How HRD Ministry and PMO Disagreed on Institute of Eminence

An RTI inquiry by The Indian Express, brings forth the differences HRD had with the PMO on Institutes of Eminence.

4 min read
How HRD Ministry and PMO Disagreed on Institute of Eminence

Did the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) push for a non-existent institute with country’s Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development? Was HRD Ministry uncertain of Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute getting rewarded with tag of Institute of Eminence’s despite non-existent infrastructure? How was a non-existent institute awarded Rs 1,000 crore without having a Vice-Chancellor?

An RTI query by The Indian Express answers in affirmative, bringing forth the differences HRD Ministry had with PMO in allowing Jio Institute to become a reality. Both the higher offices disagreed on grounds such as qualification, experience, land in possession, student-teacher ratio, flexibility of course structure, finance, accountability, regulatory powers and audit.

Records show, there was a strong difference of opinion within the government too: over autonomy, finance and academic norms for such institutions, The Indian Express reported.

The RTI replies reveal that while HRD and Union Ministry of Finance pushed for stringent norms on accountability, financial commitment, penalties, land availability and expertise, PMO sought a more liberalised regime on all these points.

On Qualification and Experience

What HRD asked for:

In response to The Indian Express’ RTI, HRD Ministry’s draft states that members of the sponsoring organisation of a greenfield private institution should have experience, either as sponsors or heads — vice-chancellors or directors — in setting up a higher education institution.

What PMO said:

On June 13, 2016, instead of demanding academic experience from sponsoring members, the PMO replaced the clause and said some members of the organisation will be required to have credentials that demonstrate “commitment” to education.

Even though HRD put up a fight and wrote back on June 30, 2016 saying that the PMO’s requirement is a little generic and intangible allowing most people to satisfy that, PMO’s word prevailed.

Conclusion: Jio Institute’s sponsoring organisation, Reliance Foundation Institution of Education and Research (RFIER), has Reliance Industries Limited and Reliance Foundation as members.

On Land in Possession

What HRD ministry asked for:

HRD Ministry stated that private institutions seeking IoE status should possess adequate land at the time of application.

What PMO said:

The PMO felt only an “in-principle commitment” to make land available would be sufficient. The PMO prevailed.

Conclusion: The expert panel justified its choice of Jio Institute over 10 other candidates in the greenfield category on the ground that Reliance Foundation Institution of Education Research (RFIER) had possession of 800 acres in Maharashtra at the time of application.

On Student-Teacher Ratio

What HRD asked for:

After selection, the Institutes of Eminence should achieve a student-teacher ratio of 10:1 in three years.

What PMO said:

Instead of three years, the PMO pushed an institute’s limit to attain the prescribed ratio to 5 years.

Conclusion: The final norms carry the PMO’s input.

On Finance, Corpus Fund

What HRD Ministry asked for:

The HRD ministry stated that the private IoEs under the greenfield category should have a corpus fund of Rs 1,000 crore, The Indian Express reported.

What PMO said:

The PMO slashed the requirement of corpus fund by 10 times and brought it to Rs 100 crore. However, the applicants were now expected to show availability of another Rs 1,500 crore to set up the IoE.

Conclusion: In the final regulations, the corpus fund is further reduced to Rs 60 crore, based on public feedback. The PMO’s input on greenfield applicants showing availability of another Rs 1,500 crore is included.

On Regulatory Powers and Audit

What HRD Ministry asked for:

The ministry sought UGC to have the power to direct (upward) revision of the corpus fund of a private Institutes of Eminence. “If not done, over a period of time, the corpus fund of ordinary deemed-to-be university would become more than the World Class Institutions.”

The UGC should have the power to order a CAG audit of a private IoE, after taking government’s permission, in exceptional cases of financial impropriety and diversion of funds, the Ministry proposed.

What PMO said:

The revised version deleted both the suggestions by HRD ministry.

On Accountability and Penalties

What HRD Ministry asked for:

According to the suggestions made by HRD ministry, private and public Institutes of Eminence should be reviewed once a year “to see if they are adhering to promises and plans.” The ministry, the RTI by The Indian Express revealed, further proposed additional penalties for public IoEs, such as recovery of money and imposition of fines, for failing to achieve promised milestones at the end of the fifth year. The ministry also asked for recognising more private institutions after reviewing the scheme.

What PMO said:

The PMO pushed the provision to preview the functioning of Institutes to “once in three years.” PMO deleted the provisions imposing penalties. PMO did not accept the ministry’s proposal to add more private institutes to the Institute of Eminence list.

(With inputs from The Indian Express)

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