University, Amrita University, Andhra University, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, University of Calcutta, University of Delhi and Savitribai Phule Pune University.

The California Institute of Technology (US), the University of Oxford (UK) and Stanford University (US) are the top three institutes in the list. University of Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) complete the top five, with Harvard University a close sixth.

India has no position in top 200 Universities of the World, which is position is enjoyed some of the other Asian Countries. The National University of Singapore holds Asia’s number one spot (26) while China’s two leading universities, Peking and Tsinghua, are at 42nd and joint 47th place, respectively. Japan has two institutions in the top 200, the University of Tokyo (43) and Kyoto University (joint 88), while South Korea has four institutions in the top 200: Seoul National University (85), Pohang University of Science and Technology (116), the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (148) and Sungkyunkwan University (153).

The 2015 ranking features universities in 70 countries. The rankings are partly based on publication and citation data from Elsevier’s Scopus, the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, and include analytics from SciVal, Elsevier’s tool to calculate comparative research metrics. It examines 13 performance indicators to examine all the core missions of the modern global university – research, teaching, knowledge transfer and international activity.