Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) founder and chancellor G. Viswanathan feels that the selection of the institutions of eminence recently was through a process that did not come across as transparent.

Wondering why only three institutions were selected in the private sector – including the yet to be born Jio Institute — he told
The Hindu
in an exclusive interaction that he did not know why only two existing private institutions were selected and some others rejected.

He added that he did not even know whether these would be selected at a later date.

“Does it mean that only two among private institutions qualified? In the world rankings VIT and Amrita are above these two private institutions. I know that these two are good institutions but the other two – Amrita and VIT – are also on par with them or above them in the world rankings… the QS and Times rankings. This should have been considered. It was not transparent. I feel in a democracy we want more transparency.”

The two existent private institutions selected are Manipal Academy of Higher Education and BITS, Pilani.

Dr. Viswanathan also expressed surprise that IIT, Madras, was rejected while IIT Delhi, below the former in the official National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings, was selected.

As for the selection of the proposed Jio Institute in the greenfield – or, yet to be born – category, he said this should not have been included among the 10 private institutions to be selected as institutes of eminence.

“We felt that if they want to recognise yet to be born institutions, these should not be within these 10 private institutions,” he said.

“They have selected only three. So far there is no announcement from the government why they have not selected 10 and whether they are going to select in future.”

‘Piecemeal reform’

Dr. Viswanathan also said that the proposed replacement of University Grants Commission with the Higher Education Commission of India seemed a piecemeal reform.

“Many of us feel that the known devil is better than the unknown devil,” he said.

He said that taking away funding from the proposed HECI was not a good idea, as it could make funding more political. He also saw the provision for imprisonment in the draft HECI Bill as something that could lead to greater fear among heads of private institutions and, consequently, greater corruption, as more money could change hands to avoid such a possibility.

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