Role of deemed universities in the Indian Education System
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This article is written by Jessica Kaur, a first-year student currently pursuing B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. Here, she discusses the meaning and importance of a Deemed University and the procedure for an institution to acquire this status.

Introduction

If you’re reading this, you’re either in a university right now, or will be in the future, or perhaps you studied in a university in the past. Either way, you might agree that universities play a big part in education, by imparting professional knowledge and helping their students develop skills. They also undertake research and innovation projects and act as centres of cultural and social growth. 

Universities are not all the same. There are four main types of universities in India, based on who establishes and runs them: central, state, deemed and private universities. In this article, we shall be looking at one of them in detail, i.e. “Deemed University”. We’ll find out what a deemed university is, how it works, and how an institution can go about acquiring the status of a deemed university.

What is a Deemed University?

Before defining a deemed University, you must know about the University Grants Commission (UGC). UGC is a statutory body set up by the Union Government in 1956, and managed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This body coordinates and supervises higher education in India. One of its most important tasks, however, is to give recognition to universities. This means that higher education institutions classified as universities only if they are established under some Central or State Act and are recognised by the UGC.

The UGC works according to the provisions mentioned in the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. This Act applies to all universities in India. Section 3 of this Act says that the UCG can advise the Government to declare any other higher education institute (which is not a university), to be a Deemed University. And this brings us to the definition of the term.

A Deemed University is, quite simply, an institution which provides high standards in a specific area of study and, because of this, is deemed to be a university by the Central Government upon the advice of the UGC. This status helps such institutions to enjoy the same benefits and privileges that are available to any other university in the country.

Why were deemed universities set up in India?

After Independence, there was an urgent need to increase people’s access to proper higher education facilities and inculcate skills and knowledge in them to work and earn a living. Our country had been consistently exploited and conflict-wrought under the British, and developing our human resources was the only way to improve the nation’s condition. Thus, the government established many universities for higher education, and over time the funds and efforts put into them helped them touch international standards. However, the demand was huge and ever-increasing, while the supply of universities by the government lagged behind. Meanwhile, private entities had also begun setting up their own educational institutions (especially after privatisation measures were adopted) and some of them also began reaching the set standards of higher education. To encourage more such universities and to provide them with government recognition and benefits, the provision for the status of Deemed to be University was made.

If a university fulfilled certain criteria fixed by the UGC and acquired the status of deemed university, it would indicate that it reached such standards of education as prescribed by the UGC. Thus, people could rely on and trust such an institution if they were looking to enroll in it, even though it was not a government-established institution. The UGC guidelines which determine everything related to the deemed universities, from the procedure to acquire this status to the details of its governance body, are given in the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019.

Role of deemed universities in the Indian Education System

The UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2019 mention some of the main objectives of the Deemed Universities. Thus, according to these regulations, the main role of a deemed university is to- 

  1. Provide excellence and innovation in higher education at the undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree levels.
  2. Engage in the areas which they specialize in, and contribute to higher education in diverse disciplines. 
  3. Provide high-quality teaching to their students and organise internationally-recognised research projects. 

How do deemed universities differ from private universities?

Deemed Universities and Private Universities may seem similar, since both of them are not established directly by the government and do not fall under its immediate control. However, they do differ in certain important aspects.

The main points of difference between deemed universities and private universities are summarised below:

BASIS

INSTITUTION DEEMED TO BE UNIVERSITY

PRIVATE UNIVERSITY

Degree

Can usually award their own degree or diploma.

Can award a degree or diploma only after the approval of the UGC.

Autonomy

Have a high degree of autonomy in terms of courses, management, etc.

Have to follow more UGC rules and regulations.

Off-campus centres

Can set up their own off- campuses.

Cannot set up off-campus centres except in the same state, that too after 5 years of existence and approval from the UGC.

Recognition

Autonomy granted by Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development on the advice of the UGC.

UGC approved institutions.

