Jio institute row: HRD ministry issues clarification, but not many convinced

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(Online Desk)

As a controversy erupted over the ‘Institution of Eminence’ tag for the yet-to-start Jio Institute by Reliance Foundation, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry on Tuesday clarified that it was conditional and that only a “letter of intent” was being given for now.

The clarification came after the government’s decision to grant the status to the proposed institute evoked sharp reactions from various quarters, with many raising questions about the process of selection and the motive behind it.

“Right now, the institute (Jio) will not get the IoE tag; they will just get a letter of intent. If they are able to establish themselves in three years and meet the expectations of the expert committee, then they will get the IoE status,” HRD secretary (higher education) R Subrahmanyam said in a statement. “The expert panel will have the authority to withdraw the tag if the institution is not found to be performing up to the mark.”

On Monday, the government had declared the coveted status was being accorded to IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science in the public sector, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS Pilani and Jio Institute in the private sector.

The HRD Ministry has now said that its panel of experts felt that only the Jio Institute, out of 11 applicants in the ‘Greenfield category’, fulfilled all four specifications — land availability, highly qualified and experienced core team, funding and strategic vision with ‘clear milestones and action plan’.

“These (Greenfield) institutions are not there right now. But where well-meaning responsible private investment wants to bring global standards to the country, they should be welcomed,” the secretary said.

He also clarified that the three government institutions selected for the tag would get funding of `1,000 crore each, but the private entities would not be entitled for the funding.

The move is part of the ministry’s scheme to select 20 such institutes —10 public and 10 private — that will be given complete academic and administrative autonomy.

Many educationists alleged that the justification given by the ministry was flimsy. “Jio Institute has no record of academic or socially relevant accomplishments; one would be hard put to establish details about its faculty, campus infrastructure and courses,” said Rajeeb Ray, president of the Federation of Central Universities Teachers Association.

“The inclusion of clauses which allow paper proposals to qualify as an eminent institution is an academic corruption of highest order,” he said.

“Institutional reputation is not built in a day. It takes years, in fact decades, to build great institutions of higher education. Hence, Jio Institute’s designation as an Institution of Eminence is arbitrary and makes a mockery of this exercise,” said Vivek Choudhary, senior faculty in Delhi University.

The row also elicited reactions from the Opposition. “Any institution seeking a status of eminence should satisfy the criteria of infrastructure, quality education & research output, and the HRD Ministry is obligated to check this,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

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