This article is a comment on the post published by The Wire “Given Tag of ‘Eminence’ by Modi Govt, Reliance’s Jio Institute Doesn’t Even Exist Yet.”
Dream of Reliance Foundation
Jio Institute – a project of Nita Ambani’s Reliance Foundation is included in the list of six institutions of eminence along with IISc, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, BITS Pilani and Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
The only public information about the Jio Institute is that it would be “a university from the gates of which will emerge our future leaders, musicians, scientists, and Olympians.” A university at the cutting edge of research and innovation. A university that focuses on education and sports, art and culture. The university, will collaborate with the top universities around the world and prepare future generations to face the world, with knowledge and skills. A university from the gates of which will emerge our future leaders, our musicians, our scientists, and our Olympians,” she said. “Building such a university is the dream of Reliance Foundation.
Nita Ambani went on to detail her organisation’s efforts to contribute to the development of sports and education in India. Reliance Foundation has established 14 schools, educating over 16,000 children annually. “Our newest two schools are in Uttarakhand. These are the schools that were completely destroyed during the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, which we have rebuilt now,” she said. Stating that scarcity of quality teachers and the lack of infrastructure continue to be India’s major challenges, she said creative and quality content, as well as innovative and cost-effective methods, are the need of the hour. Her foundation’s grassroots programme had reached out to 13 million budding sportspeople and athletes, she said narrating inspiring stories of young boys and girls who dared to dream and succeeded.
Institution of Eminence
Jio Institute is included in the list of six institutions of eminence along with IISc, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, BITS Pilani and Manipal Academy of Higher Education. The university, named Jio Institute, will come up with an investment of ₹9,500 crore—a shade over 25% of the central government’s higher education budget for 2018-19. Reliance Industries, which has a presence across oil and gas, petrochemicals, textiles, telecom and retail is expected to make a big statement with the university. It wants to have a sizable presence in humanities, medical science, engineering, law and performing arts, research collaboration with top global universities, and start-up research package, besides faculty from 500 global universities.
Jio Institute’s vision (is) to be the youngest global top 100 universities,” said the Reliance’s plan document released by the HRD ministry. The move assumes significance as India seeks to enhance its performance and global rankings with none of its top schools finding a place in the top 100 universities rankings in the world. “Institutes of eminence are important for the country. We have 800 universities, but not a single university is in the top 100. Today’s decision will help achieve this,” HRD minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted. “This (the scheme) will help the institutes to grow rapidly to a scale, improve quality and add new courses.
Benefits of Institute of Eminence
The institutes of eminence will have three key benefits—complete freedom from regulatory interference in terms of academic and administrative requirements, added funds for the state-run institutions, and more collaboration opportunities with top global universities. The IITs in Delhi and Mumbai and IISc will each get ₹1,000 crore additional grants over a five-year period. This decision gives “virtually full autonomy” to these institutions but it “will also ensure that no student will be denied the opportunity of education with various measures like scholarships, interest waiver, fee waiver and ensure all equity principles”.
The selection of Jio and the other institutions of eminence was made by an empowered expert committee (EEC) set up by the University Grants Commission under the UGC (World Class Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016. The EEC is headed by N. Gopalaswami, a former chief election commissioner who is now head of the RSS-affiliated Vivekananda Educational Society. Its other members are Renu Khator, chancellor of the University of Houston, management professor Tarun Khanna of Harvard University and Pritam Singh, a former director of IIM, Lucknow. Their names were chosen by the HRD ministry and ratified by the appointments committee of the cabinet headed by Modi. The rules allowed for existing government and private universities and institutes to apply. The UGC also provided for promoters to submit a “completely new proposal to establish a World Class Institution Deemed to be University.” It was under this provision that Reliance applied and got selected.
The committee chose to ignore the National Institutional Ranking Framework’s scores, the exclusion of a host of other top scoring public and private universities is likely to generate heartburn. Any institution selected has 10 years to make it to the top 500 ranking of world universities. The UGC’s rules for applying stipulated that “the Sponsoring Organisation should have identified the first Chancellor and first Vice-Chancellor and the core team who will implement the work of setting up the World Class Institution Deemed to be University. All of them should have very high qualifications and wide experience.”
How does Jio Institute qualify for selection:
clause 6.1 (iii): The Sponsoring Organization for greenfield institutions should have members whose total net worth is at least Rupees five thousand crore collectively. For existing institutions, the total net worth of all members of the Sponsoring Organisation should be Rupees three thousand crores collectively.
clause 6.1 (ix): It should have sufficient evidence to show that it has experience in translating plans into real achievements in any field (not necessarily in the field of higher education, but preferably in it) as per its plans.
The move assumes significance as India seeks to enhance its performance and global rankings with none of its top schools finding a place in the top 100 universities rankings in the world. “Institutes of eminence are important for the country. The scheme will help the institutes to grow rapidly to a scale, improve quality and add new courses.
This decision is hugely criticized for granting the coveted status to a yet-to-be-established institution, alongside renowned centres of excellence such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi. Comparing the top most institutes of India with the non-existent university clearly casts a disbalance in the educational system. It discriminates between deserving institutions and an institution with no value or reputation for declaring institute of eminence. Jio Institute doesn’t have a campus, a website or any alumni and it has left behind prominent IITs as well as private players like Ashoka University and OP Jindal Global University. It is yet to be established but will already be marketed as a world-class institution by the government. It is such a grave conflict of interest.
The UGC’s rules for applying stipulated that “the Sponsoring Organisation should have identified the first Chancellor and first Vice-Chancellor and the core team who will implement the work of setting up the World Class Institution Deemed to be University. All of them should have very high qualifications and wide experience.” So far, nothing is known about Jio Institute’s chancellor, vice chancellor and the other team members with “very high qualifications”. the exclusion of a host of other top scoring public and private universities is likely to generate heartburn. There has been no existence of Jio University and yet it has a tag of the Institute of Eminence. There has been no significant value of their educational institutes in India but still, it has grabbed one of the most valuable titles without even being a part of the real competition. There were already deserving institutes which were much deserving than Jio institute but lost a chance. Let’s hope this decision doesn’t backfire and will have to wait for more years to see our universities ranking in the top 100.
– Samriddhi Pandey
Gujarat National Law University
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