Souvik Bhattacharyya, vice-chancellor, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, explains, “Deemed-to-be universities (DTBUs) were given the status to provide the autonomy they needed to grow and excel, while it was also expected that they have the potential chance of becoming a full-fledged university. However, no clearly defined pathway was defined by the UGC for this conversion.”
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“When the ‘deemed’ status does not affect the quality of education or eminence of an institute, what stops it from becoming a university is still unclear. Still, any ‘deemed’ university is currently banned from using the word ‘university’ with its name, which has various repercussions,” he added.
Foreign collaborations are major roadblocks for such universities. Vidya Yeravdekar, pro-chancellor, Symbiosis International University, Pune, “During any international collaborations, we are always requested to provide explanations regarding the status of ‘deemed-to-be’. This leads to various challenges as some top-ranking universities are not willing to collaborate as they think we are not full-fledged universities,” she says.
Students also suffer, as in every degree the name ‘deemed-to-be’ becomes a challenge when it comes to their higher education pursuits in foreign universities, she adds. “Many top Indian universities, as per National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are ‘deemed-to-be universities. International students keen to join these universities also question its status due to the word ‘deemed’,” she says. All this adversely affects the NEP aim of globalising education.
Step in the right direction
Raj Singh, vice-chancellor, JAIN (Deemed-to-be-University), says, “The NEP specifies that once implemented, all universities will be divided into three tiers, including research universities, teaching universities, and autonomous institutions. Removing the word ‘deemed’ is the first step in this direction as it will put all universities at par so that they can be classified under these three broad categories as per their specialisation.”
Even though a university may be ranked highly in world-renowned rankings, the ‘deemed’ status puts a question mark on the mind of stakeholders, says Yeravdekar. “It is as much a matter of pride as it is practical to remove this obstacle put forth by this status. Putting India on an equal stand with the rest of the world in the field of education requires us to classify our higher education institutes (HEIs) as per their quality rather than on nomenclature,” she says.
BITS Pilani is amongst the first few non-government institutions to get a deemed-to-be university status, says Bhattacharyya. “It seems unfair that a regulation that was formed several decades ago to impart clarity to educational entities at that time should affect our students’ journeys and the university’s operations today. Rather than spend time giving clarifications over the ‘deemed’ status, our time will be better utilised elsewhere,” he says.