HRD minister’s statement on dual degrees has no impact

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2015 17:20 IST

If a programme offered by a private college seems tempting because you are told it will also give you a chance to study abroad in a foreign institute, stop and do your checks first because such degrees are invalid. On July 27, 2015, the minister of human resource development Smriti Irani, in a written reply to Parliament, had said, “The University Grants Commission (UGC) has not approved any joint degree between a foreign university and private institute in India.” Later, on August 12, 2015, while referring to the UGC (Promotion and Maintenance of Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Education Institutions) Regulations 2012, she again told Parliament, “At present there is no provision for awarding dual degrees under these regulations.”

Ironically, on August 8, 2015, a top university in Noida announced its collaboration with a US-based university for dual degrees.

Earlier, on July 1, 2015, and on July 22, HT Education had revealed how courses were being run by top academies (some even charging fees of Rs. 25 lakh) in India in collaboration with international institutes, without the UGC being approached for approvals.

The two stories led to a flurry of questions in Parliament, both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Various parliamentarians, Wansuk Syiem, Vasanti M, KN Balagopal, Mahesh Girri, KRP Prabakaran, S R Vijaya Kumar, Joice George, Nalin Kumar Kateel and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, questioned the government on the validity of the joint degree programmes, government policies and the existing laws related to foreign universities’ campuses in India.

On July 27, replying to the questions of Wansuk Syiem on the validity of joint degrees and legal provisions related to foreign degrees, Irani admitted that joint degrees were not valid. “The UGC has informed that the UGC (Promotion and Maintenance of Standards of Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Education Institutions) Regulations, 2012, have been notified in order to ensure the quality and standards of higher education provided by foreign educational institutions through collaborations, partnership, twinning arrangements with the Indian Higher Educational Institutions. According to these regulations, it is mandatory for any Indian Educational Institution (IEI) desirous of collaboration with Foreign Educational Institution (FEI) to seek approval of affiliating university prior to entering into any collaborative agreement. The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has stated that the AIU policy for granting equivalence to such foreign degrees that have been awarded for studies undertaken in India, requires the educational institution to adhere to the UGC Regulation and/or All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) guidelines in this regard,” she said.

However, when asked to take action against educational institutes violating norms, Irani passed the buck on to the regulatory bodies, saying, “The UGC, AICTE and AIU are competent to take cognizance of educational malpractices and issue advisories to safeguard the interests of students.” Replying to another question raised on August 3, 2015, by parliamentarian KN Balagopal, on foreign educational institutes working directly or indirectly in the country and advertisements of tie-ups of Indian and international institutes, Irani replied, “The Association of Indian Universities (AIU) had undertaken a study on ‘Foreign Education Providers in India’ and published its findings in 2012. As per the study there were 635 Foreign Education Providers (FEP) operating in India under different modes of which; (a) 440 were operating from their respective home campuses (b) 04 were operating in India with their own campuses (c) 60 were operating under programmatic collaboration (d) 54 were operating under twinning programmes and (e) 77 under arrangements other than twinning / programmatic collaboration. The study was based inter alia on advertisements on FEPs released in 18 national and regional newspapers.”

What makes Irani’s reply interesting is that when UGC was asked under RTI whether any institute/educational institutions had approached it for approvals to collaborate with foreign universities, the regulatory body’s response was: “No information is available.”

When the appellate authority, Manju Singh, joint secretary, UGC, was asked by this correspondent to furnish a proper response, she, in a written response, said, “UGC has already furnished a reply pertaining to your questions.”

When parliamentarians sat up and took notice

HT Education, on July 1 and July 22, 2015, had revealed how courses were being run by top academies in India with international institutes. This led to a flurry of questions in Parliament

Is UGC unaware of these tie-ups?

Pearl Academy with Nottingham Trent University; Indian Institute of Art and Design with Kingston University (London); GD Goenka World Institute with Lancaster University; International Institute of Fashion Design with Istituto Di Moda Burgo (Milan, Italy); Mod’Art India with Mod’Art (Paris); Raffles Millennium International, New Delhi, with Raffles (Singapore); IMS Design and Innovation Academy with Pearson Education, UK; Picasso Animation College with Centennial College, Toronto, Canada; among others

Issue raised in UGC meetings, says MM Ansari

MM Ansari, member, UGC and former CIC, says collaborations between Indian and foreign universities have to be vetted by UGC. Unfortunately, neither the universities bother to come to UGC for required assessment of such proposals nor has UGC taken the trouble to monitor such tie-ups. “There is probably some degree of connivance between the partner universities and the senior officials of MHRD/UGC, who are expected to oversee such arrangements. And, lack of transparency in disclosure of quality assurance norms, fixing of fees and other charges and placement services help the institutions commercialise their programmes. The relevant issues concerning the violation of UGC’s Regulations and other guidelines have been raised in almost every meeting of the commission,” says Ansari

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