The private sector would be able to set up self-financed universities without any hassle in Maharashtra. The Congress-led government has dropped its proposal to bring in a model Act to enable establishment of such universities in the state legislature. Instead, it now plans to come out with model guidelines after seeking the Cabinet’s nod, by January 15.
So far, Reliance Industries has evinced an interest to set up a university in the state, while the state higher and technical education department has held informal talks with various private sector players in this regard.
There is a rider: These universities would have to reserve 52 per cent of the seats for backward and economically weaker sections.
Speaking to Business Standard, Maharashtra higher and technical education minister Rajesh Tope said, “After the state Cabinet clears the model guidelines, those interested can submit proposals for establishing private universities. The proposals will be scrutinised by a high-level scrutiny committee, and letter of intent (LoI) will be issued by February to those fulfiling the necessary criteria.”
The minister said after the LoI, the project proponents would have to submit a comprehensive proposal providing details with regard to investment, location and necessary infrastructure required for the establishment of university. “Individual proposal will be converted into a Bill, that will be tabled in the two Houses of the state legislature for its passage. This will pave way for setting up private universities,” he added.
Tope said there would not be an umbrella Act for the formation of private or self-financed universities in the state.
Bhalchandra Mungekar, Congress MP and former vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai, expressed his reservations over the move. He said, “The government’s decision to bring into existence private varsities through the mechanism of model guidelines and not through a comprehensive legislation is arbitrary and breaks the legal convention of forming a university. Since the establishment of the University Grants Commission in 1956, every state or central university has been formed through specific legislation. There is no reason to break this convention for setting up private universities. Establishing private universities will have a major impact on the higher and technical education scenario in the state, which, I fear, will be mainly subserving the interest of the big private players. A comprehensive legislation is needed to secure the triple objectives of expansion, equity and excellence in the higher education sector.”