Six (and more) Degrees of Fakery
Forbes India|April 23, 2021
How inaction against the rash of fake universities across the country may be incentivising the mushrooming of more such institutions
MANSVINI KAUSHIK

Vimal Kumar (name changed) is a practising homeopathy physician in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh. At least that’s what he calls himself. He received his BHMS (Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery) degree from the National University of Electro Complex Homeopathy (NUECH), Kanpur, in 2004. That he did get a degree can’t be disputed. However, what can be debated is the status of the university he graduated from.

As per the University Grants Commission (UGC), the NUECH is one of ‘24 self-styled, unrecognised institutions functioning in India in contravention of the UGC Act, 1956’. The UGC has put up the list (see box) on its website and has no qualms in labelling them ‘fake’. These self-proclaimed universities are not authorised to confer degrees, yet 11 of the 24 institutions, including Kumar’s alma mater, have made it to the UGC’s fake universities list every year since its inception in 1994. The UGC is a statutory body under the ministry of education that has the mandate to maintain higher education standards in the country.

“A family friend told me about the university… at that time, I didn’t know it wasn’t recognised. Today, no one cares where I got the degree from… that I have it and the licence to practice is what matters,” says Kumar, adding that there were 40 students in his batch who were taught by five professors. Kumar didn’t have to go through a selection process; he submitted his documents and was admitted to the institute after a general round of questioning about his family background and education.

According to the UGC, there can be five types of degree-granting institutions in India: Central universities, which are established by an Act of Parliament and are funded by the central government; institutes of national importance—such as IITs and IIMs—established/declared by an Act of Parliament; state and private universities that are established by an Act of the state legislature and funded by state governments and/ or are self-financing institutes; and institutions deemed to be universities that are declared by a government notification, on the advice of UGC, under Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956.

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