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Education panel chief defends Jio eminence tag, says no other had better plan

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Reliance proposals include Rs 9,500-crore investment, global faculty, an institute with 10 schools and over 50 disciplines among others.

New Delhi: The chief of the government panel that drew up the list of ‘Institutes of Eminence’ has defended picking Reliance Foundation’s Jio, saying it had a better plan than several established universities such as Ashoka, OP Jindal and Shiv Nadar.

The slew of proposals submitted by Jio Institute includes creating a global network of prominent thought leaders, having leading academicians on its board and hiring faculty from top 500 institutions of the world, among others.

The promoter has also proposed to invest Rs 9,500 crore in establishing the university.

“It is not just Rs 9,500 crore that the promoter has proposed to invest in the university which got it the Institute of Eminence (IoE) tag, it was the overall proposal,” said former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami, who headed the panel to choose IoEs.

Without naming any institution, he said that no other institute in the same category had such a clear plan other than Jio’s.

Jio has been granted the IoE tag under the ‘greenfield’ category, meant for institutions that are yet to be established. Airtel’s Bharti University, a university in Odisha planned by Vedanta and KREA university in Sri City near Chennai, being promoted by a group of corporate leaders, were other contenders under greenfield category.

“Most institutions that applied under the greenfield category only talked about financial projections. They did not have a clear academic plan, like Jio Institute did,” said Gopalaswami.

“It is not for nothing that we have selected the institute and rejected others,” he said.

What Jio proposed

In its plan to the UGC, Reliance had mentioned its relationship top 50 global universities. It also mentioned Dhirubhai Ambani International School as its success story in the field of education.

It proposed to create a multi-disciplinary institute from the start with 10 schools and more than 50 disciplines, including humanities, engineering, medical sciences, sports, law, performing arts, sciences, urban planning, among others.

Reliance plans to establish a fully residential university with accommodation facilities for faculty and their families as well as spousal employment opportunities, something that is missing in new institutions.

Many new IIMs and IITs are not able to attract good faculty because of lack of spousal employment opportunities.

‘Focus on overall plan’

Jio Institute has been selected over established institutes such as Ashoka, OP Jindal, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Shiv Nadav and Azim Premji University among others.

“We did not only look at the money that Reliance is going to invest, we looked at the overall plan and the proposal in its totality, covering all the issues like the funding, what plan they are going to have,” Gopalaswami said.

“If they had said that Rs 1,000 crore will go into putting up a statue of Dhirubhai Ambai or another Rs 1000 crore will go into advertising, we would not have picked it,” he added.

Gopalaswami also expressed concerns over the state of academic institutions — both private and public — in the country.

“So many public institutions that are not even near the 100 ranking in NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) applied with us, just for money,” he said.

“Most IITs, for example, the new ones that have come up in the past 10 years and are struggling even with their staff applied with us, in the hope of more money, autonomy, etc,” said Gopalswami.

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  1. IoE status be given to those educational institutions that have achieved excellent results in terms of a good contribution to the generating of new and practically useful knowledge and technology that suits more to Indian conditions rather than supplying of brains to foreign countries, at least for ten years in the field.Health, good governance, employment must be the vision and mission of these institutions.

  2. 1. What was so much of urgency to grant status of Institute of Eminence ( IoE) to Jio University? It is rather surprising that Mr N Gopalaswami, who headed the panel which selected six institutes for grant of a coveted status called IoE, does not feel embarrassed by criticism of many a individual from field of education. Would HRD minister reconsider his ministry’s decision to grant IoE status to an institution which is yet to start working? 2. Even as one questions propriety of HRD ministry’s decision of grant of IoE status to certain organisations, I think we must be ready reassessment of our policy regarding government funding of higher education. I think we have not done any cost-benefit study of grants given by UGC to colleges and universities which offer post-graduate courses in different areas of learning. It is time we do that to find out impact of government spending on higher education during last five decades or so. 3. Though we have faced exodus of hundreds of graduates of IIT and other institutions to foreign countries, we could not do much to stop or minimise this brain drain. 4. Incidentally, my query related to subject of higher education is this: would the HRD ministry prepare a plan to so that talented Indians do not go away and prefer to work in this country?

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