Getting affiliated to a central university is all set to become tougher from 2021. Universities under the purview of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and University Grants Commission (UGC) are planning to tighten norms governing the granting of affiliations to institutes.
This is in the wake of a slew of fake colleges springing up and lining up for affiliations without proven track record or financial credibility.
The Supreme Court, in a judgement on December 10, had given the go-ahead to universities to have enhanced standards for affiliation, but said that existing rules cannot be diluted. The apex court was ruling in a case allowing Kerala's APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University to fix enhanced norms for affiliation.
The apex court had also said that no university can have a ‘laid-back attitude’ for affiliation rules since their own performance will be measured on these metrics.
For students, this is good news because universities will become very selective in granting affiliation and they will be saved from enrolling into potentially fraudulent institutes.
Sources told Moneycontrol that under the new affiliation regime, universities will look at a three-to-five-year track record of an institute and its promoters and also any criminal record history.
There are a total of 965 universities in India. Of these, 417 are State universities, 54 are central universities, 125 are deemed-to-be-universities and 369 are private universities.
“When institutes open and shut down duping students, it is the university that has granted affiliation that is under the radar of students and the government authorities. Hence, all universities will be adopting a cautious approach from 2021. This will mean that the process taken to grant affiliation will be much lengthier,” said the vice-chancellor of a Lucknow-based university, which has 18 institutes affiliated to it.
He added that the time taken to grant affiliation approvals, which was 3-6 months earlier, will now become 12-15 months.
So far, 24 institutions have been declared fake by the UGC. Of these, the majority are located in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Delhi. Over and above these, there are 264 unapproved institutes conducting programmes without AICTE approval.
What will change?
Under the existing AICTE rules, universities look at the availability of land, essential facilities such as water and electricity, toilet, internet and student transport before affiliation is granted.
As part of the application process, the promoters of these institutes are required to submit proof of the land (including registration documents) as well as pictorial evidence of the building and academic infrastructure such as lecture rooms, canteen and toilets among others.
But sources told Moneycontrol that while there are stringent norms to be followed, not all universities verify the premises and financial data with independent third-party agencies. Hence, changes in the norms will also include mandatory physical checks and third-party audits.
The deputy vice chancellor of a West Bengal-based university told Moneycontrol that much like a background check on new hires, there will be independent audit agencies appointed to check institute promoters’ financial credentials.
Education sector experts are of the view that this could help prevent students from falling prey to unaccredited institutes.
“Despite repeated attempts by the central government, UGC and AICTE to raise awareness about suspicious institutes, this menace continues. The primary reason for this is the callous attitude of the universities that grant affiliation without proper investigation. The change in affiliation practices is much needed,” said Delhi-based education consultant Sanjay Ramrakhiani.
Will NEP rules be merged into the regulation?
Under the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, universities cannot have more than 300 affiliated institutes. While this rule is yet to be implemented, the affiliation norms of 2021 will take this proposal into account.
As per NEP 2020, the affiliation system will be gradually phased out over the next 15 years and this will be replaced by a stage-wise accreditation system. The idea here is for all colleges to become ‘Atmanirbhar’ or self-reliant autonomous entities.
“We understand the NEP calls for reduction in the number of affiliated institutes under each university. This guideline will be kept in mind under the new norms for granting affiliations from 2021,” said the deputy chancellor of a Maharashtra-based university.