India suffers from rogue institutions

August 20, 2004

INDIA. As the learning market looks set to go global, Times Higher writers check out how rogues are weeded out worldwide

India's university system is almost entirely government-controlled and heavily regulated. India has more than 300 universities established, funded and run by either the central government from Delhi, or regional governments.

A handful of central universities are fully funded by the Federal Treasury.

They were established to cater for areas that do not have enough resources of their own and are open to students from all over the country. State universities are established by state legislatures to serve local populations, but 50 per cent of their funds come from central government.

All universities are regulated by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which has powers to evaluate performance and take action against failing institutions. But officials find it hard to recall when a "rogue" university was last punished - although many state universities routinely flout UGC guidelines on minimum teaching hours, examination timetabling, admissions procedures and the student-to-staff ratio.

Setting up a university is an entirely political decision prompted by election promises or pressure from constituents. Once a decision is taken, the government provides the land and the funding. The UGC then steps in to "regulate".

The government has accepted private-sector participation in higher education, but there is a dispute over the conditions the UGC has prescribed for private universities. Issues such as their jurisdiction, quotas for socially and economically disadvantaged castes, restrictions on the kind of degrees they can award and financial viability are before a court.

The government has also agreed to let in foreign universities and at the last count, in June, 144 were operating. They are yet to be recognised, as the UGC has not finalised accreditation rules.

Only those universities that are accredited in their own countries will be given recognition. According to the UGC, many of those that have applied for recognition are not accredited by their own governments.

Meanwhile, there is a growing problem of "fake" universities that offer degrees for cash. The UGC says it has no powers to take action against them except to notify students.

Pankaj Mittal, UGC joint secretary, said they were mushrooming because the punishment (a fine of R1,000 - less than £3) for running them was not a deterrent.

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