Higher Education

Varsity for people of Indian origin next year

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India will get its first university for Persons of Indian Origin to be set up by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education Trust (Mahet) in Bangalore. The academic session is expected to start next year.

Announcing the decision, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said the PIO university, to be set up at Davanahalli near Bangalore, will be an entirely private venture, but will follow government guidelines on reservations for Indian students.

“The government does not have to bear any financial burden,” Ravi told reporters here.

The student intake would be evenly distributed between Indian nationals and children of persons of Indian origin.

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Despite the government's directions on reservations not being applicable to deemed private universities, the ministry had made it a condition that all the relevant guidelines would be implemented for Indian national students. “We do not want anybody to raise any controversy about this, so we advised them to apply all such rules,” said Ravi.

It has taken over a year for the ministry to choose Mahet after the union cabinet first approved the policy framework for the proposed university as a 'deemed university' in March 2007.

Thereafter, the ministry had invited Expressions of Interest in July 2007, which attracted 16 applicants.

The screening committee had shortlisted three applicants. “We had wanted to allow all the three candidates to start their own PIO university, but legally we can only grant it to one,” said Ravi.

According to the minister, the three criteria established for judging the successful applicant were availability of land, financial resources and experience.

“The delay was due to a stay by the Kerala High Court based on a case filed by one of the rejected applicants. We moved forward only after the stay was vacated,” said Ravi.

Mahet will prepare a detailed project report to spell out the administrative and fee structure. This will be evaluated by an advisory board that consists of government officials, University Grants Commission (UGC) and various technical education bodies. Based on the board's recommendation, UGC will grant 'deemed university' status to the institution.

“We will give complete autonomy to the institution,” said Ravi, referring to Mahet's plans on curriculum, fee structure, faculty selection and admissions.

The High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora had first recommended the setting up of a PIO university in 2000. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh then made an announcement in Malaysia in 2005. He had also reiterated this at two Pravasi Bharatiya Divas functions in 2006 and 2007.

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