WHEN Karnataka health minister SA Ramdas raided the offices of YGen Management Consulting Private Ltd, on a series of complaints against it and its partner Karnataka Open University (KSOU), little did he have an idea that he was opening a Pandora’s box, which would affect lakhs of students. His own quest led to another university, Gulbarga, which hastily ‘suspended’ its tie-up with YGen Management Consulting. Gulbarga’s registrar Hiremath clarified, “There was some problem with the outreach centres and the university was having second thoughts about running the programmes.” (Deccan Herald, May 8, 2012).
The newspaper further quotes him, “Only provisional admission was made by the agencies and the university neither admitted any student nor collected any fee from them”. Hiremath was obviously referring to more than 2000 students enrolled by YGen through its ‘outreach centres’ to be offered Gulbarga University degree. As we go to press, the fate of these 2000 students hangs in the balance. But the malice is widespread. Such arrangements get a facade of credibility from state universities like KSOU, Gulbarga Univeristy, Manonanmaniam Sundaranar University, Bharathiar University and several others, offering their degrees. They confer ‘validity’ to unrecognized, unapproved private/public, for-profit institutions, that violate norms on every count with impunity. Worst of all, the entire method of functioning maybe illegal and degrees thus offered to students may not be legitimate.
How does the model work? Let’s take Gulbarga-YGen tie-up as an example. Gulbarga appoints YGen Management Consulting Pvt Ltd as the exclusive partner for offering its outreach programmes. YGen then goes on to appoint a host of “outreach centres’/institutions all over the country. These outreach centres are institutions without requsite regulatory approvals. These providers charge hefty fees from students and flout norms. The disdain for law is such that some of these institutions are registered under the ‘Shops and Establishments Act’. These centres, further proceed to advertise that they offer legitimate degrees, as approved outreach centres for Gulbarga University (See Box: The Nexus). They will also offer their own programme a PGP or a PGD, a laptop, a foreign jaunt etc. to justify the high fees they would charge. The fee, in some instances, is 5-20 times the cost of a distance learning degree, which a student pays in comparison to what he would pay under direct enrolment to a university. The hapless student assumes that he/she is getting a full-time university degree.
The law as of now Is the entire modus operandi within the legal ambit? The answer is ‘No’. Such tie-ups violate the law of the land under four major heads. Franchising and profiteering The Supreme Court, as well the government has banned franchising of higher education institutions. UGC, AICTE and Distance Education Council (DEC) have come up with notifications to this effect reiterating the same. Since the university appoints a central co-ordinator, which subsequently selects/ appoints/manages its local centres, the arrangement is distinctly franchising and is patently illegal. Besides, in India, education (offering legitimate qualifications) cannot be ‘for- profit’ as of now while most franchisees are ‘for- profit’ organizations.
Territorial Jurisdiction The Supreme Court in the Prof Yashpal & Anr versus Govt. of Chattisgarh & Ors clearly stipulates that State Universities cannot have jurisdiction beyond their respective states. The applicability of this ruling for open universities is reaffirmed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the Canam Technologies Vs. Government of India Ors 2007 case, where the court adjudged that “Mode of Distance Education system may be practiced by way of telecast, broadcast and correspondence courses but that does not mean a regional centre or a study centre can be established beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the State as the Act extends only to whole of Madhya Pradesh. Section 3 provides that the headquarters of the University shall be at Bhopal or it may establish or maintain Regional centres and study centres at such places as it may deem fit, but such places have to have the nexus and the connection with the provision of the Statute inasmuch as it cannot go beyond the territorial limits of the State of Madhya Pradesh”. Subsequent to that, UGC has come up with a series of notifications banning such centres (See below: Official Notification). The cause for confusion is the stand of DEC, which states that the off campus study centres are subject to the statues of the respective university. But even that DEC administrative order will not be applicable to professional courses like MBA which would need the approval of AICTE or the Joint committee of AICETE-UGC-DEC in case of distance learning. Moreover, the DEC approval norms very clearly state that franchising in any form is not allowed at all.Mixing of Distance Learning and regular streams Because Distance Learning (DL) degrees have only limited traction, some universities like Bharathiar and Manormaniam Sundaranar and even IGNOU have invented names like Centre for Online and Participatory programmes (CPOP), Offsite Academic partnerships (OAP), Convergence Scheme etc. to expand their offerings. Programmes offered under these schemes claim that students are taught in ‘weekend regular’ or ‘online regular’ or ‘face to face’ mode. This misleads the students into believing that they are pursuing regular programmes. This is obfuscation at its worst. A university can offer regular programmes only under its constituent colleges/departments or under its affiliated colleges. Anything else is not regular and claiming otherwise is illegal. Other regulatory approvals Most professional degrees like MBA, BE, B.Tech, Paramedical courses, Nursing, Rehabilitation etc. require approvals from their respective professional councils or/and the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). None of these centres have such approvals and hence their professional degree offerings, despite coming from an approved university may become invalid. AICTE has already taken a view that no institution other than a university can start any technical programme in any mode without its express approval.INEFFECTIVE MONITORING UGC is content with putting up notices proclaiming that such centres are illegal. States like Haryana, have valiantly come up with notifications, warning students about fake and dubious institutions (See: Official Notification, previous page). AICTE maintains a list of unapproved institutions/programmes. But none of them speak a word about these institutions which operate beyond the purview of law. And when one of them gets raided and closed like in the case of YGen, they re-appear in a new avatar. ABOVE THE LAW? Though the law is clear that education cannot be for-profit, the intermediaries that the universities tie-up with go under agreeable titles