Why ABVP is opposing the Centres of Excellence order in Gujarat

The Gujarat government amended the ‘Gujarat Professional Technical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) Act, 2007’ to make a provision for award of ‘Centre of Excellence’ status to the colleges, institutions or private universities in the state. The procedure for declaration of Centre of Excellence was notified on March 13, 2020.

Last week, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani accorded in-principle status of Centres of Excellence to seven universities — six private and one autonomous — that had applied in July 2020.

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What are the institutes accorded as CoEs?

The list includes private institutes like Nirma University Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad University, Pandit Deendayal Energy University (PDEU) Gandhinagar formerly Pandit Deendayal Petroleum Petroleum University (PDPU), Charotar University of Science and Technology (CHARUSAT) Anand, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT) Gandhinagar, Marwadi University Rajkot and CEPT University Ahmedabad, an autonomous institute.

What is a Centre of Excellence?

The Government of Gujarat passed the Gujarat Professional Technical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) Act in 2007. The Act came into force on April 30, 2008 for regulation of admission in the professional technical educational colleges or institutions in the state and fixation of fees in such institutes as well as connected matters.

This Act was amended on April 2, 2013 with insertion of new section 13A, which gives power to the state government to exempt from all or any of the provisions of the Government of Gujarat has passed ‘Gujarat Professional Technical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) Act, by notification in the official gazette, the college/s or institution/s which may be declared as the ‘Centre of Excellence’.

As defined by the government’s notification, “Center of Excellence means the College, Institution or Private University in which quality education, path breaking research, innovative teaching methodologies, quality extension services, high employability and entrepreneurship are imparted; or institution in Gujarat, setup by such institutes and institutes and institutes of strategic or security related interest as notified by the State Government; or Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be University as declared by UGC (Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2017”.

What are the benefits of being a CoE?

The CoE status will exempt these institutes from the purview of the Fee Regulation Committee (Technical) and Admission Committee for Professional Courses (ACPC) as well as the recognition process. This grants them complete autonomy in admissions and fees by the state government.

There will be several indirect benefits too. For instance, they get priority in all government initiatives as well as in connecting to top industries in Gujarat.

The applicant Institution/University should satisfy the eligibility conditions at the time of application — annual statutory financial audited accounts in full details with note of the academic unit and the University for the previous three years immediately preceding to the application year should be disclosed on the website.

The college, institution or private university seeking the status of Centre of Excellence shall make an online application and submit its proposal in prescribed format along with the non-refundable fees of Rs 10 lakh to the state government along with Rs 5 lakh as security deposit.

To be evaluated on eight parameters including the overall performance evaluated at the time of Committee’s visit, the evaluation process carries highest marks of 85 for governance including procedure for appointing the independent director, its diversity and delegation of power among others. Out of total 500 marks, other parameters include research, consultancy and extension services, faculty, examination, academics, students, NAAC, NBA and GSIRF rankings and basic infrastructure.

What is the selection panel?

The four-member high-level committee nominated by the state government includes chairperson to be selected from amongst the former Directors of IISCs or IIMs or NITs or IIIT or TIFR or llTs or former Vice-Chancellors or ‘renowned educationists’. Others will be eminent educationists and heads of industrial or ‘reputed business houses’. All to be nominated by the state government.

The existing high powered committee formed on March 26, 2020 is chaired by Indira J Parikh, former faculty member of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) nominated by the state government along with Asha Kaul, faculty IIMA and Dhanraj Nathwani, group president of Reliance Industries. Nathwani replaced Sunil Parikh of Zydus Group in December 2020 through a Government Resolution after ‘one of the members resigned from the committee’.

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While the commissioner, technical education, G T Pandya is the ex officio member, the secretary evaluates applicants on different parameters of evaluation listed in the notification.

The panel is “to recommend explicitly to the state government the eligibility or otherwise for conferring the status of the ‘Centre of Excellence’ to the applicant college, institution or the private university”.

What if status of Centre of Excellence is not granted by the state government?

In case, the applicant for grant of status of ‘Centre of Excellence’ is not granted by the state government, they would be barred from the process for the following two calendar years.

However, the state government’s decision can be challenged through an appeal to the ‘Appellate Committee’ within 30 days from the date of disqualification by the High Level Committee or the order rejecting the application.

On receipt of appeal, the Appellate Committee shall scrutinise the proposal afresh and after consideration if it is satisfied that there are sufficient reasons for reconsideration of the proposal, it may refer the proposal back with its recommendation to the state government to reconsider its decision.

The Appellate Committee consists of Principal Secretary Education, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, Director, lndian Institute of Information Technology, Vadodara, Director, Indian Institute of Management. Ahmedabad.

What is ABVP’s issue with the CoE?

The Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has challenged the provision of granting CoE status in the amended Gujarat Professional technical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) (Amendment) Act, 2013 in the Gujarat High Court. On this ground it sent a legal notice to the Gujarat education department within hours of the decision to provide the in-principle approval to these education institutes on the premise that the matter is sub judice.

The ABVP has challenged the constitutional validity of Section 13A of the Gujarat Professional technical Educational Colleges or Institutions (regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and notification of Education department issued in March 13,2020. Section 13A exempts the institutes from coming under the purview of the committee for fee regulation, admission and recognition.

In a legal notice to the education secretary, ABVP secretary Saurabh Pandey stated: “It has come to our notice that some private universities who have vested interests in and are claiming beneficiary of the amendment are pressuring the education department to grant them the status of Centre of Excellence”.

The Gujarat High Court will hear the matter on June 10.


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