Jio Institute, still on paper, gets ‘eminence’ tag, sparks row
The University Grants Commission, which carried out the selections, defended the move saying the Jio Institute was selected under rules for greenfield category for new or proposed institutions.
The government’s decision to select Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute as one of the six “Institutions of Eminence” has drawn sharp criticism as many, including the Congress party, questioned the process of selection and the motive behind it.
The main opposition party accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of “favouring” Reliance Industries Ltd’s chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita Ambani.
“The illusionary JIO Institute which is yet to see the light of day has been declared as an ‘eminent’ institute. The Govt needs to clarify the basis of classification for granting such a status. #SuitBo...” the Congress tweeted.
Ayesha Kidwai, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, also pointed out to the “conflict of interest”.
“It doesn’t have a campus, a website or any alumni and it has left behind prominent IITs as well as private players like Ashoka University and OP Jindal Global University. It is yet to be established but will already be marketed as a world-class institution by the government. Can’t we see the conflict of interest?” Kidwai was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Jio Institute was trending on Twitter on Monday as many users tagged human resource development minister Prakash Javdekar, asking him about the institute’s location and credentials.
“How did @PrakashJavdekar evaluate this Jio Institute to decide it was better than IIT M or IIT KGP or so many other Institutions? How can an Institution that is in the process of being set up be declared Institution of Eminence? What are we missing here?” a professor at IISc-Bangalore, which was also accorded the “Institute of Eminence” (IoE) tag, tweeted.
“What is Jio Institute? I thought only I didn’t know its eminence but looks like everyone knew of its existence only today,” another Twitter user said.
The University Grants Commission (UGC), which carried out the selections, defended the move saying the institution was selected under rules for greenfield category for new or proposed institutions.
“At this juncture, there’s only a Letter of Intent. They’re not same as established institutions. For a greenfield institution, they should have land, equipment, building, staff, etc and for that, they need a lead time,” head of the empowered expert committee N Gopalaswami was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.
“So they have been given three years’ time. It’s only after that they will be given the status,” the former chief election commissioner added.
As per the University Grants Commission (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017, the ministry was to select 20 IoEs — 10 public and 10 private — that will enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy.
It formed an expert committee to shortlist the entries solicited from the institutes on the basis of their research calibre and other criteria. The government received 114 applications - 74 public and 40 private - from the higher education institutes.
The committee headed by Gopalaswami picked the six institutions that, according to the panel, showed the potential to find a place among top 500 of global rankings.
The government granted the status to Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in the public sector, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS Pilani and Jio Institute in the private sector.
The Union HRD ministry will grant financial assistance up to ₹1,000 crore to the three public institutions in the next five years under the scheme but the private institutes will not be eligible for government funding.
According to a proposal submitted by the firm to the committee, the Jio Institute will use ₹9,500 crore in capital expenditure and will be located in a “fully residential university city” in Pune.