Private Institutions cannot become “commercial shops” and charge exorbitant fees in name of building fund, infrastructure fund: HC

……… The private institutions cannot be permitted to operate like money minting institutions.

……. Over a period of time, education has become a commodity in India. All the genres of society are so overly obsessed with education that it has devalued the real essence of education. Education is no more a noble cause but it has become a business, therefore, the paradigm shift, especially in the higher education from service to business is a matter of concern. The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect that is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed.

 …… Educational Institutions are indulging in gross misleading advertisements. which can only be termed to be persuasive, manipulative and exploitative to attract the widest possible audience.

 …….. It is shocking that the private institutions have been raising their assets after illegally collecting funds like building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc. It is high time these practices are stopped forthwith and there is a crack down on all these institutions.

…… Himachal Pradesh High Court

The Himachal Pradesh taking serious cognizance of ill practices of certain educational institution to conduct in unauthorized manner, collecting exorbitant fees and issuing misleading advertisement has directed State Government to set up a Committee to investigate all the Institutions and further directed State Government to ensure that no fees is charged in name of building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc.

The Judgement was passed on a petition directed against the order passed in against the Petitioner Institutions to jointly and severally refund the fees taken from the students.

The petitioner is the so called franchisee of the Sikkim Manipal University based at Sikkim and claims to be running its study centre at Shimla. The students had filed petition under Section 11 of the H.P. Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory Commission), Act, 2010 claiming refund of admission fee paid to the petitioner for MBA PGDM course, on the ground that the same was exorbitant and had never been approved either by the State Government or by the UGC. These petitions were contested by the petitioner and vide impugned order, the petitioner was directed to refund the fee.

The order was challenged on the ground that the Education Commission had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition, as the dispute relating to Sikkim Manipal University was beyond its territorial jurisdiction

The Court considered the finding that neither the petitioner Institute had permission by the UGC to run the institute as a distance education programme study centre nor it had  obtained permission from the State Government and thus observed that the petitioner was concerned only with minting money and was least concerned with the prospects and future of the students. It also observed that “Education institution of the petitioner is no less than a commercial shop, where the aspiring needs of the students stand defeated due to the malpractices and frivolous activities of the petitioner. This is a classical example where the petitioner institute has presented an imaginary and illusory picture for making a successful career to the innocent students admitted in their institute, that too, by charging exorbitant fees and thereafter leaving them in the lurch to fend for themselves little knowing that even the courses undertaken by them may probably not even be recognized in the country. This practice is not only to be deprecated, but is also to be handled and dealt with a heavy hand.”

The Court considering various, guidelines and notification relating to territorial restrictions of a State Private University came to the conclusion that the petitioner could not act as a franchisee of the Sikkim Manipal University and dismissed the Petition.

However before it parted with the Judgement, it made certain important observations, regarding practice of educational institutions to issue misleading advertisements, charge exorbitant fees in different names, commercialization of education etc.:

  1. The private institutions cannot be permitted to operate like money minting institutions.

  2. Imparting education can never be equated with profit oriented business as it is neither commerce nor business and if it is so, then the regulatory controls by those at the helm of affairs have not only to be continued, but are also required to be strengthened.

  3. Over a period of time, education has become a commodity in India. All the genres of society are so overly obsessed with education that it has devalued the real essence of education. Education is no more a noble cause but it has become a business, therefore, the paradigm shift, especially in the higher education from service to business is a matter of concern. The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect that is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed.
  1. Mushroom growth of ill-equipped, understaffed and unrecognized educational institutions was noticed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and it was observed that the field of education had become a fertile, perennial and profitable business with the least capital outlay in some States and that societies and individuals were establishing such institutions without complying with the statutory requirements.
  1. Educational Institutions are indulging in gross misleading advertisements. which can only be termed to be persuasive, manipulative and exploitative to attract the widest possible audience. These institutes trap into their web the innocent, vulnerable and unsuspecting students. Their lucrative and mesmerizing advertisements hypnotize the students only to fall into an unknown world of uncertainties. Some institutes promise hundred percent placement, some claim excellent staff, some claim free wi-fi campus, some promise free transportation etc. But what should really matter is ‘education’. This problem is further compounded by the proliferation of coaching institutes which have only made ‘education’ more dirty and murkier.
  1. It is shocking that the private institutions have been raising their assets after illegally collecting funds like building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc. It is high time these practices are stopped forthwith and there is a crack down on all these institutions. Every education institution is accountable and no one, therefore, is above the law. It is not to suggest that the private education institutions are not entitled to their due share of autonomy as well as profit, but then it is out of this profit that the private education institutions, including schools are required to create their own assets and other infrastructure. They cannot under the garb of building fund etc. illegally generate funds for their “business expansion” and create “business empires”.

