Law empowering the institutes to grant degrees yet to be made

The fate of students of the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) — designated as institutes of national importance — hangs in the balance in the absence of a law that would empower them to grant degrees.

Having failed to bring in a law to govern the IISERs for five years, the Human Resource Development Ministry has put the students in a fix, particularly those who pass out from the IISERs at Kolkata and Pune this May.

The IISER Kolkata has 38 students who would complete their five-year integrated undergraduate and postgraduate programme, while 44 will complete their course from the Pune campus. Many of the students enrolled here had left their engineering courses in other institutes.

The Ministry hurriedly moved an amendment to the National Institutes of Technology Act, 2007 in April last to bring the IISERs under its purview. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD presented its report to Parliament on November 25 last year, but since the entire winter session of Parliament was washed out in the wake of 2G spectrum allocation scam issue, the amendment Bill could not be passed.

If Parliament does not function in the budget session also and the government is unable to pass the amendment Bill, the students will not get any degree — at least for now. Also, the government cannot bring in an ordinance at this stage since the Bill is under consideration of the House. It may not be “unconstitutional”' but could amount to breach of privilege of the House.

Directors of some of these institutes told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that the HRD Ministry told them that they could confer degrees through an executive order. However, the Ministry has no power to issue an executive order to grant degrees, and neither have the IISERs applied for the deemed university status so far. Even if they do so now, the process may take several months.

Announced in 2005, the five IISERs were aimed at promoting research in basic science and were put on par with the Indian Institutes of Technology. The IISERs at Kolkata and Pune started functioning in 2006 while those at Mohali, Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram came up subsequently. The admission to these institutes is done through qualifying the IIT-JEE or Kishore Vaigyanic Protsahan Yojana or the applicant has to be among the top one per cent of students in Class XII examination of CBSE or State Boards.

A similar situation had arisen in the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing at Jabalpur but it has since been granted a deemed university status and can confer degrees.

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