HRD ministry to crack whip on erring UGC officials after Supreme Court cancelled engineering degrees secured through correspondence courses.
New Delhi: Within a week of the Supreme Court order cancelling engineering degrees secured through correspondence courses, the human resource development (HRD) ministry has decided to get to the crux of the matter.
The ministry will order a CBI inquiry into how the University Grants Commission (UGC), the higher education regulator, permitted deemed universities to offer engineering courses in distance education mode in the first place, sources told ThePrint.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting held on 6 November.
As directed by the apex court, the HRD ministry will this week write to the CBI to conduct a “thorough investigation” to find out how UGC officials granted such permissions, which were a clear violation of the policy statement, the sources added.
The top court last week quashed correspondence engineering courses offered since 2001 by four deemed universities — JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education in Rajasthan, Allahabad Agricultural Institute and Vinayaka Mission Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu.
While degrees awarded after 2005 have been suspended, degree holders from the 2001-05 period will be permitted to take a test to prove proficiency to retain their degrees. Degrees issued after 2005 have been declared invalid, as the deemed universities had no permission for offering the course since then.
Apart from systemic issues, the larger problem is addressing the impact of the Supreme Court order on the ground, the sources said. Initial assessments show that a number of these graduates are in government service at present, and could stand to lose promotions or other service-related benefits.
It is also being ascertained if there are more universities offering similar degrees.
The UGC will, by next week, put out a public notice announcing the suspension of such degrees. The All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE) will step in immediately and set up a web portal for students who may have enrolled in these courses between 2001 and 2005. As directed by the court, students will have the option to either appear for a special AICTE test, or have their degrees cancelled and seek fee refunds.
It is expected that the web registration process will be completed within three months. AICTE is already beginning the process to hold this special test.
By July-August 2018, AICTE will be asked to declare results of the test, which can enable revival of the suspended degrees for successful candidates. Those who fail to clear the test in two attempts will have their degrees withdrawn. Degrees issued after 2005 will be withdrawn and a notification for the same will be put out by the end of the year.
Much of this action will take place at the UGC, which is under fire for failing in its duty, and violating its own rules and regulations.
The ministry will also ask the higher education regulator to amend the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016, to clarify that AICTE norms apply to deemed institutes, and to new courses to be launched by them.
The government will seek data on all distance education courses being conducted by deemed universities to ensure there is no similar violation in any discipline.
The ministry will also direct the UGC to set up a committee and finalise by June 2018 whether or not deemed university status should be withdrawn from the four varsities in the dock. Based on court orders, the UGC has already been asked to issue instructions to every deemed university to refrain from using the word ‘university’ with their name, and change them over the next three months through due notification.
A three-member committee will be set up by the ministry within the next few days to draw up a road map to strengthen oversight on deemed universities. The court has directed that the committee must submit its report by August 2018.