The Court in light of all these observations felt that there is an urgent need for Government intervention by conducting a fresh investigation of all these institutions and directed the Chief Secretary to Government of Himachal Pradesh is directed to constitute a committee which shall carry out inspection of all the private education institutions at all levels i.e. schools, colleges, coaching centres, extension centres, (called by whatever name), universities etc. throughout the State of Himachal Pradesh regarding requisite infrastructure, parents teacher associations, qualified staff and submit report regarding compliance of the H.P. Private Educational Institutions (Regulation) Act, 1997 within three months.

The Court directed the State Government to ensure that no private education institution is allowed to charge fee towards building fund, infrastructure fund, development fund etc.

In addition to this, the Principal Secretary (Education) is directed to issue mandatory orders to all educational institutions, whether private or government owned, to display the following detailed information relating to faculty, infrastructure, fees breakup, details of internship and placement, on the notice board which shall be placed at the entrance of the campus and on their websites.

EduLegaL View:

Commercialization of education is certainly a serious issue. It is opposed to public policy and Indian tradition. Education has never been commerce in this country. The object of establishing an institution has thus been to provide technical or professional education to the deserving candidates, and is not necessarily a commercial venture.

To put it differently, in the establishment of an educational institution, the object should not be to make a profit, inasmuch as education is essentially charitable in nature. There can, however, be a reasonable revenue surplus, which may be generated by the educational institution for the purpose of development of education and expansion of the institution.

Appropriate machinery can be devised by the state or university to ensure that exorbitant fee is not charged and that there is no profiteering, though a reasonable surplus for the furtherance of education is permissible. Reasonable surplus to meet cost of expansion and augmentation of facilities does not, however, amount to profiteering.

But nonetheless, after these borderlines have been drawn in plethora of judgements, the issue remaining a burning issue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

Statutory Councils not in support of pursuing two degrees simultaneously

University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a Notice dated 15th January 2016 stating that its consultations related to allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously has not received a positive response and hence the possibility of allowing a student to pursue two degrees has hit a road block.

Earlier, in year 2012, a Committee headed by Mr. Fuqran Kamar, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Hyderabad, Mr. Manoj Kumar Mishra, Vice Chancellor, University of Lucknow and Prof. Sudhanshu Bhushan, NUEPA, New Delhi had recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional degree simultaneously under open or distance education mode from the same or different university. However, students should not be allowed to undertake two regular degrees at the same time, the committee had held.

The Committee had also recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional one Certificate/Diploma/ Post Graduate Diploma in regular or distance mode, from the same or different university.

The Committee was not in favour of allowing two degree programmes under regular mode simultaneously as it may create logistic, administrative and academic problems.

The University Grants Commission finally at a meeting on July 31, 2013 decided to accept its Committee’s recommendations on permitting pursuit of an additional degree programme, in the manner as aforesaid.

However, recently, UGC has notified that it had sought the comments of statutory councils on the issue of allowing pursuing two degrees simultaneously, but the responses of the Statutory Council was not encouraging. UGC has therefore directed the Institutions that they shall conduct their programmes in accordance with the First Degree and Master Degree Regulations, 2003 prescribed by the UGC and also follow the norms and parameters prescribed by the Statutory Council concerned, wherever relevant.

EduLegaL View:

The recent notice, without any clarity on the earlier Resolution has added to confusion for academic governance.

Pursuing two courses simultaneously allows a student to do value addition to him and enhance his knowledge and skill. It also adds to the prospect to his employability.

Not allowing pursuing two degree programmes in name of “logistic, administrative and academic problems” is a weak response to the growing demands of the students and such issues can easily be addressed.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

 

UGC fixes two-year time to clear backlog papers

Educational Institutions / Universities have been allowing courses to be completed in varying time spans. UGC with a view to maintain uniformity in the grace [span] period for completion of a degree programme has issued guidelines maximum grace period of two years beyond the scheduled date of completion. The guidelines were formulated after UGC constituted an expert committee to determine a uniform time period for completion of degree-level programmes.

