The opening of 14 innovation universities waits as Parliament is yet to enact the required legislation

A lack of consensus among political parties in Parliament seems to be delaying the setting up of 14 world-class national-level innovation universities.

Kochi is among the locations identified by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development to set up these universities for research and innovation.

Though the Union government had introduced the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill in the Lok Sabha, the legislation has not been enacted for want of support from the members.

Replying to a question by Anto Antony, MP, representing Pathanamthitta in the Lok Sabha, on August 8, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari said the Bill aimed to provide for the establishment and incorporation of the universities.

“The Union government has tentatively identified various places/locations for establishment of such universities in the public-funded mode in Amritsar (Punjab), Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Patna (Bihar), Guwahati (Assam), Kolkata (West Bengal), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Kochi (Kerala), Gandhi Nagar (Gujarat), Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Mysore (Karnataka), Pune (Maharashtra), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Bhubaneswar (Odisha),” she said.

Speaking to The Hindu-EducationPlus from New Delhi, Mr. Anto Antony said the universities could be set up only after the Bill was passed by Parliament. The aim of the innovative universities was to attain world-class standards in higher education in the country. He said Kochi would have a world-class university, once the Bill was passed.

The final draft of the Bill says each of these universities 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 states that the university should be a not-for-profit entity and that no part of any surplus money generated by it 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 by default be “institutions of national 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 Union government.

Mandate

The Bill mandates that each university should “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 university 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 will be academically and functionally autonomous from any existing legal and educational entity in the country. They will have total freedom to choose what they will teach, who will teach such subjects and how, what will be 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 university 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 university 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 will be higher than the minimum standards determined by the statutory regulatory authority in the relevant field of knowledge, the Bill says.

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

The supreme governing body of each university will be a Board of Governors, which will 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 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 university 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 rights to vest with itself or with the university depending on the importance of the knowledge so created.