May a million flowers bloom, said Chairman Mao. And one day, on a whim, he went and razed the garden.
In India, flowers and gardens remain scarce but a million other things bloom. Illegal construction. Unregulated educational institutions. Until one fine day, someone wakes up and commands, "Hatao!"
But this is not China, so people take to the streets in protest. Like the students of Satyabhama engineering college and SRM Institute of Science and Technology - both deemed universities. Hundreds of students of these colleges held demonstrations demanding to know the status and validity of their degrees.
This follows a notice from AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) which apparently states that B.Tech degrees awarded by deemed universities would not be recognised, unless the courses were approved by the council
Students of the Dr MGR Deemed University and Bharat Engineering College had gone on strike for four days on the same issue, a few days ago.
The colleges are battling it out in court, and say that since they have UGC approval they do not come under the purview of AICTE.
What took so long?
The sad part is, in all these ‘technical’ discussions of eligibility and approval, the fate of thousands of students who took admission in good faith hangs in balance.
We do need a regulatory body but clearly, AICTE is like an old and toothless ayah running around and shouting, “Children, don’t be naughty.” What else can one say about a regulatory body which, Kumbhakaran-like, awakes from its stupor once every 5 decades or so?
Did you know that All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was first set-up in November 1945??!!! Yup, that’s what it says on their website and honestly it was news to me.
AICTE was meant to be: "a national level Apex Advisory Body to conduct survey on the facilities on technical education and to promote development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner."
But something, somewhere went awry. So…
The Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development) constituted a National Working Group to look into the role of AICTE in the context of proliferation of technical institutions, maintenance of standards and other related matters. The Working Group recommended that AICTE be vested with the necessary statutory authority for making it more effective, which would consequently require restructuring and strengthening with necessary infrastructure and operating mechanisms.
Wonderful. Is that why AICTE is suddenly getting so active? Er, not exactly. These recommendations were made in 1987 !! The AICTE Act came into force a year later…
The statutory All India Council for Technical Education was established on May 12, 1988 with a view to proper planning and coordinated development of technical education system throughout the country, the promotion of qualitative improvement of such education in relation to planned quantitative growth and the regulation and proper maintenance of norms and standards in the technical education system and for matters connected therewith.
Phew – quite a mouhful. But no one has a clue where AICTE was in the 1990s when engineering, management and medical colleges were mushrooming all over the country.
Many of these colleges were started by politicians, and flouted every conceivable norm (‘technical institutes’ in sheds with tin roofs for example – that was the state of some colleges in New Bombay when they first came up). Money and muscle power ensured AICTE looked the other way.
Now, the powers that be are keen to rectify the situation. AICTE is publishing notice after notice in newspapers imploring technical institutes to apply for accreditation – and threatening legal action against those who do not comply. But colleges are thinking, we’re all in it together – can they really shut down hundreds of us?
Well, Amity Business School’s flagship PGDM course actually lost its AICTE accreditation in September 2005 after failing to meet prescribed norms. Amity also lost the subsequent case in the Allahabad High Court challenging the AICTE order.
But surely in the course of an entire year it could not have been the only institute found unworthy of accreditation? Why was so much speed shown in revoking Amity’s accreditation while others receive only threats and warnings??
The point being that unless AICTE is perceived as being fair, impartial and speedy in its actions it will never be taken seriously.
Secondly, however badly a college may have sinned revoking accreditation in the middle of an academic year is senseless. All such announcements must be made before the start of a session and must apply to new admissions – not students already enrolled!
The Tamil Nadu tangle
I don’t have an intimate knowledge of the scene in Tamil Nadu but I do know that SRM and Satyabhama were – at least till a couple of years ago – well respected colleges. Students rated them in the top 10 in the state and SRM even produced ‘state rank holders.
Then, they became deemed universities and according to this news report, went in for reckless expansion
The Tamil daily Dinamalar, in its report dated 2 September 2003, has highlighted the massive expansion of capacity by the SRM Engineering College: "on obtaining the deemed university status, SRM Engineering College has admitted 2000 students netting in Rs.300 crore. In the much sought-after ECE course, 600 students had been admitted. A complaint on this had been sent to the chief minister's office, which has initiated an enquiry."
The complaint pointed out that the college, which until last year had a total strength of just 2000, has admitted more than 2000 fresh students this year. Against the optimum strength of around 50 per class, this year it has admitted 80 students in each section for the ECE course collecting Rs.2 lakh per student. It is gathered that the principal has opted to resign unable to cope with this crowd.
Can current students throw some further light on the situation? Are they satisfied with their course?? And if all is above board what is the institute’s problem in applying for AICTE accreditation anyways???
Expansion by itself is not a bad thing - doing so without inadequate teachers, facilities etc is what needs to be checked.
Between the out and out commercialism (of colleges) and the out and out bureacucracy (of AICTE) lies a middle ground which desperately needs to be explored.