The Finance Ministry had warned the HRD Ministry against bestowing the prestigious title of Institute of Eminence to non-existent institutions, including the Jio Institute helmed by the Ambanis. Official records accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that the Finance Ministry objected strongly to the eventual choice but that yielded no result.
The Department of Expenditure (DoE) wrote in the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) note on February last year that granting the status of IoE to private institutions that are yet to be established is "beyond rationale and is not supported". "The laid down criteria in this regard is highly subjective," the note read.
The note further said that the methodology would give such institutions brand value and position it above already-established government and private institutions, proving to be detrimental to the higher education ecosystem. "Grading an institution as 'Institutions of Eminence' only based on intentions and a plan defies all logic. Hence the same should be revised," it further stated.
The report reveals that not only the Finance Ministry, doubts were raised within the HRD ministry as well. In 2016, the Department of Higher Education under the HRD ministry asked five division heads whether the IoE regulations violate any laws regarding centrally-funded educational institutes. In response to this query, the technical education division wrote saying taking into account the established global reputation of the alumni and research in these ratings (international rankings) new institutions cannot make this grade in five years. The division added that focus should only be on institutions that are already established and are in the global ranking scenario.
Another division said that in order to correctly evaluate the institutions on their past performance, there should at least be 5 to 6 batches who have graduated, hence, making the institution around 8 to 10 years old.
The EEC's report also mentioned that there were no achievements to take into account while assessing the performance of institutions in this category. The EEC had to resort to assessing the potential of these institutions on the promoter group and its finances, its commitment to the new project, their reputation and such other parameters.
Once the Institute of Eminence tag was granted to the non-existent institutions, the government faced severe backlash for its decision. The government even issued a clarification a couple of days later explaining why Jio Institute was deemed an IoE. It was selected under the greenfield category, the HRD ministry said in a statement.
(Edited by Anwesha Madhukalya)