Cracking the whip on the growing number of engineering, management and other technical institutions across the country, the University Grants Commission (UGC) recently imposed a moratorium on opening new technical institutions in 2014-15.
Issuing a circular two weeks back, the UGC, the apex higher education body that controls over 500 varsities in India, also banned approving new courses and even increasing the number of seats in the coming academic year in view of many seats going vacant for the past few years.
But in an interim order on April 17, the Supreme Court gave the All Indian Council of Technical Education (AICTE) approval powers once again for 2014-15.
The AICTE, which has been in charge of the approval process of technical institutions for decades, would continue the policy of liberal allocation of new colleges. An AICTE official said: "We will not keep any restrictions regarding the starting of technical institutions."
Aspirant colleges are enthused over the SC order. "We are looking at the AICTE website every hour now," said an official from a Thane college that applied for an increase in intake. College managements laud the AICTE efforts to ensure quality education and also term its online approval process "transparent" and "easy".
Experts said the April 17 judgment contradicted the Supreme Court's April 25, 2013 order annulling the AICTE powers to issue permission to MBA colleges as well as technical institutions.
The lack of clarity (first the UGC ban and then the SC interim order) could delay the admission process in professional institutions across the country, which usually starts by June. The Directorate of Technical Education of Maharashtra (DTE), which spearheads the centralised admission process for all professional courses across the state, is clueless about the number of colleges and seats available for this year.
SK Mahajan, the head of the DTE, said: "Till last year, 20-25 new colleges in Maharashtra used to get government approval annually. This year's status is unclear due to the fresh UGC circular and SC order."
If things are not sorted out at the earliest, the admission process for this year would be delayed, an official said.
In October 2013, most varsities started the approval process. The University of Mumbai finalised the proposal of fresh technical institutions on April 28. "We have finalised the proposals after several level of scrutiny and are currently in the process of sending the list to the state government for the final nod. We don't know what to do now," Naresh Chandra, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai, said. The list includes two new engineering colleges and a couple of management colleges besides approving new courses.
A top official blamed the policy paralysis at the Centre. "The MHRD is almost headless for several months now (Pallam Raju and Telangana). Besides, power tussle between the UGC and the AICTE is affecting lakhs of students... we are helpless."