Eligibility criteria for an institution to be declared as a deemed university

The UGC doesn’t just go ahead and grant deemed university status to any higher education institute out there; there is a strict and comprehensive eligibility criteria that must be met by the institute for it to get into the exclusive club. Take a look at the eligibility criteria, as given Clause 4.01 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019: 

  1. The institution should be at least 20 years old.
  2. It should have valid accreditation by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) with at least 3.26 CGPA for three consecutive cycles. If it is a technical institution, then it should have at least two-thirds of the technical programmes accredited by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA).
  3. It should be among the top 50 institutions in any specific category or among the top 100 overall in the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings.
  4. It should offer multi-disciplinary courses, like other universities.
  5. It should have at least 2 annual publications by each faculty member in SCOPUS, Web of Science or peer-reviewed journals recognised by the UGC.
  6. The teacher student ratio should not be less than 1:20. The number of faculty members should not be less than 100 and the students, not less than 2000. Out of these students, at least one-third should be postgraduate/research students. 
  7. There should be at least 5 Post Graduate Departments which have been in existence for at least 3 years and have research programmes.
  8. It should have academic and physical infrastructure as prescribed by the Commission and/or the relevant statutory bodies.
  9. It should have a built up area of at least 30 sq.mts. per student, which includes academic, administrative, common and recreational facilities.

Procedure for Declaration of an institution as an institution deemed to be a university

Our discussion on deemed universities will not be complete without understanding the process by which an institution can apply for and acquire this status. Let’s take a quick look at this procedure.

  1. After an institution has gone through the eligibility criteria and is certain that it is fulfilled, it may apply online to the UGC on its web portal.
  2. While applying online, certain important documents need to be attached by the institution. We will come to those later.
  3. After the application has been submitted, the UGC will verify the documents with the concerned public authorities to make sure they are accurate.
  4. The UGC will then examine the whole application with the help of a nominated Expert Committee. At this stage, it will assess the academic and physical standards of the institution and submit its advice to the Government within 60 days from the date of online application. 
  5. The Government, keeping in mind UGC’s advice, will give its final decision within 30 days of receipt of advice. Here, it will either declare the institution as a deemed university under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956 for an initial period of 5 years, or reject the application and convey this to the sponsoring body of the institution along with the reasons for rejection.
  6. In case of an institution which is declared as a Deemed university at the previous stage, the University/ies which earlier had affiliation to the institution will transfer the credits and the transcripts of students within 30 days of such declaration. 
  7. Hereafter, the existing students of the deemed university may get the degree from the affiliating University or Deemed to be University (as per their preference), while the newly admitted students will get a degree of the Deemed to be University. 

How to file an Online Application 

In today’s digital world, it is no surprise that the UGC provides for online application for a deemed university status. The process of applying is very simple; you just need to fill a form and then submit the documents mentioned by the UGC Regulations, in the manner prescribed. 

Documents required for filing the Online Application

Granting deemed university status to an institution is a serious business, and it requires a lot of supporting documents to be submitted by the institution. These have been mentioned in Clause 5.02 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019 as follows:

  1. Documents proving that the institution owns the land which it occupies.
  2. Certificates showing the accreditation given to them by NAAC/NBA.
  3. Approval of the relevant statutory bodies for the professional courses which the institution is currently providing.
  4. Information along with evidence regarding the existing academic and physical infrastructure. 
  5. Institution Development Plan showing the institution’s vision and plan for the next 5-years.
  6. Details of financial sustainability of the institution. 
  7. A letter of commitment from the respective Government to continue to financially support the institution even after it receives deemed university status (only if the institution is funded by the Government).

Copies of these documents should be publicly disclosed on the website of the institution, after due certification by its Head. 

If the institution fails to submit any of these documents while applying, the online systems will reject their application. Also, if any information stated in the documents is found to be false after the verification process, the institution would be liable for criminal prosecution under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

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Procedure for declaration of an institution as deemed to be university under De-Novo Category

Any sponsoring body, with an existing track record in education, can apply to the UGC for setting up a new Institution Deemed to be University which will undertake study and research in unique and emerging areas of knowledge that are not offered by any existing institution. This is called a De-Novo Deemed University. The procedure for this, given under Clause 6.04 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019, is as follows:

  1. An online application should be filed by the sponsoring body, for which a form needs to be filled. The application needs to include the following documents:
  • A Detailed Project Report (DPR) showing its vision and plan for the next fifteen years, with clear outcomes.
  • Details of the land on which the proposed deemed university will be established, along with proof that the body owns that land.
  • Details of the financial sustainability of the institution.
  • Details of the sponsoring body, along with the details of the key academic and administrative personnel.
  • An undertaking that the body will comply with all provisions of the UGC Regulations.
  • A letter of commitment from the respective government to continue to financially support the institution even after it acquires the Deemed University status (only if it is a Central/State/UT Government institution).

2. The application will then be examined by an Expert Committee. The Committee may direct the applicant to make a presentation to show whether the institution falls under de-novo category or not, and whether the Detailed Project Report complies with the UGC Regulations. The Committee may also visit the applicant institution, if necessary.

