UGC approves BITS-Pilani off-campus centres

New Delhi August 11Resolving its three-year-old standoff with Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), the University Grants Commission (UGC) this week approved the institute’s branches in Goa and Hyderabad.

The HRD Ministry will issue a notification announcing “regularisation” of the two off-campus centres next week, which would then make BITS eligible for the Institute of Eminence (IoE) status.

As first reported by The Indian Express on July 25, the ministry had held back BITS’s Letter of Intent (LoI) notifying its ‘Eminence’ tag because of the institute’s standoff with the UGC over the legality of its off-campus centres.

BITS was selected along with Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) and Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute under the private institution category for IoE status. MAHE and Jio Institute were issued their LoIs on July 24.

The Union Cabinet had approved UGC’s ‘Institutions of Eminence Deemed to be Universities Regulations 2017’, in August 2017. The regulations are aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to emerge as world-class institutions since the country has little representation in the international ranking of educational institutions.Once identified, the target for the IoEs would be to break into the top 500 in at least one internationally reputed ranking framework in 10 years and come up in the top 100 over

The confrontation between BITS and UGC dates back to November 9, 2015 when the higher education regulator issued notices to 10 deemed universities, including BITS, directing them to shut down their off-campus centres on the ground that they were set up without the UGC’s permission and, hence, violate the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2016.

BITS-Pilani, subsequently, went to Delhi High Court, which asked the regulator to not take any coercive action. The institute had argued in court that the Goa and Hyderabad centres were established in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and, hence, pre-date the Deemed University Regulations, which are prospective in nature.

Although the off-campus centres in Goa and Hyderabad continued to function, UGC maintained that they were illegal. This had put the HRD Ministry in a bind, which then decided that BITS will be given the LoI once the institute withdraws its court case and formally applies for UGC’s approval of the Goa and Hyderabad off-campus centres.
The premier engineering school then applied afresh and its off-campus centres were approved by UGC this week.