The Ministry of Human Resource Development and Ministry of Finance had raised strong objections against the government giving the Institute of Eminence status to non-existent institutions, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday, citing official records accessed under the Right to Information Act.
The government had announced six “institutions of eminence” in July – one of them was Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute, which is yet to be set up. In fact, the HRD ministry had been warned against picking a non-existent or greenfield institution last year. The Jio institute is the only one that had been picked under the “greenfield category”.
According to official records, the Ministry of Finance said grading an institution as an Institute of Eminence “only based on intentions and a plan defies all logic”, the newspaper reported.
Reacting to the greenfield category mentioned in the Expenditure Finance Committee note moved by the HRD ministry last year, the Department of Expenditure wrote on February 23, 2017: “…for the private institutions which are yet to be established, granting of the status of Institutions of Eminence based on future plans is beyond rationale and is not supported. The laid down criteria in this regard is highly subjective.”
The Department of Expenditure said the methodology will help institutions that are not established to improve its “brand value” and to position itself above established institutions. The department said it will be “detrimental to the higher education ecosystem” and that it should be revised, The Indian Express reported.
The report adds that before the finance ministry, the HRD ministry had raised doubts over the greenfield category in the UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017. An earlier report had said the ministry and Prime Minister’s Office had differed over many norms for the institutions, and the PMO had “prevailed on most points of contention”.
Despite the objections raised by the ministries, the Union Cabinet approved the “UGC’s Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations”, in August, 2017. The RTI documents show that the HRD ministry is open to selecting six more non-existent private institutes for the eminence tag. This means that seven out of the 10 private Institutes of Eminence could be greenfield institutes, according to the newspaper.
The Empowered Expert Committee, which was given the responsibility of finding 20 Institutes of Eminence, had said in its report that it was difficult to select institutions from applicants with no track record.
The Congress on Tuesday demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reveal the “reasons and pressures” that made his office intervene and ease the proposed norms for educational institutions to be considered for the Institutions of Eminence tag.