R A Mashelkar and Dipak C Jain are members of the board at Reliance Industries.

Scientist R A Mashelkar, who was reappointed as “national research professor” in 2016 by the NDA-II government and currently heads the National Innovation Foundation under the Department of Science and Technology, was pitched to the government committee as the Chancellor of Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute, The Indian Express has learnt.

Apart from Mashelkar, who is also the chairman of the Reliance Innovation Council, Dipak C Jain, former director of Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration in Bangkok, will serve as the Vice Chancellor (V-C) of Jio Institute, whose selection as one of the country’s six Institutes of Eminence (IoE) has set off a controversy.

It was the only greenfield institution, just on paper as of now, to get the status along with IISc, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay, BITS-Pilani and Manipal Academy of Higher Education.

Mashelkar and Jain are members of the board at Reliance Industries. They will form the core group that will provide leadership to set up the institution over the next three years, the Reliance Foundation team, led by Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, is learnt to have told the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) during its presentation in April. Mashelkar did not respond to calls and an SMS.

The EEC is headed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and has Renu Khator, president of University of Houston; R Pritam Singh from the Management Development Institute and Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at Harvard Business School, as its other members.

The HRD Ministry defended Jio Institute’s selection on the ground that its proposal satisfied four key parameters, including one that mandates the sponsoring organisation to put in place “a core team with very high qualification and wide experience”.

However, the EEC, in its report submitted to the government, had conceded that assessing the potential of a proposed institution with no track record or achievements was “exceedingly difficult”.

According to the presentation made by Reliance Foundation, the Governing Council (GC) – comprising the Chancellor, V-C, a maximum of six experts from academia, industry and related fields and another seven members nominated by the Reliance Foundation – will be the highest policy-making body of the institute. Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani, founder and chairperson of Reliance Foundation, will be the first members of the GC as nominees of the sponsoring organisation.

The Board of Management (BoM), headed by the V-C, will govern the institute’s administration. It will also have the Provost, Dean Research, Executive Vice President and nominees of the GC and Reliance Foundation as its members.

Mashelkar, a chemical engineer by training, served as Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) from 1995 to 2006 and was also member of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council from 1988 to 1990 and 2004 to 2014.

After retiring as the chief of CSIR in 2006, he joined Reliance Industries in 2007 as an independent member of its board and has been associated with RIL since then.

Jain, who is also a member on the RIL Board, was the Dean of INSEAD from 2011 to 2013, an international business school with campuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Before joining INSEAD, he was Dean at Kellogg School of Management from 2001 to 2009.

The Jio Institute, which will come up on 800 acres in Karjat near Navi Mumbai, is proposed to have 10 schools offering over 50 disciplines, including humanities, engineering, medical sciences, sports, law, performing arts, sciences and urban planning.

The Foundation has claimed it will hire faculty from the top 500 global universities, a residential university city for its teachers, set up inter-disciplinary research centres and commit Rs 9,500 crore towards the institute’s funding.

The institute has three years to become operational. In its first year, it will admit, as per its roadmap, about 1,000 students and by the fifteenth year of operation, the proposed is expected to have more than 10,000 students enrolled.

Interestingly, while the NDA-II government forced Delhi University to roll back its four-year undergraduate course in 2014 on the ground that it was illegal, the government committee seemed to have accepted Jio Institute’s plan to offer the same.

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.

Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag. Private IoEs can also come up as greenfield ventures, provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.

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 time.

The 10 government institutions, in addition to autonomy, will also get Rs 1,000 crore each from the HRD Ministry. The government will offer no financial assistance to the private institutions.

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