ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Higher Education : AICTE as Politicians' Handmaiden

Some recent decisions of the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in regard to engineering courses in Maharashtra make it clear that it is as easy to bring pressure on so-called all-India bodies as on state ones. Further, any set of rules can be readily subverted to suit the interests of those who matter and officials of bodies like the AICTE and universities and colleges who are responsible for maintaining standards in higher education willingly default on their responsibilities to accommodate the powerful and the influential.

The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a supervisory body of the central government, was formed about 15 years back supposedly to ensure proper standards of imparting technical education in the country. Such a supervisory body was considered essential because there exist many locally strong political and social pulls and pressures on universities and colleges which frequently work against the standards of higher technical education. It was thought that an all-India body would also keep in line the numerous education shops that have sprung up in many states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and others. In these states, locally powerful politicians have discovered a very lucrative, totally risk-free, low-investment, high-return, money-making avenue in the guise of engineering colleges. By retaining effective control over admissions to these institutes and taking full advantage of the loopholes in the various reservation rules and the system of quotas, an alert and resourceful college management could and did make money hand over fist in every admission season.

In the current academic year, already half over, the entire admissions procedure for the FY engineering class in Maharashtra was repeatedly thrown out of gear because of changes and modifications in the rules even after the admissions were almost complete. The last postponement was caused by the action of the AICTE itself when, violating its own guidelines, it allowed two new institutes in the state to take in fresh students even after admissions were completed and the new term was already launched. As it happens, these two institutes are run by two politicians currently in power in the state. The teaching for the first term thus began almost about the time when the first term should have concluded. The first term, normally of 16 weeks, has therefore been extended till January 15, 2001. But even this extension will not make up for all the lost weeks and would only partly cover the loss of teaching to the new students. Neither the academic authorities nor the educational barons who control the engineering colleges in Maharashtra were perturbed in any way at this loss to the students and to education.

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