The State government, under fire for the hurried passing of Bills allowing over 15 private universities to be set up, has given them permission to acquire educational institutions, albeit with its prior approval.

Under powers of the university envisaged in the Bills, a clause says: “To acquire, take over, and run the management of any other educational institution with the prior approval of the State government.”

Academics have termed this a dangerous precedent. The former Bangalore University Vice-Chancellor M.S. Thimmappa said that if the University Grants Commission (UGC) norms on private universities had been followed, such powers would not have been given to the new universities.

Though the Bills technically do not give powers to the universities to accord affiliation to educational institutions, they have been permited to have off-campus centres.

However, a public notice of the UGC on private universities reads: “It has come to the notice of the University Grants Commission that some of the private universities have affiliated colleges and started off-campus centre(s) in violation of the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulation, 2003. Private universities cannot affiliate an institution/college. They cannot establish off-campus centre(s) beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the State concerned. However, they can establish off-campus centre(s) within the concerned State after five years from their establishment and with the prior approval of the University Grants Commission. So far, UGC has not approved any off-campus centre(s) of any private university.”

A senior official of the Higher Education Department said that the specification did not give any new power to the universities, as being under registered trusts they were empowered by law to acquire educational institutions.

“What is mentioned in the Bills is already allowed in law. It is pure business, wherein an institution willing to be purchased will be bought by one of these universities,” he said. However, the official said that government colleges were exempt from this clause. In addition, the private universities are not allowed to accord affiliation to colleges. “The acquired institutions will become their constituent colleges,” he added.

Sources in the Karnataka State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) refuted the criticism saying compared to the previous two Bills (of Azim Premji University and Alliance University), the new Bills were “improvised and permitted greater governmental intervention”.