(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 30, 2010
THE FEI BILL, 2010
An Instrument to
Kill Higher Education - II
HAVING regard to the reputation and international standing of foreign educational institution and “such other criteria as may be prescribed”, section 9(1), the central government, on the recommendation of the Advisory Board, may “exempt” such Institution from any provisions of this Act other than section 5(3) and section 8. This is nothing but giving overriding powers to the central government and Advisory Board. The 5-member Advisory Board will have three national research professors (one of whom will be chairman), UGC chairman and chairman of one of the statutory authority like AICTE, MCI, etc. by rotation. The rules for such exemption will be framed later.
It is already being argued by those who favour foreign universities that highly reputed universities in the world are starved of funds. Therefore, to attract them to India to open their campuses would require exemption from maintaining the corpus fund. In that situation, why should they come to India and open their campuses? Obviously, they would come to make money and finance themselves in their country of origin.
A FEI, as per section 13, which is imparting education leading to award of certificate or any other qualification not being a degree or diploma or equivalent qualification shall furnish a report to the UGC about its activities and publish on its website the details of courses offered, enrolment of students, infrastructure, place of functioning and whether operating on its own or in collaboration or partnership or twinning arrangement with any Indian educational institution and details thereof. They can continue doing business and making profits and repatriating them. No provision of this Act shall apply to them.
However, the FEPs are not required to submit reports to the UGC or the central government. In its absence, on what basis the UGC will satisfy itself as to whether a FEP has violated the provisions of this Act or not. In the circumstances, it will be almost impossible to withdraw the recognition given to a FEP.
There is no Financial Memorandum associated with the Bill. It was stated in the financial memoranda of FEI Bill, 2007 that there might be occasions, where “a Foreign Education Provider may have to be provided with development grant. In such event, the expenditure shall be met from the Consolidated Fund of India.” It meant that if a FEP had good political clout in the central government, it could get development grants and make profits with public funds.
The union commerce ministry had, in September 2006, circulated a consultation paper on trade in education services. It had recommended striking “a balance” between “domestic regulation and providing adequate flexibility to foreign universities in setting syllabus, hiring teachers, screening students and setting fee levels.”
Such provisions are likely to be provided in the rules which have to be made later in accordance with this Act. What kind of subsidy might be provided, such as cheap land, water, electricity and other resources is not known. Once an educational institution comes up then there is political pressure to provide such subsidies to that institution. Actually this is what is happening today.
There is no requirement for implementation of the policy of affirmative action by FEPs. There is no provision for the reservations for SC, ST, OBC and other deprived sections in the Bill. The implementation of reservation is poor in public universities and colleges, and practically the reservation has not been implemented in private institutions. Given this experience, it seems that FEPs are going to be exempt from the constitutional provision of reservation.
It should be noted that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in education, including higher education, is allowed in India under the automatic route, without any sectoral cap, since February, 2000. There is no offshore campus of any foreign university in India. There are, however, many foreign universities and education service providers operating in India through twinning programmes. An advertisement number AICTE/Legal/03(01)/2006-07 cautions the students as follows:
“As per the information available till date, 169 institutions are found to be conducting courses in the field of technical education without obtaining AICTE approval. 104 institutions are conducting technical education programmes in collaboration with foreign universities without AICTE approval. Students are advised not to take admission in technical education courses run by any institution which has not been approved by AICTE. They are cautioned that joining unapproved programmes can have serious consequences in terms of eligibility for employment, higher studies etc.”
This advertisement also carries two lists of such unapproved institutions and their programmes. What is shocking is that the lists include institutions like ICFAI, IIPM, Ansal Institute of Technology and G D Geonka World Institute which regularly issue front page and full page advertisements in national dailies about their programmes and also their tie-ups with foreign universities. These advertisements cannot escape the attention of the AICTE, UGC or HRD ministry.
