Do we smell a rat Mr. Javadekar?

Not only the Jio Institute which was granted Institute of Eminence status lacks a physical campus, it does not even have a website yet where all the details regarding the proposed university are made public.


On Monday, the Human Resource Development Ministry announced the list of Higher Education Institutes which received the status of ‘Institutes of Eminence’ i.e. IoE. The Empowered Election Committee (EEC) selected total six institutes three from Public and Private sector each who were granted the status. While, in Public Institutes IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi and IISc Bangalore made it to the list; BITS Pilani, Manipal University were selected from the Private category.

However, the controversy has erupted over granting the Institute of Eminence status to another university- Jio University. The University is a proposed project by Nita Ambani’s Reliance Foundation. Surprisingly, while the University has already received the Eminence status, in reality, the University is hard to trace. Not only the institute lacks a physical campus, it does not even have a website yet where all the details regarding the proposed university are made public. Despite this, the University was selected alongside the top-notch universities in the country.

The concept of Institute of Eminence was first coined by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2016 Budget Speech. The original plan included selecting 20 Higher Education institutions, 10 from the Public and Private sector each to grant administrative autonomy. Apparently, as much as 114 institutes from across the country had applied for the tag. The applicants included 11 Central Universities, 27 state Universities, 27 Universities of National Importance (IITs and NITs), 10 Private Universities and 4 Greenfield Institutes. Incidentally, not even a single central or state university or IIM has made it to the list. Some of these institutes are decades old.

As the questions were raised about the non-existent Jio University getting the tag of Institue of Eminence while some of the well-established universities couldn’t make the cut, the HRD Ministry issued a clarification.

In a Twitter post, the Ministry clarified that under the clause 6.1 of the UGC regulations 2017, a completely new proposal to establish an institution can be considered. “Accordingly, a separate category of applications has been invited from the sponsoring organizations for setting up New or Greenfield projects,” read the response. It further mentioned the parameters on which the applications were judged and the selection was made. The parameters included

  1. 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
    d) A strategic vision plan with clear annual milestones and action plan

In all, 11 applications were received for IoE status under the greenfield category. However, only Jio Institute satisfied all the four parameters the committee said.

Private Universities that didn’t make it to the list:

Along with the Reliance Group applying for the Reliance Foundation Institution & Research in Maharashtra, other universities that applied were Airtel for Bharti University (Satya Bharti Foundation) in Delhi, and Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta University in Odisha. KREA University which has former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan as its advisor, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Indus Tech University in Delhi and Acharya Institutes of Bangalore.

Let us see the current status of these universities

  • Bharti University

The Bharti group announced their plan to set up a University under the Satya Bharti Foundation- the philanthropic arm of the company in November last year. The university aimed to focus on subjects like AI and robotics to children from poor communities. It also consisted of VR and the internet of things in the plans. Sunil Mittal had already donated Rupees 7000 crore for the cause.

While the Home page of the Bharti foundation website mentions this information, the Higher Education category is yet to include it in the list. So far, the list on the website mentions- five of its Higher education initiatives.

Institute of Eminence

  • Vedanta University

Envisioned by Anil Agrawal, who heads London-based Vedanta Resources corporations, the University promised a world-class, multi-disciplinary Institute in Odisha. However, the University was caught up in a number of controversies. The foundation has identified 6,000 acres of land near the PuriKonark marine drive between Nuanai and Balighai for the proposed Vedanta University.

However, the land acquisition for the university has hit a roadblock with the Supreme court ordering a status quo and hence the project has stayed. The project was allegedly have committed several Environmental violations. Positive signals were given by the SC on November 28, 2016 hearing.

  • KREA University:

In a unique initiative, the corporate and academic world came together to open a private university for Liberal Arts. To be set up in Sri City, the University has already been enacted by the Legislature of the State of Andhra Pradesh as per The Andhra Pradesh Private Universities (Establishment and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2018.

With the University’s board having advisors like Raghuram Rajan, John Etchemendy and Manjul Bhargava among others, R. Seshasayee, chairperson of the supervisory board said the new university set to open admissions in November 2018. The University website states that IFMR Society is the sponsoring body of the University. Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) has wide and deep experience in education and research for the past 48 years.

Institute of Eminence
  • Indian School of Business:

Having established campuses in Two cities of India, Hyderabad, and Mohali, Indian School of business was established in 2001 and offers postgraduate management programs. Worldwide, the Financial Times has ranked ISB at 27 in its Global MBA Ranking 2017, the top ranking institute in India. While it ranked 93 93 in the world and 12 in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in the 2018 rankings by QS Global 250 MBA Rankings.

  • Indus Tech Universities:

The six years old Ahmedabad-based Indus University was also one of the institutes that did not make it to the Institute of Eminence list. The Institute boasts of a 16-acre campus and offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and research programs.

  • Acharya Institute:

Acharya Institute of Technology is a private co-educational engineering and management college in Bengaluru, India, affiliated with the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) and accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA). The Institute established in 2000, has links and collaborations with various industries and universities across the world. The Deccan Herald lists AIT as one of the “notable” colleges to apply the Karnataka Management Aptitude Test (KMAT) for admission to postgraduate management courses.

Questions that went unanswered:

Though section 6.1 of the UGC Act grants new institutes to apply, Section 4 of the regulations mentions a list of parameters that institutes applying for the status are expected to meet within 5 to 15 years after being granted IoE status.

The criteria need the Universities to be “multi-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary” and have foreign or “foreign-qualified faculty”. Further, the University must have a mix of Indian and foreign students and at least one teacher for every 20 students at the time of granting “institution of eminence” status. However, the parameters also advise them to increase the number of teachers in the next five years so that for every 10 students there is one teacher.

Institute of Eminence

Now, considering this, one can indeed be puzzled that how any of the above mentioned private institutes didn’t make it to the list while Jio institute which does not have any of the above is granted the Institute of Eminence status?

Some of the Universities above have global rankings as well as globally acknowledged faculty and administration in place. Turning them down while giving Jio institute Institute of Eminence status which does not even find mention on the Reliance Foundation website, let alone physical existence, is not only unfair but raises serious concerns.

In the past too, the present government was accused of favoring certain corporates over others. Is this one of the same cases? Are we smelling a rat here, Mr. Javadekar?

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