3. The Expert Committee will submit its report to the UGC within 30 days. It will either recommend the the issue of Letter of Intent or not.

4. The UGC shall forward its advice to the Government within 30 days of receiving the Expert Committee’s report.

5. The Government will give its decision in 30 days, keeping in mind the advice of the UGC. It will either issue a Letter of Intent for three years to the institution or reject the proposal by giving the reasons for the same.

Procedure for an institution deemed to be a university to start an off-campus centre

Institutions Deemed to be Universities which are placed in Category-I & Category-II or are ranked in the top 50 universities in the current NIRF rankings can start new Off-Campus Centres too. This refers to another centre of education run by the management of the deemed university, but separate from its original campus.

The Institutions applying for Off-Campus Centre(s), must meet these criteria:

  • The teacher-student ratio should not be less than 1:20. The number of faculty members should be at least 25 and the students, at least 500. Out of these students, at least one-third should be postgraduate/research students.
  • There should be at least 3 Post Graduate Departments with research programmes.
  • The deemed university should have academic and physical infrastructure as prescribed by the Commission and/or the relevant statutory bodies. 
  • It should have a built up area of at least 30 sq. mts. per student which includes academic, administrative, common and recreational facilities.

The procedure to be followed to get permission to start an off-campus centre is given in Clause 7.01 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019. You can have a look at it below: 

  1. The Deemed University has to submit their application to the Government in the form of an Affidavit to get approval to start an Off-Campus Centre.
  2. The application should contain details of existing or proposed infrastructure facilities, courses/programmes of study, student intake, financing arrangements, etc.
  3. The Government will examine the application and then forward it to the UGC for its advice. 
  4. In case the Institution Deemed to be University belongs to Category-I or is ranked in the top 50 universities in the current NIRF ranking.
  • The Deemed University need not be physically inspected. 
  • The Chairman of the UGC may set up a Standing Committee to examine the information given by the Institution. 
  • The Chairman shall forward the advice to the Government within 30 days after he receives the observations of the Standing Committee. 
  • Such an institution can establish only 3 off-campuses in a period of 5 years, with at max 1 campus being established in 1 academic year. 

5. In case the Institution Deemed to be University belongs to Category-II.

  • The information given by the applicant may be assessed and verified by an Expert Committee.
  • The Chairman, on behalf of the UGC, shall forward the advice to the Government within 60 days after receiving the observations of Expert Committee. 
  • Such an institution can establish only 2 off-campuses in a period of 5 years, with at max 1 campus being established in 1 academic year. 

6. The Government will give its decision in 15 days, keeping in mind the advice of the UGC. It will either issue a notification for starting of the off-campus centre(s) or reject the proposal stating the reasons for the same.

Procedure for an institution deemed to be a university to start an off-shore campus

A university may want to expand its operations to new territories after a few years of successful running. This helps it earn more revenue and establish itself in more and more areas. For this, universities set up off-shore campuses, i.e. campuses beyond the shores of the university’s home country.

Institutions Deemed to be Universities are allowed to start new Off-Shore Campuses. However, before setting one up, there are 2 broad steps to be followed:

  1. They need to get a No-Objection Certificate from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  2. Then, they must get permission from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

After this, they can start an off-shore campus.

Institutions Deemed to be Universities have to follow similar admission criteria, curriculum, examination system and evaluation system in their off-shore campus as in their main campus. Also, all the information about off-shore campuses should be put up on their website.

How to start new courses/departments in the campus or approved off-campus of the deemed university

In today’s fast-paced and ever-growing world, new areas of study are coming up frequently and a need is felt for standardised education in every field. To keep up with this, existing universities may want to introduce new courses/departments etc. in their existing campuses.

Institutions Deemed to be universities which belong in Category-I or Category-II or rank in the top 50 universities in the NIRF ranking may start new courses/departments/programmes etc. in their existing campus and approved off-Campus centre(s). To do so, a simple procedure needs to be followed, which is explained below:

  1. The Institution shall first take the approval of its Board of Management and the relevant Statutory bodies. 
  2. Then, it shall inform the UGC about starting a new course/ programme/ department/ school/ centre within one month of the grant of approval mentioned in the previous step. For this, a form needs to be filled.
  3. If the Institution Deemed to be University receives funds from the Central or the State Government, it needs to take their approval too.

