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Foreign technical varsities will still need AICTE’s nod: Shankar S Mantha

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17-09-2013

Business   Standard

The government might have decided to allow foreign universities to operate independently in India and set up campuses but Shankar S Mantha, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), says they would still require the regulator’s approval. In an interview with Kalpana Pathak, he also talks about what AICTE is doing to check the quality of educational institutions. Excerpts:

With foreign varsities allowed to enter India under the new Companies Act, would international B-schools need AICTE’s permission to be here?

Anybody operating under the definition of technical education requires AICTE’s permission to be here. Within the AICTE Act, Section 2(H) says technical educational institutions — engineering, management, hotel management or architecture — need AICTE’s approval, unless, of course, these are explicitly exempted from certain provisions of the AICTE Act itself, or by another Act of Parliament. They are bound by the existing rules of the land.

But would that not discourage international institutes from coming to India?

I don’t think so. All I am saying is, any international technical institution coming to India should abide by the rules here. They cannot operate without my permission.

In that case, what is AICTE doing to check quality of Indian institutions?

By checking quality, if you mean more number of institutions coming up, I don’t think there is a direct relationship between the seats remaining vacant and the closure of institutions. In a country where the gross enrolment ratio is hardly 19, you need more people to come into the system and you should really look at the supply side. Access is very important. Just because I stay in a slum, it does not mean I should be deprived of access to education. Talk of bringing in quality are fine but if, in the name of quality, I do not provide a college for these fellows, what happens? I am depriving them of basic education. In fact, the rate of enrolment is increasing every year. If that is the good point, how does it matter if institutions are closing? In fact, the bad ones should close. I am not worried about seats going vacant and new colleges starting.    Turn to Page 5 >

But industry says AICTE is responsible for approving new institutions and seats going vacant…

Our Constitution says every person has the right to practise one’s profession. When a private enterprise puts in money, provides for land and says it is ready to follow all the rules of the regulator, under what pretext can I say I will not allow him to start a college? Suppose you give a theory that there are too many colleges and quality is an issue. The entrepreneur says why AICTE presupposes he will not be able to provide quality. And then, he will go to court and say AICTE is stopping him from setting up an institute. Here, the biggest role is that of the university.

How do you say that?

Every university has a University Development Council. Their job is to create a perspective plan and find out — where, for instance, in a particular area, does one need a women’s college or a minority institution; in what streams are students enrolled, how many students are enrolled in a particular category, etc. But how many University Development Councils have created such perspective plans? Not even one. All these perspective plans need to be collated to create a state perspective plan. When such state perspective plans come to us, we create a national perspective plan. But nothing comes to us. Recently Maharashtra sent us a plan, but it is highly sketchy. If I go to court with that report, court will throw me out. We need a scientific study that clearly talks about our student outflow from the 10th and 12th class. That will stand its ground in court and help us determine the number of students who can be accommodated in the higher education system and the number of institutions needed in a particular area or stream.

So what is AICTE doing about bringing in quality?

We have a policy of self-disclosure to put in a self-regulatory mechanism. If you are a good citizen, the police will not come after you. That is what we are trying to do in the technical education space. Self-regulation will bring in quality much faster and in a better manner than policing around. If you give me wrong data, you will be liable to penalty. In a self-regulatory system, colleges will close. Five years ago, there was no system, no transparency and no accountability.

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