People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 44

October 31, 2010



Alternative Route to Foreign Universities


Vijender Sharma


THE union ministry of human resource development has circulated a draft of the Universities for Innovation Bill 2010 in the middle of this year. Under the provisions of this bill, universities for innovation will be established with full public funding, private funding or in public-private partnership. These universities are intended to make India the global knowledge hub and will set benchmarks for excellence for other central and state universities. These universities will be based on different themes, focussing on one area or problem of significance to India.


These universities will be set up not through acts of Parliament, but through signing of memoranda of agreement (MoA) between the central government and the private promoters, companies, trusts or foreign universities established outside India for at least fifty years and recognised as amongst the ‘foremost’ universities of the world. Specific norms about the credibility of these promoters or even for the scrutiny of their MoAs have not been provided. Thus the bill provides tremendous freedom to private promoters or predators in higher education.




The memorandum of agreement of each university for innovation will include its name and location, the areas of studies, the capital investment plan for its establishment, the sources of financing the capital investment and the financial contribution of the central government, and the constitution of the board of governors. The central government will publish every memorandum of agreement in the official gazette to take effect. The MoA will be laid before each house of parliament.


The universities for innovation will have all-India jurisdictions with freedom to establish campuses anywhere in India and foreign countries. It is expected that they will provide teaching and research facilities of standards comparable or superior to the best universities in the world. These universities will enjoy unfettered freedom.


They will be free to evolve their own admission criteria, determine the nomenclature of their degrees and other academic distinctions awarded by them irrespective of the provisions of UGC Act, decide their own fee structure and other charges, appoint teachers, and determine their salary and service conditions. They will also be free to appoint faculty by invitation and give them differential salary and perks. At least half of the students admitted to these universities will have to be Indian citizens and the rest could be foreign. Thus the cap of additional 15 per cent of seats for foreign students set by the UGC will not be applicable to these universities.


Each university for innovation will establish a university endowment fund with such initial corpus as provided in the MoA. Therefore, different universities will have different initial corpus funds. These so called not-for-profit legal entities will not be under the purview of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). They will appoint their own auditors. They will have all financial powers for acquiring and disposing properties. This provision gives indication that these universities will actually be profit-making entities.




The universities for innovation would enjoy complete autonomy in the constitution of the board of governors, the members of which will be appointed or nominated as provided in the MoA. There will be no nominee of the government on the board of governors despite the fact that the central government will be funding them. However, at least one-third of its members will be from teachers or officers of the concerned university for innovation. The board of governors will have freedom to appoint academic board, schools of studies, etc.


While enjoying full autonomy --- academic, management and financial, these universities will have no accountability. They will have full freedom to determine and receive payment of fees and other charges for instruction and other services provided by them. The standards of teaching and research are expected to be higher than the minimum standards determined by the statutory regulatory body in the relevant field. Where no standards have been determined, the standards have to be equivalent or higher than the standards of the best international universities, about which nothing is provided in the bill.


Giving all information about standards and fee etc on the website is enough of their accountability. If any dispute arises between such a university and the statutory regulatory authority with regard to the standards, etc, it will be referred to a committee of three persons and not even to the much trumpeted educational tribunals. Such a committee will include one person each nominated by the concerned innovation university and statutory regulatory authority while the third person will be nominated by another innovation university. Thus the representatives from the innovation universities will be in a majority. The decision of the committee will be final and binding.




Apart from other functions, the board of governors will decide the annual budget estimates, qualifications and other eligibility criteria and the processes for appointment to the posts of vice chancellor, professors emeritus, professors, associate professors, assistant professors and other officers. The chancellor of each university for innovation will be appointed by the promoter. The board of governors will choose the vice chancellor who could even be a foreign academician.


The board of governors of any university for innovation shall have the autonomy to enact, by statutes, its own policy to attract the highly qualified and talented academics having sufficient teaching or research experience from any part of the country or abroad, and to offer them emoluments and perks commensurate with their standing. This will include appointment by invitation of any person to accept the post of professor or associate professor and appointment by invitation of any graduating student with high academic distinction demonstrating exceptional talent for research as assistant professor on any terms and conditions. However, such assistant professors cannot be more than 20 per cent of the total sanctioned posts of assistant professors.




These universities will be exempt from reservation. However, the central government will give grants to each university for funding research, fellowships and scholarships for the socially and economically disadvantaged students. The central government’s public funding will be in the form of land, contributions to capital investment, grants for supporting research, and the promotion and development of higher education. The funding of universities of innovation by the central government will be the part of the MoA, as pointed out above.


These universities will be known as the institutions of national importance with full autonomy in all respects. These will be private universities financed by the central government. The central government will have neither general nor social control over them. The promoters will have their own agenda and vision, without any importance to national concerns. These universities will be for the elite and middle class of the country squeezing the requirements of higher education system in general and students in particular.


Each university will disclose to the central government about the new research leading to an intellectual property and apply for its protection. The government will pass on all profits or royalty earned to the university from such intellectual property, and it will be shared with the creator of the property.


These universities will give their annual reports to the board of governors only and not to the central government. There is no provision in the draft bill under which the central government can inspect the affairs and functioning of these universities.




The wide-ranging freedom available to these universities, like differential salaries to teachers and fee and other charges, etc, will set an example for all other institutions of higher education in the country to demand such freedom. Such freedom will only help private promoters, companies and foreign universities seeking to take advantage of the provisions of this draft bill.


Before it is presented before both houses of the parliament, the central government will publish the MoA of a university of innovation in the official gazette to take effect. There are no provisions in the bill for regulation of its admission with regard to reservation, courses, fees, examinations, service conditions and appointments of the teaching and non-teaching staffs. There is no provision under which the central government or any regulatory authority can inspect the affairs of these universities. Thus the central government has neither general nor social control over these universities.


These universities will be outside the jurisdiction of the CAG. There will be no member of the central government on the board of governors. Any dispute between the statutory regulatory authority and the university of innovation in relation to standards only will be referred to a committee, not even to the proposed tribunals, the decision of which will be final and binding. There is no remedy proposed in the bill in relation to the disputes between students, teachers and other staff on the one hand and the universities of innovation on the other. Thus while funding these universities, the central government will have no control over them.


The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) has forgotten that great universities are not established; they grow to greatness. All universities are institutions for innovation. The government could only make some norms for world-class universities which could not be established overnight but evolve over time.


It appears that this draft bill provides an alternative route of the Foreign Educational Institutions (FEI) Bill 2010 to foreign universities and private players for establishing their campuses in India. They will not be required to acquire the discredited deemed universities status. This alternative route is going to give them greater power, freedom and prestige, with the removal of most of the restrictions that are proposed in the foreign educational institutions bill.


With the new agenda of the government in the name of expanding higher education and a series of bills, our higher education system is being thrown in to the hands of private players --- both local and foreign --- for the trade in and all-round privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. We have to force the government of India to protect education from these predators. For that purpose, let all the stakeholders, viz. students, teachers, non-teaching employees and officers of schools, colleges and universities, youth, parents, people’s science movement, etc converge in Delhi on December 2, 2010 to make the rally called by the national forum in defence of education a grand success.