Last December, the Andhra Pradesh Private Universities (Establishment and Regulation) Bill, 2015 was passed in the Assembly. It was claimed that ths was done to create world-class education ecosystem in Amaravati as several of the reputed educational institutions in Andhra have been ‘lost’ to Telangana after the state was divided in 2014. The cash-stripped government is looking at private universities to bail them out.
This is very similar to the manner in which private universities have been established in other state without any financial assistance from the state governments
The working of the bill can be easily understood in two cycles. In the first ‘Application Cycle’, an application to establish a private university will be submitted by the sponsoring body – the organization which will own the college - to the government. The government would then send this application to an expert committee for review, after which the government will take a call on issuing letters of either intent or rejection.
In the second ‘Approval Cycle’, the sponsoring body fulfils the Terms & Conditions and reports compliance as prescribed by the government. On satisfaction of compliance, the government will add the university name to Schedule I of the Bill within 7 months.
Ever since, four private universities have already been issued letters of intent by the government. These include Centurion, SRM, VIT and Amity universities. Land for these universities has already been allotted. They would be investing about Rs. 5,000 crore in the next 10 years.
A second batch of six private universities are in the pipeline and they will be issued LOIs once the expert committee clears their proposals sometime in this week. This second batch includes The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), International School of Computer Science in collaboration with JNTU Kakinada, Amrita University, Karunya University, Institute of Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Saveetha Medical University and Vedic University, first of its kind. These universities are expected to invest close to another 5,000 crore rupees in the next 10 years.
All this may seem like a very bright education scene in the near future for Andhra Pradesh. But it will depend on how the government will address the criticisms.
The first obvious criticism is the condition of public schools and universities. In response to this Ganta Srinivasrao, the HRD minister, said that the government is spending 17,000 crores on the education sector despite the financial constraints the government is facing.
Another criticism associated with the privatisation of university education is that once education is made a commodity in the market, such high quality education will not be available to the economically weaker sections. Even if the government extends loans, as the minister said in response, to students who wish to take up such courses the whole enterprise runs the risk of putting tremendous debt-burden on these students.
It is the private sector which has been fulfilling the demand to shift from liberal education towards professional education. It would be interesting to see the number of liberal art and humanities courses offered in these private universities.
Finally, profit motive usually leads to questionable ethical practices among private educational institutions. The recent arrest of the vice-chancellor of SRM university, which is among the four private universities to which the government even allotted land in Amaravati, is the latest evidence supporting this criticism. As this article points out, capitation fee scams in private universities continue to flourish.
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.