The HRD Ministry's selection of the yet-to-be-established Jio Institute by Reliance Foundation as one of the six "Institutions of Eminence" on Monday drew sharp criticism from various quarters, with many questioning the process of selection and the motive behind it.
The University Grants Commission (UGC), a panel of which carried out the selections, however, defended the move saying the institution was accorded the coveted tag under greenfield category for new or proposed institutions that are yet to come into existence.
Jio Institute was trending on Twitter with many users tagging the HRD Minister, asking him about the institute's location and credentials.
"It doesn't have a campus, a website or any alumni and it has left behind prominent IITs as well as private players like Ashoka University and OP Jindal Global University. It is yet to be established but will already be marketed as a world class institution by the government. Can't we see the conflict of interest," JNU professor Ayesha Kidwai said.
"What is Jio Institute? I thought only I didn't know its eminence but looks like everyone knew of its existence only today," a Twitter user said.
A professor from IISc-Bangalore, which was also accorded the "Institute of Eminence" (IoE) tag, tweeted, "How did @PrakashJavdekar evaluate this Jio Institute to decide it was better than IIT M or IIT KGP or so many other Institutions? How can an Institution that is in the process of being set up be declared Institution of Eminence? What are we missing here?"
The UGC defended Jio Institute's inclusion on the grounds that it was selected under rules for greenfield institutions. According to officials, 11 such institutions had applied for the IoE tag and Jio was selected from among them.
The government granted "Institutions of Eminence" (IoEs) status to IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in the public sector, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS Pilani and Jio Institute by Reliance Foundation in the private sector.
The move is part of a scheme of the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry to select 20 IoEs — 10 public and 10 private — that will enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy.
However, the Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) headed by former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami picked six institutions that, according to the panel, showed the potential to find a place among top 500 of global rankings.
While the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry will grant Rs 1,000 crore funds to the three public institutions in the next five years, the private institutes will not be eligible for government funding.