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Canada academics welcome India's varsity crackdown

January 25, 2010 09:59 IST

A number of Canadian academics have welcomed India's move to de-recognise 44 'deemed' universities for low education standard and limited infrastructure, and said Canadian institutions should know the credentials of potential partners in India.

Dr Balbir Sahni, co-chair, education sub-committee, Focus India Group, Canadian ministry of foreign affairs and international trade, called it "a welcome development that [Indian Human Resources] Minister Kapil Sibal is carefully pushing in the direction" of disseminating "information about India's education infrastructure as this establishes the credentials of host countries'.

Indian newspapers reported last week that the HRD ministry has decided to de-recognise as many as 44 deemed universities, including three government-sponsored ones, across the country.

These 'deemed universities', reports claimed, 'were found deficient on many grounds ranging from lack of infrastructure to lack of evidence of expertise in disciplines they claim to specialise in.'

The 'deemed university' status was reportedly doled out during the tenure of the previous HRD minister, Arjun Singh.

Dr Sukhadeo Thorat, chair, University Grants Commission, is the keynote speaker at the Annual Conference of Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada to be held in Ottawa, starting February 2. Vice chancellors of two newly floated Indian universities that are being built now -- Professor R K Kale, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, and Professor A M Pathan, Central University of Karnataka -- will also be there.

"Their charge is to set these (universities) up in a new way as there is now the push on quality -- world-class, and less bureaucratic," Dr Sheila Embleton, president, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, said.

The visitors from India "are interested in questions about how we set up our universities -- questions like how do senates work, how do board of governors work, how do you decide how many faculties to have and which they should be, how are faculties organised internally and how do they relate to one another, how do double majors work, how do minors work, how do electives work, and then the whole service side of things -- students affairs, offices, etc," Embleton told India Abroad January 20.

The de-recognition of 'deemed universities,' quality of education in Indian institutions and how new universities are recognised will surely be a subject of discussion when the Indian vice chancellors visit. They will visit York University in Toronto, University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, and the University of Calgary, etc.

"One of the critical elements in promoting Canada-India student mobility is to ensure dissemination of information about each country's education infrastructure," Sahni said "It is a welcome development that Minister Sibal is carefully pushing in this direction. Furthermore, it is imperative that the Canadian universities get to know the credentials of potential partners and sources for incoming students."

The action against these 44 universities has been taken following report of the National Knowledge Commission chaired by Sam Pitroda: "Fortunately, the National Knowledge Commission, the minister of HRD, and many credible persons, including Dr Sam Pitroda, who continues as a key advisor to the Indian prime minister, are ensuring that existing weaknesses are abolished," said Sahni, professor emeritus, economics, Concordia University, said.

Embleton agreed: "Minister Sibal is really leading several major initiatives to advance post-secondary education in India -- both on the quality and quantity fronts. I doubt very many Canadian institutions are likely to be partners of these institutions, although there are some. In any case, most have an option of affiliating with another institution, which then will become responsible for ensuring quality."

Ajit jain