Despite a protracted debate in the Council that saw members cutting across party lines calling for more stringent regulation on the five new private universities proposed, four of the Bills that allows them were passed without any amendment on Wednesday.
Earlier in the debate, members had suggested a long list of amendments and demanded the Bills be referred to the select committee. Deputy Chief Minister and Higher Education Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan, who piloted the Bills, said the laws ensured the private universities were already “over-regulated”, but assured the House that the suggestions given by the Council would be considered when Rules are framed.
The council passed Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra University Bill, 2020, Vidya Shilpa University Bill, 2020, Atria University Bill, 2020, and The New Horizon University Bill, 2020. The Minister said St. Joseph’s University Bill, 2020, will be tabled on Thursday due to a technical issue that needs a clearance from the Governor.
MLCs cutting across party lines, especially those elected from Teachers and Graduates constituencies led the debate on the Bills in the Council. JD(S) member K.T. Gowda and several other members expressed concern over the “increasing unaffordability” of education and expressed concern over private universities posing a threat to public universities. BJP member Y.A. Narayanaswamy warned that there may be a new divide between students from public and private universities, even as students from private universities corner jobs.
Multiple members expressed concerns over the lack of regulation on academic activities at private universities.
Maritibbe Gowda, JD(S) MLC, suggested that the government must have complete control over the seat matrix and conduct of exams and evaluation at these private universities. “At most of these private universities there is no quality check for education. They teach, set the question papers and also evaluate. Everyone is given high marks and this has become a business model,” he alleged. Mr. Narayanaswamy suggested that examinations at these private universities must be conducted by Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA) to ensure quality of education.
Basavaraj Horatti, JD(S) MLC, suggested that the government follow the same procedure for appointment of Vice-Chancellors at these universities. “In most universities the owners or their family members are becoming vice chancellors,” he said. Meanwhile, R.B. Timmapur and B.K. Hariprasad, Congress MLCs, argued these Bills were an attack on social justice, even as the former termed them “anti-Dalit”, as they had no provision for reservation in recruitment.
Dr. Ashwath Narayan defended the creation of private universities as a move towards making more opportunities available to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio to higher education, presently at 28% in the State to at least 50%. “All the institutions that are now being accorded the tag of a private university have been working in the sector for decades now. We need not look at all private efforts with suspicion. This will bring in competition in the sector which will also create a pressure on public universities to improve,” he said.