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‘Embezzlement, violations’ — Haryana issues notice to Ashoka, 2 other private universities

Ashoka University, SRM University and World University of Design have been sent showcause notices for allegedly violating Haryana Private Universities Act. Universities deny allegations.   

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New Delhi: The Haryana government has issued showcause notices to three private universities in Sonipat — Ashoka University, World University of Design (WUD) and SRM University — in the last four months, alleging embezzlement and violation of guidelines, ThePrint has learnt.

The universities were issued notices by the state’s higher education department under sections of Haryana Private Universities Act, 2006.

While Ashoka University and WUD have denied the allegations, ThePrint’s call and email to the SRM University spokesperson hadn’t elicited a response by the time of publishing this report.

Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (Higher Education) Anand Mohan Sharan, who sent the notices, confirmed that they had “given showcause notices to three private universities in the last two-three months”.

“We were receiving complaints about these universities and hence had to get an explanation from them,” he added.

The latest among the three to get the notice is Ashoka University, which has been accused of “financial embezzlement” as well as “misadministration”.

Under the Haryana Private Universities Act, the university is supposed to reserve 25 per cent of seats for students of Haryana domicile, and give fee concessions. According to the state government’s showcause notice, the university failed to do so.

“In the case of Ashoka University, we were getting complaints that they are not admitting students from Haryana domicile. We had initially asked the university for enrolment data, but we were not satisfied with the data they shared, so we sent them a showcause notice. What they are believed to have done amounts to financial embezzlement,” Sharan said.

Ashoka University has denied the charges, and called the notice “totally misconceived and contrary to the provisions of the Haryana Private Universities Act”.

Talking about the other two universities, SRM University and WUD, Sharan said “they started courses without approval from the state government” and these were “serious lapses” on their part.

WUD, he added, was slapped with a fine of Rs 10 lakh in May over this.

The university, however, has denied the allegations. In an email response to ThePrint, WUD Vice-Chancellor Sanjay Gupta said: “WUD has never started a course without the permission of the state government.”

Also read: UGC wants universities to offer up to 40% of courses online. Professors don’t see the point

Case of Ashoka University

The showcause notice sent to Ashoka University earlier this month reads: “It has been found that there is a serious lapse on the part of Ashoka University, Sonipat, in clear violation of the Haryana Private Universities Act, 2006…

“The Vice-Chancellor, Ashoka University, is hereby served showcause notice to explain why penalty prescribed under the Act may not be imposed and why an FIR may not be lodged for financial embezzlement?”

In a detailed response to ThePrint’s queries, a spokesperson from Ashoka University said the “allegations of misinformation and embezzlement of funds are completely unwarranted”.

“The university has strictly followed the Haryana Private Universities Act’s requirements of reservation for students from Haryana. All admitted students who are (from the) domicile of Haryana receive fee concessions from Ashoka University as specified in the Act,” the response read.

“In fact, Ashoka University offers generous financial aid to more than 45 per cent of its students, well beyond the requirements of the Haryana Private Universities Act,” the response added.

It said the “university follows a merit-based admission policy as mandated by the Act”.

“This merit-based admissions policy has been applied for all applicants, including Haryana students and general category students. The university has ensured that no seats were denied to students who met the merit requirements,” it added. “Seats that were not filled from the Haryana quota have remained largely unfilled, despite a provision for transfer of seats to other categories.”

Planning audits

According to Sharan, the Haryana government is planning to start auditing private universities. Under the Haryana Private Universities Act, all varsities are supposed to be audited.

“Private universities based in Sonipat are also set to get audited,” Sharan told ThePrint.

“None of them have been following the audit rule, so we are now working on getting them audited. We have already found an agency to do that for us and will start the process soon,” he added.

The additional chief secretary said the Haryana government has made compliance checks more stringent as a large number of private universities have mushroomed in Sonipat.

The Haryana government’s official website states that 24 private universities come under the higher education department.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

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