The Guidelines provides that a student pursuing an undergraduate programme which normally runs for three or four years (for engineering courses), which may be further more for integrated course like 5 Year Law Course, would be given two more years to clear his back papers, leading to awarding of degree. Similarly, students at the post-graduate level would be given as many years to clear their backlog, if any, leading to award of degree.

However, the Guidelines, accommodates exceptional situation and allows the Educational Institutions to permit extension of one more year to the student to complete the backlog papers. This extension comes with the limitation that during this extended period, the student shall, however, be considered a private candidate and not be eligible for ranking.

These guidelines are subject to rules and regulations of statutory bodies and universities governing grant of degrees.

EduLegaL View:

The statue of UGC in its preamble itself prescribes “co-ordination and determination of standards” as one its main objectives, which finds its origin in Entry 66 of List 1 of the Constitution of India. This is a certainly step towards to maintain uniformity in standards.

However, the fact that it is “subject to rules and regulations of statutory bodies and universities governing grant of degrees” is my worry. Being subject would mean “it would be merely recommendation in nature and will not be mandatory”.

Also, whether these Guidelines covers, Distance Education or not, or needs to be seen?

This was also required from academic point of view as with introduction of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), institutes need to regularly update their curriculum and a longer grace period would deprive deprive students of knowledge and skill as on the date of completing the degree course.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in | + 91 9225518255

MHRD proposes an independent regulatory authority – Distance Education Council of India (DECI) for Open and Distance Learning (ODL) education

MHRD has proposed establishment of an Independent Regulatory Authority – Distance Education Council of India for Open and Distance Education System in the country.

Earlier, Distance Education Council, was created under statute 28 of Indira Gandhi National Open University Act, 1985, which engaged granting recognition and laying down standards for Distance and Open Education in the Country. Later, Distance Education Council was dissolved and all the functions of Distance Education Council was transferred to University Grants Commission.

The University Grants Commission, thereafter notified draft rules for laying down standards for conducting distance and open education courses in the Country. UGC approved those Regulations and forwarded the same to MHRD about a year ago. Since then there was a status quo in the matter and there was no legislative framework governing Distance and Open Education system in the Country.

Now, MHRD has published a Draft Bill, under the name of The Distance Education Council of India Bill, 2014, which provides for the establishment of The Distance Education Council of India for the promotion and coordination of the Distance Education System in the field of higher education and for the determination and regulation of standards.

In our country, this has been tradition, under the umbrella of UGC, there exists various councils for different streams of education. Like for Technical Education, we have All India Council for Technical Education, for Legal Education, we have Bar Council of India, for education in Pharmacy, we have Pharmacy Council of India. The proposed Distance Education Council of India, though long awaited is step in continuation of the tradition.

Section 3 of the proposed Bill provides for creation of Distance Education Council of India. This Council shall be a 18 Member Council having representation from Government, IGNOU, various statutory councils like AICTE, BCI, INC etc., and other experts in different fields.

Section 15 of the Bill, deals with Powers and Functions of the Council. The primary function of the Council is promotion, coordination and determination of standards of the distance education system relating to higher education. The proposed Council will lay down norms, guidelines and standards for offering various programmes of higher education through distance education system and prescribe physical and infrastructural facilities, staffing pattern and staff qualifications required for such programmes. It will also grant recognition to programmes of higher education offered through distance education system within the country and/or outside.

For the first time, online programmes are also sought to be regulated and the Council will have the power to lay down norms, guidelines and standards for regulating and monitoring online programmes. It will also regulate the collaboration between foreign education providers and Indian higher education institutions.

The proposed Council will also have the power to regulate free structure of an Institute and it will develop guidelines for charging fees by higher education institutions imparting distance education so that fee is commensurate and not exorbitant to recover the cost of development of the programme.

The Council also has powers u/s 18 to withdraw recognition if a higher education institution having recognition to offer distance education programme has contravened any of the provision of this Act.

The proposed bill takes a strong leap for protection of students and provides for stern measures, if any Institution offers or gives admission to students through misleading or wrongful information, which can be refund of fees, confiscation of illegal gain and penalty of Rs. 50 Lakhs.

EduLegaL View:

Distance Education has really suffered in the country for want of a proper legislative framework. We can also say that this absence has also led to immense erosion in quality of the delivery. With a vision of ever increasing GER, we have to promote distance education system.

But all these have been going on for last so many years. Let this step reach its destination, at the earliest.

DER AYE LEKIN DURUSUT AYE!!!

mail@edulegal.in