INDIA's education ministry is finally cracking down on "fake" universities that have mushroomed with the surge in demand for degrees.
Education minister Manohar Joshi told parliament last week that the government plans to amend the University Grants Commission Act, covering higher education, to give it more power to stop the proliferation of unofficial colleges.
A four-member task force is working out the amendments to the act. Its members include a former Delhi University vice-chancellor Amrik Singh, UGC secretary Professor G. D. Sharma, and an official each from the law and education ministries.
Dr Joshi said: "The UGC has, within the existing legal framework, been making endeavours to curb the menace and remove the existence of fake universities, but results so far have been somewhat limited."
The UGC's role restricted itself to issuing periodic warnings against fake universities as it does not have the legal powers to take action. Since the universities are neither recognised nor funded by the UGC, it has no control over them. The police can act only on individual complaints.
In the past decade unofficial universities have preyed on academically weak students desperate for a university degree that could act as a passport to a job.
The self-styled universities are mostly run by retired lecturers and education officials. It is alleged that they have managed to continue because of their moles in the UGC and education ministry.