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‘Deemed University Will Ruin Higher Education in Andaman,’ say Students, Teachers

Ravi Kaushal |
The proposal for a deemed university is being opposed by the islands’ students and teachers based on bitter past experiences and apprehensions about increased education cost.

Image for representational purpose. Credit: The Indian Express

Delhi: Opposition is mounting against the proposal to form a deemed university in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to govern seven colleges. The students maintain that the formation of the deemed university will result in expensive education, putting poor residents of the islands at peril. 

The Union Territory administration recently published the draft notification for amendment in the memorandum of association for changing the name of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Legal Education Society to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Institute of Higher Learning Deemed University. Currently, the colleges are affiliated to the Pondicherry University.

As per Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, through a gazette notification the central government can declare any institution of learning, other than a university, a deemed university if it has achieved higher standards of research.

M A Sajid, President of  National Students Union of India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has been mobilising students to oppose the deemed university proposal. He told NewsClick that the existing experience of deemed universities have been horrific for poor students. 

“Even though the draft notification has changed rules regarding receiving of fee under Clause 4h, there is no clarity whether there will be any monetary support from the Union government. If they are really keen on transferring the affiliation to the new body, why don't they strive again for a central university for us ? Then the fee will be cheaper and employees will have their employment and social security,” Sajid said.

A teacher at one of the engineering colleges at the islands, who requested anonymity, said that the move to get a deemed university status for a new body is hard to digest for students and teachers. “The Union Territory Administration’s move is highly inexplicable. The colleges have been running fine through existing mechanisms where the Pondicherry University affiliates our programmes and we pay about Rs 15 lakh per annum to the university for affiliations and conducting examinations. Our students get highly subsidised education at par with the standards of Jawaharlal Nehru University,” the teacher said.

He added that the administration appealed to the Union Ministry of Education for a central university but it declined. They also applied for a cluster university under the Rashtriya Uchhtar Shiksha Abhiyan. However, this demand was also turned down. “Then, the administration was suggested that they could apply for Deemed University status. The UT administration applied for it under de-novo category to the University Grants Commission (UGC). It means that a new institution will be set up.”

He further said, “To apply for the status, the UT administration prepared a Detailed Project Report with five new courses and it was presented to the Lieutenant Governor. He suggested that a new DPR should be prepared. Now, we get to know about a new mentor university for these seven colleges to be known as constituent colleges. These changes do not match the UGC norms. They may get clearance now but there would be problems in the future. There is no academic perspective behind the move. Among the new proposed courses, there is MBA (Coastal Management). Who will come for these courses?” 

“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the islands, the administration put the deemed university status under the list of announcements but they did not calculate the economic cost. They may get the initial funding but the operating cost has to be taken care of after five years. Who will bear it? Ultimately, the quality of education will deteriorate along with increased fees. We had a similar experience with Andaman college where not a single person could be hired after forming it seven years back,” the teacher told NewsClick.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] also opposed the proposal. It said that such a proposal involving a major policy decision has been mooted by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration without any consultation with the political parties, students’ organisations, and other stakeholders of the islands.

D Ayyappan, Secretary of CPI(M) Andaman and Nicobar State Organising Committee told NewsClick that the colleges on these islands have been affiliated to the Pondicherry University, a central university, since 1988. The question of affiliation of higher educational institutions in Andaman & Nicobar Islands is a settled matter with the establishment of Pondicherry University through an Act of Parliament.

He added, “The Pondicherry University was established only for the three union territories of Puducherry, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. We fail to understand as to what prompted the bureaucrats in the Andaman & Nicobar Administration and some disgruntled elements to make a proposal bypassing a legislation enacted by the Parliament.” 

Ayyappan further said that quality higher education will be at jeopardy with limited resources and experts on the islands. “Our experience in the ANIIMS, colleges and other government departments show that qualified faculty members, specialist doctors, and technical officers do not prefer to serve on these islands due to various reasons” he said. 

“Running the University would require a large number of academicians at the rank of professors, experts, etc. A number of academic committees and bodies with academicians of repute are required for running the Deemed University. Like any other organisations created on the islands with fanfare (such as the Port Management Board, ANIIMS, etc), the proposed Deemed University will also be ultimately controlled by the DANICS officers,” he said.

NewsClick tried to receive a comment from Chief Secretary Keshav Chandra on the issue but he remained unavailable through phone. 

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