Can a private university grant degrees to students on behalf of vocational training institutes like the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI), Noida; or the Institute of Apparel Management (IAM), Gurgaon? Apparently not, as this violates UGC norms.
FDDI runs degree and post-degree courses in footwear design, fashion design, retail management, business management etc. IAM offers fashion and lifestyle design, apparel design and merchandise etc. As both do not have degree granting status, they have collaborated with Mewar University to offer degrees to students on their behalf.
As per the terms of the MoU between FDDI and Mewar University, the former will send a question bank to MU, which will then prepare questions for FDDI to conduct its examination. FDDI will evaluate the students’ performance and declare the list of successful candidates. The degree, however, will be awarded by Mewar University.
This degree granting arrangement, however, is in complete violation of the University Grants Commission (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulation, 2003. No private university, according to the gazetted regulation, can open any off campus study centre within and beyond the boundary of its own states for any regular degree programmes without UGC permission.
“Since Mewar University has no permission to run degree programmes in the distance education mode, it can offer degree courses only in the regular mode. Now if you look at section 3.3 of the said regulation, it says that a private university established under the State Act shall operate ordinarily within the boundary of the state concerned. However, after the development of its main campus, in exceptional circumstances, the university may be permitted to open off-campus centres, off-shore campuses and study centres after five years of coming into existence subject to conditions. One condition requires off-campus centres and/or study centres to be set up with the prior approval of the UGC and that of the state government(s) where the centre(s) is/are proposed to be opened,” says a senior UGC official on conditions of anonymity.
The 2003 UGC regulations have no mention of a private university signing an MoU with any institute. In exceptional circumstances, MU can only be allowed to open off-campus centre(s) or study centre(s) in other states, and only with UGC and state government(s) permissions. At present, MU has not been allowed to open any study centre or off-campus centre, the UGC official states.
An institute aggressively marketing its programmes is FDDI, which not only gets a mention in the ministry of commerce and industry’s website but also claims to have received a grant from the ministry to set up its campuses and infrastructure. The tuition fee is only meant to run the courses.
Also, one MoU between MU and FDDI covers all of FDDI’s eight campuses in Noida, Kolkata, Chennai, Rae Bareli, Rohtak, Chhindwara, Jodhpur and Guna where more than 3,500 students are studying for degree and master’s degree courses in footwear design, fashion design and retail management. Doing the programme costs each student Rs. 12 lakh to Rs. 15 lakh.
FDDI, on its part, has said that it has to shift from a diploma-granting status to a degree-granting institute under pressure from demands by students to do so.
According to Ajay Kumar, FDDI’s officiating managing director, who is also an Indian Revenue Service official, “The ministry of commerce and industry formed a society in 1986, which was registered under the Society Registration Act of 1860. Initially, we were offering only diploma courses and candidates passing out from here were placed as CEOs and vice presidents of big corporate houses. However, many of them felt that their education remained incomplete for want of a degree certificate. So for the first time in 2007 we collaborated with Punjab Technical University (PTU) to grant degrees.”
In 2010, when the Delhi High Court restricted PTU from offering courses beyond the boundary of its own state, ie, Punjab, then FDDI signed an MoU with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou) which had launched several programmes as part of its personal contact initiative. In 2012, Ignou, under the vice-chancellorship of Prof M Aslam, kept all such programmes in abeyance as the matter went to the Delhi High Court.
“We talked to several universities but no one had the expertise to teach a subject like footwear design. Then we published an advertisement in the newspaper requesting specialised institutes to collaborate with us to grant degrees to our students and Mewar University came forward and convinced us that we could sign an MoU to grant degrees,” said Kumar.
“Now we have asked MU to give us a written undertaking that it can sign MoUs and grant degrees on our behalf. The university has agreed to do that,” he added.
Defending its MoU with MU, Somesh Singh, director, IAM, says, “We don’t claim to be government bodies but we are autonomous education societies which have a symbiotic partnership with MU where we take care of the technical part, ie, teaching and skill imparting while the University takes care of the generic part such as conducting examinations and awarding degrees.”
Highlighting challenges faced by fashion and textile design institutes, Singh says, “There is a dilemma of pedagogy. Regulatory bodies like UGC have never considered looking at the curriculum and ways in which it will be delivered. Fashion and textile education is one area which suffers from apathy of education regulators.”
A thorough analysis of such MoUs should be done, say experts. “I haven’t seen the details of Mewar University MoU, but I can say for sure that such arrangements must be authoritatively examined and resolved before other universities start doing the same thing. It’s very serious and students should not be put to any disadvantage,” says NR Madhava Menon, eminent academician.
I informed UGC about MoUs, there were no objections from them: MU chairperson
What the controversy is all about
# Starting 2012, Mewar University, a private state university of Rajasthan, signed MoUs with more than a dozen vocational training institutes to grant degrees on their behalf.
# The MoUs are in alleged violation of the University Grants Commission (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulation, 2003.
# The validity of such degrees is questionable and students may face problems in getting government jobs and pursuing higher education.
# The fees of some of these courses range between Rs. 12 lakh and Rs. 15 lakh
# Mewar University says that it has informed the UGC about these MoUs, however, it hasn’t received any approval from the Commission.
# Academicians say that such degrees should be authoritatively examined.
Mewar University’s tie-ups
# Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
# Footwear Design and Development Institute
# Indian Tourism Development Corporation, New Delhi
# Institute of Apparel Management, Gurgaon
# Fragrance and Flavour Development Centre, Kannauj
# Indian Institute of Learning and Advance Development, Gurgaon
# Indian Institute of Gems and Jewellery, Jaipur
# ATDC-SMART Centre, Gangrar, Rajasthan
# Dezyne e’cole College (D’e’cole), Ajmer