Education in India could turn the page to a new chapter with the Prime Minister’s office asking the human resource development ministry to fast-track a plan to set up 10 private autonomous universities for research and innovation.
The move could pave the way for world-class private institutions for higher studies to come up in the country.
These institutes, unlike the current lot of private universities regulated by the University Grant Commission, will be free of government control and have their own curriculum and fees. They will have full autonomy in hiring faculty and all other aspects of administration, sources said.
On the lines of Stanford and Princeton universities in the US, these universities will provide students modern infrastructure for research and innovation in different fields, including information and technology, medicine, agriculture and biotechnology.
“The directive from the PMO is being deliberated in the ministry and we could soon come out with a framework to set up such universities,” an HRD ministry official said.
But another official said there was no clarity on how this could be achieved.
“If these are set up through an act of Parliament such as institutes of national importance, including AIIMs, IITs or NITs, the government will have to pass separate bills for each university. Again, if they come into existence by modifying the UGC act, they will have to follow the regulatory body’s guidelines,” he said.
The proof of the pudding would be known, according to former UGC member MM Ansari, when private players come on board because building and maintaining state-of the-art education facilities involve huge investment while “the return is uncertain”.
At present, there are four categories of universities — central, state, deemed and private — set up through government legislations and regulated by UGC guidelines.
While central universities have been formed through an act passed by Parliament, deemed universities are recognised by the UGC if they fulfill certain conditions. State and private universities are formed by state legislations.
Institutes of national importance, established through a central act, enjoy autonomy but the HRD ministry has overall control over them.
The UGC would have no say on private universities to be set up under the directive of the PMO, sources said.
A similar attempt by the UPA government to bring the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill in 2012 could not succeed. It was rejected by the standing committee.