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UGC rules bent to gift Jio ‘Institution of Eminence’

Pioneer 2018-07-11 00:00:00

HRD Min justifies decision, says it is only ‘letter of intent’ tag to non-existent college, IoE status only after it fulfils expectations in 3 yrs

Reliance Industries’ non-existent Jio Institute was recognised as an  “Institution of Eminence” (IoE) thanks to changes made last year in the UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulation 2017.

After the amendment, the clause 6.1 of the UGC Regulation 2017 provided for a greenfield project to be considered under the category of Institutions of Eminence.

“Accordingly, a separate category of applications has been invited from the sponsoring organisations for setting up new or greenfield projects. The purpose of this provision is to allow responsible private investment to come into building global class educational infrastructure, thereby benefiting the nation as a whole,” said a HRD Ministry note trying to clear the air on the controversy pertaining to grant of Institution of Eminence status to Jio Institute.

The HRD Ministry also clarified that the IoE tag was conditional and the institute would get only a letter of intent (LoI) as of now.

The Ministry also said the sponsoring organisation of the institution will have to set up the institution and indicate its readiness for commencing academic operations within three years of the issue of the LoI.

“After the readiness of the institution has been examined and certified by the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC), a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with clear road map for development of the institution will be signed by the institution and thereafter a notification would be issued declaring the institution as IoE,” said a HRD Ministry official changing the stance from IoE to LoI to Jio.

The HRD Ministry on Monday granted IoE status to IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in the public sector, and Jio Institute (Reliance Foundation), Manipal Academy of Higher Education, and BITS Pilani in the private sector.

“Right now they will not get the IoE tag, they will just get a letter of intent. If they are able to establish themselves in three years and meet the expectations of the expert committee, then they will get the IoE status. The expert panel will have the authority to withdraw the tag if the institution is not found to be performing up to the mark,” said HRD Secretary R Subramaniam.

The Ministry said it received 11 private proposals but its panel of experts “felt” that only the Jio Institute cleared all four specifications — land availability, highly qualified and experienced core team, funding, and strategic vision with “clear milestones and action plan”.

“Jio Institute has been selected under the greenfield institutions category. We should welcome well-meaning and responsible private investment which could bring institutes of global standards to the country,” the HRD Secretary further said.

The HRD Ministry said the Empowered Expert Committee chaired by N Gopalaswami took four significant parameters into account for judging the applications received for setting up greenfield institutions. These are availability of land; a highly qualified experienced team; funding for setting up the institution; and a strategic vision plan with clear annual milestones.

In the run for IoE tag, top corporates competed for the private institutes’ category with the Reliance Group applying for the Reliance Foundation Institution & Research in Maharashtra. Airtel applied for Bharti University (Satya Bharti Foundation) in Delhi, and Anil Agarwal for Vedanta University in Odisha. KREA University which has former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan as its adviser, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad; Indus Tech University in Delhi; and Acharya Institutes of Bangalore were among other applicants.

“The committee has come to a conclusion that out of the (11) applications, only Jio Institute has satisfied all the (4) parameters stated above, and hence was recommended for issuing a LoI for setting up an Institute of Eminence.

Interestingly even though the promoters of the institute are known, the names of Director or a Vice Chancellor or Chancellor was not known about Jio Institute till late evening of Tuesday. 

 “This is certainly bizarre. It is blatantly partisan and smacks of favoritism,” said Dr Santosh Kumar, a professor at a well known university in the national Capital.  

Now, what made Jio Institute qualify for this high-profile tag was based on a submission by Reliance Foundation, as accessed by The Pioneer. The HRD Ministry took into account its profile which favoured Jio Institute claims that it has deep relationship with global top 50 universities and global network of prominent thought leaders with Reliance Board having leading academicians and even Nobel laureates.

It also said Jio Institute promoters is the largest private sector company in India and largest corporate spender on social initiatives across education, health and rural transformation and that it has expertise in conceptualising and implementing large-scale game-changing initiatives be it textiles, refinery or digital.

It has also detailed its experience in education by mentioning about Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Reliance Foundation Schools educating over 15,000 students, and deep involvement in changing education landscape through Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.

It has further said that Jio Education is reinventing learning by connecting 1.9 million schools, 260 million school students and 58,000 colleges based on Artificial Intelligence based next generation platform.

In its visions document, the Jio Institute said that it desires to be the youngest global top 100 universities and be a force multiplier to leapfrog India’s development in private education sector.