Pre-eminently outrageous : The Tribune India

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Pre-eminently outrageous

SO, in its endeavour to reform higher education, the government has awarded six institutes/universities with the badge of ‘Institution of Eminence’. This coveted tag — only five institutes of higher education and the non-existent Jio university have been found worthy of it — comes with a generous package.

Pre-eminently outrageous


Harvinder Khetal

SO, in its endeavour to reform higher education, the government has awarded six institutes/universities with the badge of ‘Institution of Eminence’. This coveted tag — only five institutes of higher education and the non-existent Jio university have been found worthy of it — comes with a generous package. 

The yet-to-be-built, but already ‘eminent’ Jio university, is poised to enter the top 500 global universities in 10 years: this is what Mukesh Ambani and his Reliance Foundation would have the all-ears-for-him government believe. Of course, nods the government and bestows the greenfield university with the coat of arms. Also, just in case rules and regulations that keep ordinary institutes of the country in check should not be an encumbrance, Mukesh Ambani’s proposal gets academic and administrative autonomy so that he pursues his ambitious plan with a free hand, charging students freely and exorbitantly. (Yes, yes, we have pledged to follow world-class colleges in making our admission process such that no student is denied a seat for lack of resources).

Academia? Research and citations? Alumni? Faculty? Credentials? Nah, not for Jio university to show. Such mundane inanities are for the established and prestigious institutes of long standing, the old fuddy-duddies, which must perform and have a track record to be eligible for the Rs 1,000-crore funds and autonomy (for public institutes) and autonomy (for private institutes) that come with the honour.

We are the best in the ‘greenfield’ category: that bunch of proposals to set up universities. So what if we incorporated the company which will establish the Jio institute only two weeks apart from when the government published the criteria for private greenfield institutes of eminence on August 29, 2017? Nobody can have a better proposal than the Ambanis: we have land and money. We don’t pull strings in the corridors of power.

Too bad that 27 existing private institutions, including the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Ashoka University, OP Jindal University, Azim Premji University and Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, also vying with us could not make the cut.

How sweet of the committee of experts selecting the institutes of eminence to have understood Jio institute’s proposals and projections. We are very excited that it found Jio as the only greenfield one that “created confidence of the new institution meeting the rather stiff goal of being within the 500 of world rankings in a period of 10 years”. They truly understand the significance of reliance.

Isn’t the government so forward-looking so as to smartly come up with the greenfield grouping? Very logical, indeed, to award plans, promises and presentations. With that, it has so thoughtfully also considered the interests of yet-to-be-born, but surely robust and promising institutions, such as ours. There is something called reliance. After all, why waste years for proof of results to claim a benefit if you can get it all now? Had this rule been in place earlier, we can imagine where India would have been in this field…urr greenfield. It’s simply outrageous and illogical that some sections of society want Jio university stripped of its eminent status.

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