such as, academic partners/nodal centres/participatory institutions/outreach centres etc. In effect, these partners (who work as intermediaries) are master franchisees of the universities. They subsequently sub franchise, that go by the name of study centres. All the intermediaries appear to be private limited companies. UGC is aware of the malpractice and issues a public notice on its website. “It has come to the notice of the University Grants Commission that some of the State Private Universities have affiliated colleges and started off-campus centre(s) in violation of the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities)â¦Some of these Universities are running these Centres on franchising basis also which is not allowed.” (https://www.ugc.ac.in/privatuniversity.aspx). YGen: A CASE IN POINT YGen Management Consulting was a known and early player in this domain. In May 2010, Careers360 did a story on how such tie-ups violate the letter and spirit of the law. But two years on, little has changed. While UGC and other regulatory bodies sleep, students continue to trust their careers and lives with institutions that dispense, in all probability, invalid degrees despite no lessons seem to have been learned. If YGen’s websites are to be believed, it has come back dramatically. As you can see from the graphic, while YGen management services says ‘We will come back soon’, all the partner universities as well as the institutions have moved to a new company ‘YGen Consulting Development Centre’, another group company of YGen. THE NEXUSYGen office was raided in May this year. However, it continues to function under various names. (Click on each to view enlarged images)
Another education services company at New Delhi, StrataPro Education Advisory, too functions unquestioned. It has several identities such as CANDLE, EDUVISE, ARKVAN and NEXSOFTT. StrataPro is the academic partner of Bharathiar University and MS University. MS University also employs franchisees/coordinators in other states. For instance, in Punjab, the alliance is with Shri Sai Institute and in Gujarat, it is with Karnavati Education. Careers360 tried to get in touch with all the players involved but barring one, no one responded. Careers360 sent an e-mail and a fax to the Chancellors of the Universities mentioned, i.e Governors of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu but did not get any response. Dr SK Singh, Vice Chancellor, M.P. Bhoj Open University, Bhopal says private players open a shop, keep a fancy name and seek an MoU with a university. “They try to influence the VC, the office bearers of the university to recommend their case,” he adds.
THE REGULATORY QUAGMIRE DL degrees, especially the professional ones like, MBA and MCA can be offered in distance mode by those universities which have got the approval of joint committee of UGC-AICTE-DCE. PTU has the committee’s approval but IIBS, a Noida-based institute, which offers PTU’s DL degree, also offers Bharathiyar’s regular degree. It is obvious IIBS is not a study centre owned by PTU. Similarly, PTU has collaborated with NRAI School of Mass Communication, Gautam Nagar, Delhi, to offer Bachelor’s in Mass Communication. One of the students’ of NRAI shares, “The course material was not even of PTU.” Take the case of another university, EIILM. EIILM has joint committee’s approval to offer distance learning, only of three programmes to be offered in DL mode. But what is not disclosed to students is this: EIILM had DEC’s regular approval till year 2010 only and that too only for three programmes while more than 50+ degrees in fashion, paramedical, engineering and even MPhil programmes are being offered on behalf of EIILM (based on EIILM and DEC websites). This approval is fully used as a bait to hook students by SARF (https://sarfedu.com/files/aicte-ugc-decllettertoeiilm.jpg). who claims to be its national coordinator. WHY DO INSTITUTES TAKE THE ROUTE? Let’s take institutes offering MBA programme. None of them have AICTE approval. Why? Because, it is in the interest of colleges not to obtain requisite approvals as they need to fulfil certain quality-related academic and infrastructural parameters. For instance, they need to have a certain faculty/student ratio, a certain qualification for faculty members. They also need to fulfil parameters related to building, the learning resources and so on. More importantly, the number of students they can admit and fee they can charge are regulated. There have been cases, where more than 3000 students were stuffed in one campus, charged Rs. 8 lakhs as course fees, on fancy promises, and made to get a distance learning degree. These colleges clearly have found an easy way out to serve twin goals: hoodwinking the student into believing he/she is getting a regular degree, simultaneously keeping out of the regulatory regime. Intermediary Pitch
TOO HEAVY A PRICE? The colleges charge steep fee from students in almost all the cases. In the case of PTU Jalandhar, the fee is three times more than what one would pay if one pursues the course directly. IIBS Noida, for instance, charges Rs. 2.95 lakh per student for DL MBA degree. Whereas a regular MBA from PTU is for Rs. 60,000 per annum or Rs. 1.2 lakhs for two years! Interestingly, the degree that is handed out by IIBS, Noida doesn’t bear a PTU centre code, (or name of the programme-giver, IIBS) anywhere. IIBS also offers Bharathiyar University (BU)’s regular MBA degree at Rs. 3.95 lakhs. Another institute, IBMR- Gurgaon, which offers BU’s regular MBA degree too, pegs it a lakh more i.e. Rs. 5 lakhs. Institute’s Pitch
WHERE DOES THE ENTIRE FEE GO? What is not clear is how a student’s Rs 5 lakh fee, for a Rs. 60,000 course, gets sucked up in the system. When a student pays Rs. 5 lakh for an MBA degree, he issues the demand draft on the name of the institute (and not the university). In all probability the institute pays, the university fee, (varies between Rs, 30,000- 60,000) as a demand draft on behalf of the student. It would also pay a certain sum to the intermediary (YGen, StataPro, IKC etc). Dr SK Singh of M.P. Bhoj Open University says that the objective of private players who have opened shops for sale of degrees in the market have only one agenda - just to make money. There are instances where institutions charged as much as Rs. 10 lakhs as fees while the university received as little as Rs. 40,000 as legitimate fees. And all these fees are routed through the private institute. Further, these universities enable such fleecing of students. They do not declare the total fee and let the institute demand and receive whatever they please. Why would a state university flout norms, and accept payment from the private player with such impunity? What is the quid pro quo? Is there more to it than what meets the eye? How is the rest of the money, which amounts to 85 percent of the fees paid by the student at times distributed? QUESTIONS ABOUND
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