The Indian higher education regulator has listed 23 universities as fake — not approved to grant degrees or diplomas. But most state governments wondered why these names were on the list since the institutes either don’t exist or have closed down.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) releases a list of fake universities across India before the start of the academic session every year. It serves as an advisory for students because degrees or diplomas issued by these institutes are not suitable for higher education or jobs.
Universities can be set up through a law by the Centre or the state government, and only then can the institute award degrees.
Several institutes come up without meeting the requirements and offer degrees. That amounts to cheating, the UGC said, asking the state governments to initiate action.
But the fake list has triggered a controversy. Bihar’s higher education council (SHEC) vice chairman Kameshwar Jha accused the UGC of tarnishing the state’s image by putting on the list Maithili University or Vishwavidyalaya, Darbhanga.
He said no such university existed in the state for over two decades, and including the name of a non-existent institution on the list is equivalent of maligning the state.
“When the institution was declared illegal over two decades ago, I don’t see any point in mentioning it on the fake list year after year. It only earns Bihar a bad name,” he said.
Bihar is already struggling to clear its image after incidents of mass cheating, especially after it got engulfed last year in a massive exam fraud that was exposed when its class 12 toppers failed to answer rudimentary questions during a media interaction.
Officials in Uttar Pradesh, another state notorious for high instances of education frauds, have said six universities on the fake list don’t exist but were offering degrees. They admitted that no in-depth investigation was done on the UGC alert.
The lone bogus university in Maharashtra — Raja Arabic University in Nagpur — is a residential madarsa or Islamic seminary.
“We run a residential madarsa with 240 students,” said Maulana Mehmood Rizvi Khan, who heads the institute. He had apologised to the UGC for naming the seminary as a university.
Similarly, St John University in Kerala has been functioning for the past 15 years in Kishannattamk, a place that does not exist.
“We have no idea about this. And nobody has registered any compliant,” said an education ministry official. The UGC had sent reminders about this university.
Of the two sham institutes on alternative medicine in West Bengal, one is running with a different name and the other is functioning.
The Indian Institute of Alternative Medicine was mentioned on UGC’s 2009 list. The state government has made no effort for its closure.
“We received a notice from the UGC last year, but before we could reply our name was on the list,” said Jayanto Bhattarcharji, founder of the Institute of Alternate Medicine and Research, which is on the list.
The institute was affiliated to the Kolkata-based Alternative Medical Council, he said.
The Union human resource development ministry plans to send reminders to all states to submit a report on actions taken against fake universities and technical institutions.
Mahendra Nath Pandey, junior HRD minister, said: “We have been sending letters to the states as fake institutes are jeopardizing the careers of innocent students.”
Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of unapproved universities, will be asked to expedite action.