Com­merce min­istry was aware of in­valid FDDI pro­grammes

NO CLAR­ITY Com­merce min­is­ter’s re­ply in Par­lia­ment to ques­tion on Mewar Univer­sity-FDDI tie-up raises dis­turb­ing ques­tions about the fu­ture of stu­dents who took up the cour­ses

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Jee­van Prakash Sharma

Did the com­merce min­istry de­cide to run in­valid ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes through i t s Fo o t we a r D e s i g n a n d De­vel­op­ment In­sti­tute’s (FDDI) eight cam­puses across In­dia de­spite know­ing this would jeop­ar­dise the fu­ture of its stu­dents? A writ­ten re­ply in the re­cent Lok Sabha ses­sion in Par­lia­ment by min­is­ter of state for com­merce ( in­de­pen­dent charge) Nir­mala Sithara­man in­di­cates that the min­istry was aware in 2015 that the cour­ses FDDI ran with Mewar Univer­sity, a pri­vate in­sti­tute in Chit­tor­garh, Ra­jasthan, were unau­tho­rised. About 4,000 stu­dents who took up the pro­gramme since it was started in 2012 and ran for three years, are now un­cer­tain about their ca­reers.

Re­ply­ing to ques­tions by par­lia­men­tar­ian Chan­drakant Raghunath Patil on the de­gree g r anting s t at us of FDDI, Sithara­man had, on July 31, 2015, said “The UGC, in Septem­ber, 2014, has raised ques­tions against the MoU be­tween FDDI and Mewar Univer­sity for grant of de­gree to FDDI stu­dents reg­is­tered for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 in the light of AICTE’s non­recog­ni­tion of its de­gree.”

Sithara­man’s state­ment raises sev­eral ques­tions. When the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC), in Septem­ber, 2014, alerted the min­istry of com­merce to the ques­tion­able col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Mewar Univer­sity and FDDI (which started in 2012), why did FDDI then ag­gres­sively mar­ket those cour­ses for its aca­demic ses­sion 2015-2016 un­til the mat­ter was high­lighted by HT Ed­u­ca­tion on May 13, 2015 lead­ing to the course be­ing dis­con­tin­ued?

Advertising cour­ses in news­pa­pers, FDDI had also in its 2015 prospec­tus high­lighted its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mewar, say­ing that the de­gree cour­ses would be con­tin­ued for the next aca­demic year. Not only that, fol­low­ing HT Ed­u­ca­tion’s story on the va­lid­ity of FDDI-Mewar Univer­sity joint de­grees, FDDI had, in news­pa­per ad­ver­tise­ments, stated: “In an ag­gres­sive cam­paign backed by vested in­ter­ests, ques­tions have been raised re­gard­ing the ve­rac­ity of the pro­grammes of­fered by FDDI, a train­ing in­sti­tute un­der the min­istry of com­merce and in­dus­try, gov­ern­ment of In­dia.”

Jus­ti­fy­ing its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Mewar Univer­sity, the FDDI ad­ver­tise­ment also stated that “The al­liance has been made to of­fer de­gree pro­grammes to stu­dents who wish to build their ca­reer in niche ar­eas. Such de­gree pro­grammes are not of­fered by the con­ven­tional univer­si­ties, and the Mewar Univer­sity can­not pos­si­bly of­fer these niche pro­grammes with­out the sup­port of these spe­cialised in­sti­tutes (FDDI and 33 oth­ers who had col­lab­o­rated with Mewar then). This al­liance has made it pos­si­ble for a large ma­jor­ity of stu­dents to get cred­i­ble de­gree­based pro­grammes in these high growth ar­eas.”

While ac­cord­ing to Sithara­man’s state­ment, the sta­tus of the de­grees is ques­tion­able as these did not have AICTE ap­provals, the fact (high­lighted by HT Ed­u­ca­tion ear­lier) is that the FDDI-Mewar col­lab­o­ra­tion vi­o­lates UGC (Es­tab­lish­ment of and Main­te­nance of Stan­dards in Pri­vate Univer­si­ties) Reg­u­la­tions, 2003.

There is no pro­vi­sion for any col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween a pri­vate univer­sity and any in­sti­tute for grant of de­grees. Sec­tion 3.2 of the Reg­u­la­tions 2003 says, “A pri­vate univer­sity shall be a uni­tary univer­sity hav­ing ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties for teach­ing, re­search, ex­am­i­na­tion and ex­ten­sion ser­vices.” Pri­vate univer­si­ties have to op­er­ate within the bound­ary of their states and set up off-cam­pus cen­tres only in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances af­ter their main cam­pus is de­vel­oped. Even then, sev­eral con­di­tions ap­ply for the off-cam­pus cen­tres, and UGC ap­proval and con­cerned state gov­ern­ment’s con­sent are re­quired for the same. In case of FDDI and Mewar, none of the con­di­tions were ful­filled.

In her re­ply, Sithara­man also said that FDDI started de­gree cour­ses in 2010, first in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Indira Gandhi Na­tional Open Univer­sity (Ig­nou), which was dis­con­tin­ued in 2012, and then from 2012 with Mewar Univer­sity. How­ever, Ajay Ku­mar, FDDI’s of­fi­ci­at­ing man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, while talk­ing to HT Ed­u­ca­tion, had said that for the first time in 2007, FDDI had col­lab­o­rated with Punjab Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity (PTU) to grant de­grees.

“The col­lab­o­ra­tion with Punjab Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity was also ques­tion­able in the light of reg­u­la­tions of UGC and norms

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