The recent order of the Himachal Pradesh Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission directing the managements of the private universities to furnish complete details and imposition of various conditions, in violation of University Grants Commission's (UGC) norms, has kicked off a fresh controversy in the state.
The Commission seems to have started exercising its power to tighten its noose around private universities by raising the issues such as teacher-taught ratio, availability of infrastructure and laboratory equipments.
On the other hand, no such condition was being imposed on the government-run universities, leaving many questions unanswered.
The Commission was established in 2010 to ensure appropriate standards of admission, teaching, examination, research and protection of interests of students in the private educational institutions.
However, in October 2013 the commission was declared as extra-constitutional body and was struck down by the Himachal Pradesh high court.
In May, 2014, the Supreme Court stayed the operation of the judgment of high court. Thus the commission became functional again in May, 2014. The course approval which was required to be granted by the commission was given by the secretary (higher education) to the government of Himachal Pradesh in April, 2014.
The authorities of the commmission had held a meeting with the authorities of private universities last month for the preparation of courses for the current academic session and review the compliance of the issues.
Reliable sources revealed that the commission is raising the issue of allotment of students to the guides by allegedly violating the provision of the UGC. As per UGC's Minimum Standards and Procedure for Awards of M Phil and Ph D Degree, Regulation, 2009, a supervisor shall not have, at any given point of time, more than eight students in Ph D and five in M Phil. However, the regulatory commission is ignoring the UGC guidelines and is recommending lower allotments in spite of the fact that Ph Ds and M Phils can contribute significantly in the growth of a university.
“The type of information being asked by regulatory commission is too exhaustive like topics of research of students with each guide, details of papers published in each thesis prior to the submission of the thesis and the impact factor. The citation index is also asked which is too cumbersome to calculate. Most of the teachers feel it is encroachment on the autonomy of universities,” remarked a dean of a private University.
Sources further revealed that the commission, in a letter on July 30 this year, issued instructions to all the managements of private universities that admission in respect of under-graduate engineering and technical courses should be over by August 15, as per the schedule prescribed by the Supreme Court. Universities are required to upload the details of admissions made on their website latest by August 19, and written intimation is required to reach the office of the regulatory commission by August 23 thereby giving little time to furnish the information.
For other under-graduate and post-graduate courses, the last date has been fixed as August 31 and the detail of admissions is required to be uploaded on the university website latest by September 2 while written intimation must reach the office of the commission by September 4. On the basis of presentation and review meeting, the inspection of the private university would be conducted between August-October, 2014 and it has also been decided by the commission that 15% to 20% inspections would be carried out as surprise inspections.
All the universities have also been directed to keep their records ready and to ensure full admittance to the inspection committee.
Secretary of the commission, Manoj Chauhan, denied the charges and said that no approval has been accorded for any research programme for the current academic session. He added that only the information prior to course approval has been sought from the iniversities in accordance with the norms.