The on-going tiff between the central government and Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences (BITS) took an ugly turn this week. In a fresh notice issued by the HRD ministry, the Rajasthan government will no longer attest the degrees awarded by the branches of BITS in Goa and Hyderabad.
What and How
On 9th November 2015, UGC (higher education department operating under HRD ministry) sent a notice to BITS and nine other deemed universities in the country directing them to stop operations at their off-campus branches as this arrangement flouted the rules to be adhered by a deemed university. The notice also highlighted the fact that these branches didn’t have the required permissions.
As a form of retaliation, BITS approached the Delhi HC which ordered the UGC not to take any stringent action against them. BITS argued that the establishment of the Goa and Hyderabad centres pre-dates the Deemed University Regulations. They said that this makes it clear that UGC has no legal authority to issue a notice to BITS.
Opinion by officials
The additional chief secretary of Rajasthan government, Mr. Rajhans Upadhyay wrote to the central government’s higher education secretary, VS Oberoi, in July 2016 seeking clarity on the issue. He wanted to ensure that the state was attesting the degree/diploma certificates issued by BITS Goa and Hyderabad without flouting rules laid down by UGC.
The Rajasthan government received a response last week which directed them not to attest the said certificates as it would be inappropriate. The reason given by the central government was that the two off-campus institutes were not approved by the UGC.
The acting Registrar of BITS-Pilani, Prof S C Sivasubramanian, said that the students are suffering because of this action and they have requested the Rajasthan government to continue attesting the documents as the case is still on-going in the court.
Another prominent government official was quoted saying that they have received strict instructions not to attest the documents issued by institutes who have flouted the rules of UGC and, hence, were helpless.
BITS-Pilani achieved the deemed university status as per the UGC Act of 1964. It is one of the best private engineering institutes in the country and secured the 95th rank in the QS rating index in 2015 (among BRICS countries). It also got a rank between 201 and 250 among the institutions in Asia.
The Goa and Hyderabad campuses were established in 2004 and 2008 respectively. At present, approximately 600-700 students are pursuing their undergraduate programs at each of these institutes.
Will the government give in and grant the required permission to BITS or will BITS shut down its off-campus institutes? Only time will tell.