It is encouraging to note that the Yashpal Committee has come out strongly for an immediate moratorium on new deemed universities and a review of the existing ones. It has been rightly pointed out that only 29 deemed Universities were notified in the period of 35 years from the establishment of the UGC Act in 1956. At the same time, more than 63 universities were notified after 1990. Even with adjustments for the increased public need, this number seems like an unnatural growth, not intended for the purpose that the institution of deemed universities was conceived. The concept of deemed universities was mooted by the Radhakrishnan Committee for the express purpose of promoting merit in higher education. It was expected that industry and philanthropic institutions would provide for merit. The concept has been turned on its head and today rich students with mediocre merit are being used to promote the business of education.
Many of these institutions have already profited inordinately from having had the status all these years. Over the last decade, many private medical, dental and engineering institutions have used financial and political clout to be notified as deemed universities. This appears to be for the sole purpose of appropriating the highly sought after seats available and distributing them based on the highest bid.
In the realm of medical undergraduate and post-graduate education, the entrance examinations in many of these universities are rigged to benefit pre-determined candidates. Deemed universities continue to maintain that their entrance examinations are conducted to choose merit. If the recently started deemed universities are indeed comfortable with the principle that merit should be the criteria for admission, then one cannot see why they should object to a transparent national level entrance examination for all the deemed universities.
The mechanism of applications, examinations and unbiased valuations has become very user-friendly and many government institutions use them to good effect. Unfortunately, the public is not aware of the shenanigans of the ‘education mafia’ which has used every loophole to deny merit its due. The UGC only needs to bring in a simple rule necessitating all deemed universities to follow the guidelines already circulated to them in 2007.
The guidelines ask for nothing more than a transparent national examination for admission, fixed tuition fees and no capitation fee. All these are consistent with public national policy and natural law. If the UGC cannot prevent the violation of the fundamental right of its citizens to access education, the only hope may lie in the hands of the highest judiciary which can take suo motu cognisance and appoint an amicus curiae.