No check on self styled Pvt Higher educational institutions?

Shimla, Oct 18

Himachal Pradesh, known for its once-thriving educational institutions, may slowly be putting careers of thousands of students in dark over lack of check on the working of the number of Private Higher Educational institutions in the state.

The absence of a chairman for the Himachal Pradesh Private Education Institution Regulatory Commission (HPPEIRC) for the past two months has resulted in private universities operating unchecked. The former chairman, Major General Atul Kaushik, retired on August 31, 2023, and the commission has remained understaffed with only one member since then. This vacuum in leadership has affected the oversight of private educational institutions, and many pertinent decisions remain pending.

Recently, notices were issued to several private educational institutions, including Arni and Indus Universities, to address concerns over their performance.

Arni University, established by an act passed in the state assembly in 2009, is struggling due to a lack of support from its trustees and ongoing litigation in the courts. The commission called for meetings with university management to address poor enrollment and operational issues. However, due to a pending court case between the trustees, the HPPEIRC has now decided to appoint an administrator to oversee academic activities and enrollment at the university.

Similar concerns were raised in an RTI inquiry regarding Indus University. The commission had recommended action to the state government a year ago, urging a detailed inspection of Indus International University in Una. The commission had conducted its own inspection to assess admission standards, teaching quality, examination processes, faculty competence, and infrastructure maintenance, all in compliance with central and state regulatory norms.

The Inspection Committee appointed by the commission found alarming statistics about Indus International University’s enrollment. In the 2019-20 academic session, the university admitted only 135 students, which dwindled to 55 in 2020-21, and no admissions were reported for the 2021-22 session. The university received 166 applications for both undergraduate and postgraduate programs for the 2022-23 session, but this number is still insufficient for a university to maintain the necessary standards and quality of education.

The Inspection Committee also uncovered faculty shortages and reported that existing staff were not receiving salaries in accordance with UGC norms. The university’s financial sustainability came into question given the steady decline in enrollment.

In light of these issues, the Inspection Committee recommended a detailed state-level inspection of the university, possibly resulting in appropriate action under Section 42 of the parent Act governing the university.

Moreover, here it is pertinent to mention that, the State Government’s Vigilance Department was investigating fake degree scams in educational institutions including Manav Bharti University. The commission recently imposed a substantial fine on a medical institution for collection of excessive student fees, and the matter is pending in court.

In light of these facts the state government is expected to fill the vacant post of the HPPEIRC chairman soon, as various issues remain unresolved. Unfortunately, even a lack of quorum within the regulatory body has hindered the commission’s effectiveness in addressing these matters.

This story will be updated later, to include the state government’s response to these ongoing concerns, as officials were unable to provide immediate verbal comments on the matter.


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