I visited the website of IIPM on June 12, 2009 and asked it using its online enquiry, “Are your degrees, particularly BBA, MBA and MBE, recognised by the AICTE and/or UGC?” Quickly came the online reply that “IIPM is not affiliated to any university; neither does it seek any kind of affiliation from any such institution in future. It is an autonomous institute and offers its own courses and hence does not come under the purview of any university system / UGC etc.”
The IIPM is publishing a new full page advertisement in major newspapers. It reads: “Study at IIPM and additionally become eligible for a UGC recognised MBA/BBA/BCA degree from a NAAC Accredited State Government University of India, recognised by UGC, Association of Indian Universities and Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India.” It is mentioned in fine prints that “IIPM is an approved on site academic partner institution” of that university.
Having read this advertisement,
I enquired from IIPM
Corporate Office at
As per the provision of the
promulgated on May 16, 2005, on Regulations for Entry and Operation of
Universities/ Institutions imparting technical education in
As per the punitive provisions prescribed in the notification, “In case it comes to the notice of the Council, that a foreign university is running diploma or/and degree at undergraduate, postgraduate and research level in technical education in India directly or in collaboration with an Indian partner without obtaining a certificate of registration, Council shall take immediate steps to initiate action under the Indian Penal Code for Criminal breach of trust, misconduct, fraud and cheating and under other relevant Indian Laws.”
The AICTE has replaced its 2005 Regulation by the AICTE (Grant of Approvals for Technical Institutions) Regulation, 2010 published in the Gazette of India on February 6, 2010. Even this regulation prescribes several kinds of punitive actions including legal civil and criminal actions.
Despite these punitive provisions, these private institutions like IIPM continue their business and fleece students and give them unrecognised degrees with impunity. They know that the government will not take any action against them because they have patronage from within the government. No wonder that several parliamentarians are associated with such institutions and looting the people.
In this context, note some of
the comments of American
educational tycoons in the Mint and the Wall Street
The UPA government, due to its policy of privatisation and commercialisation of higher education, deliberately failed itself in regulating such institutions through a central legislation that could ensure quality. Most of the professional colleges in engineering, IT, medicine, dentistry, business administration, etc. are in private sector. The CPI(M) and other Left parties have been demanding a central legislation to bring these institutions under social control in relation to fees, course content, infrastructure, academic standards, examinations, etc. The draft of such legislation, though very weak in its purpose, was issued in 2005. Despite repeated demands of the Left, the UPA refused to take it up.
FEI BILL, 2010
The proponents of FDI in higher education argue that it would solve the problem of access, enable Indian students to access quality higher education in the country itself at relatively much lower cost, not allow the outflow of our foreign exchange reserves, create competition with the local institutions enabling them to become internationally competitive, and create new institutions and infrastructure and generate employment.
The FDI in any field, in fact, does not have an attached objective of fulfilling the social agenda of a welfare state. It is guided by profit and market alone and if these are not fulfilled, the investors look for other destinations for FDI. Foreign investors aim to increase their profits. In the field of higher education, FEPs would launch courses which the market needs, create false impression about their courses through advertisements, charge exorbitantly high fees for courses which have immediate employment potential.
It would lead to unhealthy competition among unequals. Since competition entails reduction in costs, infrastructure, laboratories and libraries would find least investment and the teachers and non-teaching staff would be appointed without necessary qualifications on such terms which would be exploitative as is in existence in most private institutions today.
FDI would impede the development of indigenous and critical research within our university education system, aggravate the tendency towards commercialisation and strengthen the stranglehold of neo-liberal ideas in our academia. The FEPs would be concerned about their profits and not about our culture and society. Therefore the courses which would appreciate and strengthen our ethos would not only be not started by the FEPs, but such courses would get marginalised in public funded higher education institutions also due to competition.
The Bill does not take care of any of the concerns expressed above. This Bill is an instrument to kill our system of higher education and promote crass commercialisation of higher education. Therefore, it should be fought against and rejected lock, stock and barrel.