The word “Jio” is in the news again albeit this time not for its cheap data and voice call plans but for the University proposed to be instituted under the name Jio Institute that has been named as an Institution of Eminence by the Central Government.
The government has named 6 educational institutions as Institutions of Eminence, a tag which will enable them to admit 30% foreign students with no fee restrictions and also to hire foreign faculty to the tune of 25% without UGC approval. The institutes will also be able to enter into collaborations with top 500 universities of the world and will receive assistance up to ₹1000 Crore for over 5 years.
None of the other 5 educational institutions including Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, the IITs at Madras and Delhi, JNU, Manipal Academy of Higher Educations and BITS Pilani gathered such attention as did the Jio institute. The hype that has surrounded the Jio Institute is but for one reason that the institute does not exist!
Yes! The university does not exist in brick and mortar but is infact a proposed institution by the business giant and India’s richest man Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Foundation. The name of Mr. Ambani was enough to attract charges of brazen cronyism for government that led many media houses to criticize the government’s move without going into the details which seemingly were easily available as newspapers like The Hindu had published in their report on the very first day.
The raison d’être behind the Jio institute getting the tag of eminence despite being non-existent is that it was chosen under the greenfield category where it competed against 10 other proposed universities. The other categories included : public institutions and private institutions.
What made it stand among the 11 proposed universities is that it is backed by the largest private sector company in India with a transformational impact and expertise in large-scale game changing initiatives. Reliance Foundation’s Dhirubhai Ambani International School has remained on the top position in international schools for last 10 years! The foundation’s ability to set up a world-class educational institution is certainly unquestionable.
Moreover, the tag is not one without an asterisk. The Reliance Foundation is required to start academic operations within three years for the Institute of Eminence tag to become operational i.e. it will not be able to enjoy the benefits for another three years. Further, the foundation has already acquired 800 acres near Karjat near Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra for the proposed institution.
The committee that recommended the names was headed by former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami and included very reputed persons with impeccable integrity and a lot of public service. The government aims to name 10 public and 10 private institutions as Institutions of Eminence, entries for which are open for other universities.
Criticism in a democracy is always welcomed but it seems that this time the criticism was targeted in a wrong direction with a wrong motive!