india's supreme court rules against private colleges
(This article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in February 2005).
Chhattisgarh has only two public universities to serve a population of 21 million. But the law's loosely written regulations, along with lax oversight, allowed dozens of storefront universities, offering dubious courses of study, to flourish. One listed a "shoe upper and maintenance" degree and a "garage and automotive" degree among its offerings.
The state government made it legal for virtually any entity to set up shop as a university, placed no limits on the number of universities that could be opened, and failed to establish a monitoring body to determine and maintain standards.
The court was acting on a petition filed by Professor Yashpal, an academic who uses only one name and who is a former chairman of
Since Chhattisgarh's private-universities law went into effect, he said, "the state government has been establishing universities simply by issuing notifications in the Gazette in an indiscriminate and mechanical manner." The Gazette is a bulletin published by the government.
Protection for Students
The court also directed the institutions whose registrations have been canceled to seek affiliations with the two government universities in Chhattisgarh --
"The Supreme Court has guarded the interests of the students," said Rajiv Tiwari, a spokesman for
In fact, Chhattisgarh, which in January 2004 elected a new government, amended the private-universities law to require all existing private universities to pay about $450,000 each by that June to create an endowment from which students would be reimbursed if their universities proved to be sham operations.
Of the 108 universities that had set up shop -- some operating out of one-room homes or storefronts in shopping complexes -- only 37 had fulfilled the fund requirements by the deadline. Even so, the Supreme Court's decision includes those 37 institutions, which plan to appeal to the court.
"The highest court of the land has passed this order," said Pradeep Kumar Maitra, a part-time journalism lecturer at
The Chhattisgarh experience, however, has served to make the atmosphere hostile for all private universities in
Volume 51, Issue 25, Page A39