Education is one of the primary needs, today In India; we need more schools especially in rural areas. Sadly, moneyed people have made a huge business model and they are raking in the loot. Education is not a BUSINESS but a SERVICE, and the government needs to recognize this. Frankly speaking, in most of the educational institutions the system is being abused by those who implement it. When money becomes a target rather than quality of education and when there are so many loopholes in the system, officials concerned with adherence and norms in education and people in business of education are hands in gloves, they hardly follow the norms, therefore the quality is going from bad to worst.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced in the 2016 budget that the government would enable regulatory architecture to provide 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions. While description like Institutes of excellence and possible use of the term National were considered, finally, it was agreed to rename them as ‘Institutes of Eminence.’

The HRD ministry of India set a high-powered committee under former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami to select 20 top educational institutes that will be given the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. The committee seems to have had a tough time to select the institutions as per the UGC (University Grants Commission) guidelines and had to tweak down the key criterion:  multi-disciplinary initiatives, high quality research, global best practices and international collaborations. One of the key changes, however, was the  corpus fund requirement. It was originally proposed that a private institute must have a corpus of Rs 500 crore to be eligible to be declared a world class institute. However, after the PMO’s intervention, this was said to be reworked to keep it at Rs 200 crore instead. The HRD ministry brought this down to just Rs 60 crore- to be raised to Rs 150 crore in ten years’ time. It is argued that corpus fund is set aside as locked up money, so there may not be enough rationale for prescribing such a high amount is kept immobile.

The draft regulations had also said that the institutions must ensure a 1:10 faculty-student ratio, enrol 20,000 students in 15 years. These criteria also got tweaked and revised with a proposal instead to start with 1:20 Faculty Student ratio, to be improved to 1:10 in five years’ times and a total enrolment of 15,000 students in 15 years (?)

Following this, the University Grants Commission announced the names of the six institutions on Monday, July 9th 2018; three in public sector and three in private sector. The HRD Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar said that selection of institutions of eminence will not only improve the quality of education but also propel competition in the entire education sector. The three public institutions will receive Rs 1,000-crore funding while the three private institutions will be given academic and administrative autonomy.

Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute is among the six colleges that have been selected as Institutions of Eminence – a status that will ensure complete autonomy and facilitate them to make a mark in global rankings. Apart from Jio – which is yet to established, other five institutions are Indian Institute of Science- Bangalore, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (known as BITS-Pilani) and Manipal Academy of Higher Education. All these institutions are running and doing well. But, why Jio Institute, which does not even exist yet, finds its place in the list? This is the question that has raised anguish among the academicians and public ever since the government announced its decision.  The HRD ministry said the committee found that only Jio Institute had fulfilled all the parameters. Mind you, it was competing with another eleven private existing institutes.

People of India are not dumb and numb to take this hurried selection of Jio Institute lightly. The Ministry of Human Resource Development sensed that their decision is not accepted by the people of the nation; hence they came out with an explanation on how Jio Institute was accorded such coveted status despite having no physical infrastructure in place.  According to the government, Jio Institute has been given this tag under Greenfield Project – purpose of which is to allow responsible private investment to build global class educational infrastructure. There were four parameters on which all applications were judged. The parameters were: (a) availability of land for construction of the institution, (b) putting in place a core team with very high qualification and wide experience, (c) making available funding for setting up the institution and (d) a strategic vision plan with clear annual milestone and action plan. The Selection Committee has come to a conclusion that out of the 11 shortlisted private institution applications, only Jio Institute satisfied all the four parameters, and hence was recommended for issuing a letter of intent for setting up an Institute of Eminence. The Ministry also clarified that the private institutions under the project will not get funding from the government. The Ministry had received 114 applications – 74 from public sector and 40 from private sector – for selection of IoEs.

Jio Institute, an institution proposed to be set up by Reliance Foundation, is led by Nita Ambani backed by Mukesh Ambani. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries, the largest private company in India. With this, the Jio Institute gets exceptional freedom from the government’s higher education regulations from its very birth.

Ironically, the selection committee ignored these important criterions: an Institution of Eminence should offer interdisciplinary courses and conduct research in “areas of emerging technology”. It must have a mix of foreign and Indian students and faculty, with “student amenities comparable with that of globally reputed institutions”. The Jio Institute has none of these. It is yet to be born. How then it has been declared an “Institution of Eminence”, at par with the Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi and Bombay, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Birla Institute of Technology at Pilani, Rajasthan, which was set up in 1964, and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, which began with Kasturba Medical College in 1953???

Jio Institute is proposed to be established in Navi Mumbai. Soon after the ministry made the list public, it received thumbs down by the people of the country and opposition political parties. News flashed in media all over “The BJP Govt favours Mukesh and Nita Ambani yet again”. The illusionary JIO Institute which is yet to see the light of day; it takes long years to establish an eminent educational institution. Autonomy in education does not always work well in India: placements, teachings, fests, extracurricular activities, research, collaborations are misconstrued. By the way, Jio is trending on Twitter, with many tagging Education Minister Prakash Javadekar, asking him about the institute’s location and credentials. The HRD ministry has made a sham of the “eminence” tag.

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