No sense in ‘Eminence’ status for Jio Institute, say academics

Vikas Pathak NEW DELHI, JULY 13, 2018

The Centre’s decision to grant the status of institute of eminence to Reliance Foundation’s proposed Jio Institute — provided it commences academic operations within three years — has not gone down well with the academic community, with teachers’ associations and veterans of the field wondering why the step was taken.

The Centre has on its part said this was done under the greenfield — or, yet to come — category, which is different from the public and private institutions’ categories.

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor and eminent scientist S.K. Sopory said the very idea of a future institution being seen as institution of eminence did not make sense. “The most surprising is Jio Institute. It hasn’t even come up, which means there is no way of it proving itself,” he told The Hindu, saying that eminence required a reputation an institution has earned.

“They could have supported such institutions in some other way but ‘eminence’ is not the right terminology for an institution that has not come up and, thereby, not proved itself. The terminology should have been different even if they wished to support yet to come institutions in any way.”

Prof Sopory added that while the choice of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the IITs in Delhi and Mumbai was good, he was not sure whether the same criteria were used for the private institutions. He said that while Manipal and BITS Pilani were “okay”, they would not stand as equals of the three public institutions chosen.

Jio Institute was the only one to be awarded the letter of intent in the greenfield category, where a condition was that the collective net worth of individuals promoting the institute should be more than Rs. 50-billion.

The decision has also seen opposition from other key voices in the academic world.

Academic Ramachandra Guha tweeted, “This preferential treatment to an Ambani University that does not yet exist is shocking. Particularly when several first-rate private universities have been bypassed.” The Delhi University Teachers’ Association said: “The inclusion of clauses which allow paper proposals to qualify as an eminent institution is an academic corruption of the highest order.”( The Hindu )