The University Grants Commission (UGC) has instructed Pearl Academy, a Delhi-based fashion and management institute with centres in Noida, Jaipur and Mumbai, to stop awarding joint degrees with Nottingham Trent University (NTU) of Britain.
The higher education regulator’s order follows mounting complaints against private institutes tying up with foreign universities to offer degrees, which is not legally allowed in India.
“Pearl Academy is not authorised to grant any degree either in a standalone mode or in collaboration with any foreign university,” reads the UGC notice to Pearl Academy.
It said the institute is not a “university”, according to a 1956 law that governs India’s higher education system.
The CEO of Pearl Academy, Sharad Mehra, denied any wrongdoing, saying the institute has a heritage of more than two decades of excellence in education.
Many private institutes have collaborated with foreign universities and offer courses, promising an “international degree”. These degrees are invalid as Indian universities don’t recognise them. Their international acceptance is questionable too.
“It has become a matter of grave concern as many students are becoming victims of the fraudulent act of the institution,” the UGC said, barring Pearl Academy from enrolling “students for the coming academic session for any degree programme”.
Pearl Academy had acknowledged offering joint degrees with NTU, in response to a query from the education regulator.
A senior UGC official said the disclosure could invite legal action because only a university can offer degrees in India, not an institute. “A foreign university can only collaborate with an Indian university with prior approval from the UGC.”
The latest action came after Hindustan Times asked UGC through provisions in the right to information (RTI) act if it had taken any action against the institute.
The institute had admitted that 4,100 students were getting education at its four branches and the NTU-Pearl agreement went back to 1995. The official response has no name and designation of the signatory authority, though.
“The Commission was not happy with Pearl Academy’s reply. After an inquiry, we decided to ask the institute to close down its academic activities,” the UGC official said.
A similar collaboration between Mewar University and Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) was declared illegal last year. Mewar had collaborated to offer degrees on behalf of FDDI.
More than 4,000 students suffered then and were fighting a legal battle now.
The previous version of the story inadvertently mentioned that University Grant Commisison (UGC) orders Pearl academy to close all its center, whereas the UGC in its May 23 notice had asked Pearl academy to stop awarding degrees including undergraduate programmes and postgraduate programmes since it is not a “university” within the definition of UGC Act 1956. This version of the story reflects the corrections.