New Delhi: Jadavpur University is in the news again after it was accorded the ‘Institute of Eminence’ tag in the latest meeting of Empowered Expert Committee of University Grants Commission, but with a rider. Reports suggest that the tag is likely to cost the prestigious university Rs 2,000 crore.
The Institutes of Eminence, envisioned by the Centre, are expected to be ranked among Top 100 universities of the world. The scheme also promises regulatory concessions in deciding matters related to fixing fee, recruiting foreign faculty or admitting foreign students.
A letter written by Ministry of Human Resources Development to the West Bengal Chief Secretary suggests that the state must commit an investment worth Rs 2,000 crore in the next five years and if it fails to do so, the tag would be passed on to Savitri Bai Phule University or Aligarh Muslim University. A similar letter written to Tamil Nadu asks for a commitment of Rs 1,750 crore in lieu of the tag to Anna University.
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The letter, cited by The Indian Express said,"It is informed that as per the proposal submitted by Jadavpur University, the total cost for meeting the objectives of IoE over five year period has been estimated as RS 3,000 crore (approx), out of which, the Central Government, under this scheme would provide grants to the extent of 50% – 75% of the total requirement or Rs 1,000 crore, whichever is less, in a span of five years and the remaining amount would be borne by the State Government and the University. This leaves substantial portion of funding to be committed by the State Government.”
However, the decision has enraged teachers and academicians who said that the entire process has been tweaked unfairly. Professor Nilanjana Gupta, Former Secretary of Jadavpur University Teachers Association, who teaches English, said that the latest change had put them into uncertainty. Talking to NewsClick, Gupta said," The university applied (for the tag) only after it passed several benchmarks such as NIRF ranking. We also knew that there were no different rules for central and state universities when the entire scheme was introduced. But the rules of the game have been changed midway. Also, the university had to pay Rs 1 crore as application fee. Had we known about these sudden changes, we would have not applied."
Asked about the funding plans, Gupta said the university would not be able to share the burden. She said, "As a state university, I can tell you that we withdraw less salaries in comparison with our fellow colleagues in Central universities, like University of Delhi. Our entire revenue can barely meet our electricity expenses. How do you expect us to arrange this much? Since the commitment regarding the funding was not known earlier, we cannot even ask the state government for funds. Had we known, we would have sought permissions before applying for tag."
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Another leading educationist, Anil Sadagopal, told NewsClick that the decision was summarily wrong as state universities had less funds for the expansion. " With the centralised tax distribution and allocation of funds, how can we expect these poor universities to bear such expenses," he said.
Sadagopal further said that the much-advertised scheme may not yield the desired results. “We need to look at the history of universities across the world to understand their journeys. Merely granting an eminence tag would not make a university great. Universities grow organically over the years, if not centuries. As far as ranking is concerned, it is the most dangerous idea in education. The companies which rank universities are listed in the New York Stock Exchange and elsewhere. Similarly, they have been caught multiple times asking for money from universities. Do we want to follow this model where universities cease to become centres of knowledge creation?”, he added.