Responsibilities of the deemed universities in connection with UGC’s performance inspection

To make sure that the deemed university is upholding its standards of education and performing its functions properly, the UGC monitors and checks it annually. To score well in this inspection, the deemed university has to fulfill some responsibilities. Some of them are:

  1. Ensuring that its graduate students get employment/self-employment opportunities or go ahead for higher education.
  2. Promoting social activities among the students while they are studying in the institution
  3. Training the students in professional skills. 
  4. Inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship and critical thinking among the students.
  5. Ensuring that the teacher student ratio is not less than 1:20. 
  6. Using technology in its classrooms for more effective learning. 
  7. Ensuring that examinations promote and measure students’ understanding and application of concepts.
  8. Making all its teachers take an annual refresher training for acquiring better and newer teaching methods.

Institutional governance required for a deemed university

A Deemed University, like any other organisation, needs a mechanism for its daily operations and management of affairs. For this, a system of institutional governance for the deemed university has been devised.

First and foremost, the deemed university needs to be officially registered. Clause 10.01 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019 says that such an institution must be registered as a not-for-profit organisation under either the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Public Trust Act, or under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013

The primary governing body of the deemed university is the Board of Management. Let’s discuss its composition, powers and duties, and then also look at other authorities and officers who play a role in the governance of the deemed university.

Board of Management

The Board of Management is headed by the Vice-Chancellor, and its other members include the Registrar, two Deans, two teachers, etc. It should have at least 10 members and at max 15 members. All members, other than the ex-officio ones and the teachers, remain in the body for 3 years. The term of the teachers, meanwhile, is 2 years.

The Board is the body which makes the rules of the deemed university and takes decisions in academic, administrative, financial and developmental matters. To perform these functions, it must conduct its meetings at least 4 times in one academic year.

Authorities of the Institution Deemed to be University

Apart from the Board of Management, there are a lot of other bodies and authorities in a deemed university that look after certain specific functions in the institution. They have been explained briefly below.

Academic Council

This is the main academic body of the Deemed University and is responsible for maintaining the standards of teaching, research and training. It also approves the syllabus and coordinates the research activities, examinations and tests.

The members of the Academic Council include the Vice-Chancellor, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dean(s) of Faculties, Heads of the Departments, the Registrar, ten professors, etc.

This important body takes care of a lot of matters. Some of its powers and duties include supervising all academic work in the deemed university, promoting research, prescribing the courses/programmes necessary for the degree and diploma, appointing examiners and moderators, suggesting measures for departmental coordination, etc. To perform all these functions, the Academic Council must meet at least thrice during one academic year.

Planning & Monitoring Board

The Planning & Monitoring Board monitors the development programmes of the Institution Deemed to be a University. It advises the Board of Management and the Academic Council on matters which are necessary for the fulfillment of the objectives of the Deemed University.

Finance Committee

All members of the Finance Committee, other than ex-officio members, hold office for 3 years. The main job of the Finance Committee includes tasks like preparing the annual accounts and financial estimates of the Institution Deemed to be University, and fixing limits on the total recurring expenditure and the total non-recurring expenditure of each year. The Finance Committee has to meet at least twice a year.

Board of Studies

One Board of Studies is set up for each Department. It comprises the Dean of faculty/ Head of the Department, all the professors of the faculty/department, two Associate Professors, two Assistant Professors, and 2 experts in that field.

Selection Committee

One or more Selection Committees are set up for making recommendations of persons to be appointed as Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors, etc. in the deemed university.

Officers of the Institution Deemed to be University

Clause 10.12 of the UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations, 2019 talks about the various officers who will head an Institution deemed to be a university. Let’s take a look at them in brief.

Chancellor & Pro Chancellor

  • The Chancellor is appointed by the sponsoring body of the institution for a period of 5 years, and can be re-elected only once. He presides over the convocations of the deemed university. He also nominates other persons in authority to further the interests of the institution, whenever he is empowered to do so.
  • The Pro-Chancellor is also appointed by the sponsoring body, to carry out the tasks assigned to him by the Chancellor. He acts in place of the Chancellor when the latter is not available. However, this is not a mandatory post in a deemed university.

Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor is appointed by the Chancellor. The qualifications a person must fulfill in order to become a Vice-Chancellor are prescribed by the UGC. He is appointed for a period of 5 years, and can be re-elected only once. However, a person cannot remain in the office of a Vice-Chancellor after he has become 70 years old.

If the office of the Vice-Chancellor becomes vacant due to his death, resignation, etc. then the Pro Vice-Chancellor would perform his duties and if he, too, is absent, this role will be performed by the senior-most professor. 

