The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has identified nearly 325 acres of land at Puthur village in Thrissur district to set up one of the country's 14 innovation universities.

Decks have been cleared for setting up the innovation university proposed by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in the State. The Cabinet has given its nod for the university, which was initially called ‘world class university'.

Nearly 325 acres have been identified in Puthur village at Thrissur district for the project. Thrissur was one among 14 centres identified by the MHRD for establishing the university. The other places include Amritsar, Greater Noida, Jaipur, Patna, Guwahati, Kolkata, Bhopal, Gandhinagar, Coimbatore, Mysore, Pune, Visakhapatnam, and Bhubaneswar.

Stating that the government has initiated steps to set up the university, Education Minister M. A. Baby told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the site identified for the project was an ideal location for the university.

It is less than 10 km away from the National Highway 47 and about 12 km from the Thrissur Railway Station. The land is about 50 km away from the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery. Mr. Baby said that the land owned by the Kerala Forest Development Corporation will be handed over to the Higher Education Department for establishing the university.

Describing that the government would extend all support for setting up the university, the Minister reminded that the MHRD was yet to initiate any concrete steps in making the university a reality. He said that the Ministry had earlier called the initiative, as ‘world class universities' but seems to have now changed it to ‘innovation universities'.

Pointing out that the government will request the MHRD to start the classes during the next academic year, Revenue Minister K. P. Rajendran, who played a key role in setting up the varsity in Thrissur, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that classes at the higher educational institutions in the State like Central University in Kasaragod, Aligarh Muslim university campus at Malappuram, Indian Institute of Science and Technology and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Thiruvananthapuram had initially started operating from temporary buildings. He said that this would help in kick-starting the activities of the world class university in Puthur at the earliest.

According to the final draft of the ‘Universities for Innovation (UI) Bill', 2010, each universities for innovation should be open to “all persons irrespective of nationality, gender, caste, creed, disability, ethnicity, social or economic background.”

At least half the students admitted to every programme in the university should be Indian nationals. All admissions shall be on merit assessed through transparent and reasonable criteria as laid out in the university prospectus. The Bill also clearly states that each UI should be a not-for-profit entity and that no part of any surplus money generated by such university shall be invested for any purpose other than for its own growth and development.

These varsities will, presumably, be oases of knowledge generation and pulsars of quality learning churning out “solutions of global validity” to a problem-ridden world. These universities will also be by default ‘institutions of nation importance' with an India-wide jurisdiction coupled with the authority to set up campuses in other countries. Such universities can be set up as private initiatives or as entities wholly-funded by the Central government.

The Bill mandates that each UI should, among things, “stand for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas, and for the search for truth; constantly aspire for attainment of the pinnacle of knowledge and learning; attempt, through research, to provide a path for humankind free from deprivation and want; strive to promote equality and social justice and to reduce social and cultural differences through diffusion of education; provide an ambience of learning that has an international flavour and enable the fruits of research to be disseminated in society through promotion of robust linkages with economy and civil society.'

For doing this each UI should provide instruction, teaching and research facilities comparable or superior to those in the best of universities in the world in such branches of learning as it deems fit. These universities would be academically and functionally autonomous from any existing legal and educational entity in the country. They would have total freedom to choose what they would teach, who would teach such subjects and how, what would their areas of research and to award academic distinctions.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 [3 of 1956] or any other law for the time being in force, every University for Innovation shall have the power to determine the nomenclature of degrees and other academic distinctions awarded by it,” says the Bill.

A UI can “determine and receive payment of fees and other charges, as such university may deem fit for instruction and other services provided by such University,”. The UI can also establish overseas study centres and receive donations from alumni.

All these provided that the standards of education determined and declared by the university would be higher than the minimum standards determined by the statutory regulatory authority in the relevant field of knowledge, the Bill states.

However, if a dispute arises between a statutory authority and a UI regarding standards, the dispute shall be settled by a three-member committee. One member shall represent the statutory body, one, the UI in question and the third from another UI.

The supreme governing body of each UI would be a Board of Governors which would be constituted in a manner specified in the memorandum.

The Board will have the authority to enact statutes to provide for the management and operations of the university. It will also have the power to delegate, by statute, the exercise of powers and discharge of various functions by the Academic Board, the Board of Studies, the Research Council, the Faculty of Knowledge Manpower Assessment or to the Vice-Chancellor and other officers of the university.

The Bill authorises the Centre to provide grants to these universities for supporting research and for the development of higher education. It also stipulates that “the Central government shall provide to each university for Innovation grants of such sums of money as are required to meet the expenditure on scholarships or fellowships instituted by it, including scholarships or fellowships for students from socially and educationally backward classes or categories of citizens enrolled in such university.”

Each of these universities will also establish a University Endowment Fund with such initial corpus as may be provided in the Memorandum of Agreement. This fund can receive donations, contributions and “other incomes” from time to time provided that up to 80 percent of such income received annually is used for the development of the university's research infrastructure.

If a UI is a centrally-funded institution it shall declare to the Centre any creation of knowledge leading to intellectual property rights. The Centre can decide to allow the IPR to vest with itself or with the university depending on the importance of the knowledge so created.

The draft Bill pointed out that the establishment of the 14 universities is expected to set benchmarks for excellence for other institutions of higher learning through “path-breaking research and promoting synergies between teaching and research.”

Each university will stand for humanism, tolerance, reason and adventure of ideas and search for truth.

It is expected to attempt to provide a path for humankind free from deprivation and seek to understand and appreciate nature and its laws for the well-being of the people.

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