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Panel scraps shortlist for top colleges of India, will assess all 114 applications again

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Shortlist dropped as changed screening criteria was not being seen as ‘fair’ and prominent institutes were left out.

New Delhi: A panel set up to select ‘institutes of eminence’ under a high-priority project steered by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has scrapped a shortlist of 40, and decided to re-examine all 114 applicants.

The project promises unprecedented academic and administrative autonomy to 20 selected institutes, with an aim to catapult them to global recognition. Ten of these will be government-run and will receive special funding.

The empowered expert committee (EEC) chaired by former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami held marathon meetings in New Delhi through last week to assess the shortlist of 40 that had been created and found that it did not correctly capture the ‘best’ institutes.

It was also felt that the shortlisting process may not be seen as completely fair, as new screening conditions were brought in later.

“The institutes were shortlisted on the basis of two additional criteria, but it was later pointed out by the University Grants Commission that the expressions of interest invited by the government mentioned only one condition — the institute’s score on the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF). The EEC was also considering an institute’s performance on global rankings etc and the shortlist was drawn keeping these aspects in mind,” Gopalaswami told ThePrint.

“However, it was felt that since the original application didn’t mention other criteria, in all fairness, all institutes should be invited for assessment.”

It is learnt that the PMO had also nudged the EEC towards fresh scrutiny, as many prominent institutes were found missing from the shortlist, sources said.

The EEC will now re-examine all applications, and the process will take little longer than expected. It is now expected to call another round of meetings to seek presentations from applicant institutes. The HRD ministry had aimed to finalise the list by mid-April.

Along with Gopalaswami, the EEC has on board Prof. Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School; Renu Khator, who holds the dual titles of chancellor of the University of Houston System and president of the University of Houston; and Dr Pritam Singh, former director, IIM Lucknow as well as MDI Gurgaon.

Institutes in the reckoning

The 114 institutes in the reckoning include 11 central universities, 27 ‘institutes of national importance’, 27 state universities, 10 private universities, and four institutes that are yet to be set up.

Top corporates have also thrown their hats into the ring.

While the Airtel group has applied for its yet-to-be-established Bharti University (by the Satya Bharti Foundation) in Delhi, Reliance Group has moved an application for the Reliance Foundation Institution of Education & Research in Maharashtra, while Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta group has applied for the proposed Vedanta University in Odisha.

Among the new entrants are KREA University, which has former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan as advisor and has the Mahindras and the Jindal group on its governing council; and DICE Knowledge Foundation, which is backed by Radha Kapoor Khanna, Yes Bank CEO Rana Kapoor’s daughter, who runs the newly-formed Indian School of Design and Innovation.

The Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Indus Tech University, Delhi, and the Acharya Institutes of Bengaluru are the other applicants.

Twelve of the IITs—Bhubaneswar, Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Indore, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Roorkee and Ropar; the three older IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta; the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; the Indian Institutes of Scientific Education and Research in Kolkata and Pune; seven National Institutes of Technology; the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research; and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences are also among the aspirants.

The central universities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Pondicherry and Tezpur, as well as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University and Visva-Bharati are in the contest, along with state universities such as King George Medical University, Lucknow, Anna University, Chennai, Anand Agricultural University, Anand, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, Osmania University, Hyderabad, and Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Among private institutes, the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Manipal Academy, Vellore Institute of Technology, Shiv Nadar University, O.P. Jindal University, FLAME University, Ashoka University, and Azim Premji University are also interested.

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