New Delhi: Coming on the heels of information that the HRD ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office disagreed on various pivotal matters before releasing the Institutes of Eminence (IoE) list, a fresh report (on August 29) in the Indian Express has stated that the finance ministry had warned the MHRD against giving the IoE tag to non-existent institutes, saying that the illogical move would “hurt the education ecosystem”.
The HRD ministry had reportedly been cautioned against picking a non-existent, or greenfield, institute at least a year before the controversy regarding the list of six IoEs erupted.
According to the Indian Express report, official records accessed by the Indian Express under the RTI Act have revealed strong objections were raised by the finance ministry but without success, “on selecting an IoE ‘only based on intentions and a plan’.” Responding to the ‘greenfield category’ referred in the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) note moved by the HRD Ministry early last year, the Department of Expenditure reportedly wrote in February: “…for the private institutions which are yet to be established, granting of the status of Institutions of Eminence based on future plans is beyond rationale and is not supported. The laid down criteria in this regard is highly subjective.”
The DoE’s note also says, “This methodology will give an edge to an institution which is not even established yet by improving its brand value and positioning it above the already established government and private institutions. This will be demotivational and therefore, detrimental to higher education ecosystem. Grading institutions as ‘Institutions of Eminence’ based only on intentions and a plan defies all logic. Hence the same should be revised.”
On the issue of whether the draft IoE regulations violated any laws pertaining to centrally-funded education institutions, the Department of Higher Education (in June 2016) reportedly passed around an ‘internal note’ that sought comments from the heads of five divisions heads. Responses from two arms of the government emphasise that the focus of such a list must be on existing institutions.
As per the Indian Express report, RTI documents have also revealed that the MHRD Ministry is open to picking six more non-existent private institutes as IoEs.
Despite these differences and uncertainties, the Union cabinet approved the IoE list in August 2017.