The Vice-Chancellor is the Principal Executive Officer of the Deemed University. He supervises and controls the university’s affairs and implements the decisions of the authorities. Moreover, he is the Ex-officio Chairperson of the Board of Management, the Academic Council, the Finance Committee, the Planning & Monitoring Board and Selection Committees. The Vice-Chancellor has the authority to delegate some of his powers to his subordinates, after the approval of the Board of Management.

If any person is aggrieved by any decision of the Vice-Chancellor, he/she can appeal before the Board of Management within 30 days.

Pro Vice-Chancellor

The Board of Management may create the post of the Pro Vice-Chancellor in the Deemed University if needed. He shall be appointed by the Board on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor. 

Registrar

The Registrar is appointed by the Board of Management on the recommendations of the Selection Committee. When the office of the Registrar is vacant or when he is on leave, the duties and functions of the Registrar are performed by any person appointed by the Vice-Chancellor.

The Registrar is the ex-officio Secretary of the Board of Management, the Academic Council and the Planning and Monitoring Board. He is directly responsible to the Vice-Chancellor and works under his direction. 

The duties of the Registrar include managing the records and funds of the deemed university, conducting its official correspondence, making arrangements for examinations, to enter into agreements on behalf of the deemed university, to maintain the buildings, gardens, vehicles and other infrastructure of the deemed university, etc.

Finance Officer

The Finance Officer is appointed by the Board of Management. He works under the direction of the Vice-Chancellor. His work is to prepare the annual budget estimates and statements of account of the deemed university for submission to the Finance Committee and the Board of Management. He also manages its funds and investments.

Controller of Examinations

To no one’s surprise, the Controller of Examinations is also appointed by the Board of Management. He makes sure that all the directions given by the Board of Management, Academic Council and Vice-Chancellor regarding the examination and evaluation are followed.

Dean 

In a university, there usually exist different departments dealing with different subjects and courses. The departments dealing with similar subjects can be grouped under one faculty, who is headed by a Dean. 

Head of the Department

Each department also has its own separate head, who is appointed by the Vice-Chancellor from amongst the professors of that department. He is usually appointed for 3 years and can be re-elected once more, but not in a consecutive term.

Benefits available to a deemed university

Deemed to be universities are not established by the Government, and hence they have much more autonomy than the Central or State universities. Here are some of the benefits that are available exclusively to deemed universities:

  • They have the authority to conduct their own examinations, set guidelines for admission, design their own curriculum/syllabus, etc.
  • Moreover, deemed universities are authorized to give their own degree/diploma.
  • Deemed universities can also decide their own fees structure for their courses instead of following the structure or approach given by the Government.

Is studying in a deemed university a good idea?

We’ve discussed almost everything we could about a deemed university- what it means, what the procedure is for an institution to acquire this status, who governs and manages this institution and what the benefits are of becoming a deemed university. However, a very important question still remains unanswered, especially from a student’s point of view: is studying in a deemed university a good idea?

Today, there are over 130 deemed universities in India, and of course, all of them are churning out graduates every year. These graduates are sometimes more trained and skilled than those who’ve studied in government colleges, because let’s be real, government institutions aren’t always the most tech-savvy, high-end or contemporary. Deemed universities, on the other hand, place high emphasis on up to date education, practical knowledge and making their students global citizens. They have autonomy in their courses, fee structure, etc., which saves them from all the red-tapism and unnecessary rules and formalities that plague many government institutions.

At the same time, though, the situation is not all rosy for deemed universities. Government institutions have been around for a very long time, and many of them have established a mark for themselves in the higher education sphere. Their alumni include famous names from scientists to actors to politicians, and the good ones receive hefty funds from the government to make themselves better. And one thing is undeniable: people prefer to study in government colleges. They are considered to be more serious about their academics and research activities, and their degree holds more value in the minds of people. This could also be because deemed universities often charge more than many people’s pockets hold, because of which only those who can afford them join them. This gives the impression that deemed universities only care about money, and the ones who can pay for it.

The truth of the matter is, we can’t make generalisations. There are plenty of deemed universities that have established their names in the country, like Christ Deemed-to-be-University, VIT, BITS, and others. These rank even better in their fields than many State or the Central Universities. On the other hand, there are scores more deemed universities that show disappointing performance, and at the same time tons of Government Universities like IITs, IIMs, and NLUs which continue to raise the bar of education consistently higher. At the end, it all boils down to which university you are considering, and what its performance has been like.

References


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