We as a country protect an investor who invests just Rs 1,000 in a listed company through the powers conferred in the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Every claim, promise and commitment made by the company through a basic document called the 'prospectus' is put to test for truth and facts. Every company is mandated to disclose the prescribed details in the prospectus that would inform and help prospective investors decide their investment in the company. This also becomes a document that is legally binding and can be challenged if any wrong or misleading claims are to be found later.
While we empower institutions to scale newer heights by freeing them from the clutches of unnecessary regulations and possible corrupt practises, we have an obligation to protect students too.
But even today, a student who invests hundreds of thousands of rupees and many years and, in many cases, their careers and lives in the pursuit of a good education, they do not enjoy state protection while seeking it. What is called a 'prospectus' by educational institutions is often a brochure, a pamphlet, a marketing gimmick. It makes wrong claims, gives misleading information and does not divulge much-needed facts. It doesn't have any legal sanctity and most claims are made to lure unsuspecting students to enrol in a course.
In many cases, a student is first fighting for many years to prove that he has been cheated of a claim or promise made by an institution. But the validity of what he calls a 'document' is usually disputed by the concerned institution. The fact is that there is no prospectus mandated by education authorities.
The New Education Policy (NEP) must have one basic document, a primary document, that lists out the promises made to students, on the basis of which they can seek admissions.
Such a prospectus must be created for each academic year. It must have minimum disclosures. Every advertisement must be made only from such information as disclosed in the prospectus. What isn't a part of the prospectus cannot be advertised and if they want some claim to be advertised, they have to make it a part of the prospectus. Give the prospectus the much needed legal sanctity it deserves.
The disclosures made in the prospectus must include:
1. Recognition status with state/central bodies, approval by the University Grants Commission (UGC); a mention of the affiliation to the university concerned, the degrees being granted, and so on.
2. Details of the accreditation to national and international bodies like All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Association of MBAs (AMBA), and Association of Indian Universities (AIU).
3. Collaborations with Indian and international universities and associations.
4. Student intake per stream, per branch, with all the numbers and maximum number of students per class clearly mentioned.
5. Past years opening and closing cut-offs of ranks/marks for each stream and branch.
6. Total fees payable: the amount of tuition fees, the deposit amount, what's refundable and what's non-refundable; hostel fees, mess fees, any other charges, last dates, counselling fees, forfeiture rules etc.
7. Semester-wise fees, which cannot be changed for the tenure of the course.
8. Policy regarding retention of certificates/documents for students who wish to leave.
9. Faculty quality, size and minimum standards of the faculty.
10. Placements details: If an institution intends to advertise placement facilities, it must mention the total number of students, the numbers placed, the mean and median salaries, broken into national and international placements, and related details.
11. The National Assessment Accreditation Council (NAAC)/ National Board of Accreditation (NBA) rating, with a link to the document submitted and the report.
12. Infrastructure: laboratories, playgrounds, hostels, clubs and other such facilities on campus.
13. Student loans and bank partnership arrangements, if any.
14. Scholarships and eligibility: The amount given, numbers awarded, past years grants, and so on.
15. Details about the original trustees, the trust, the registration number of the trust.
While the NEP must work on empowering the institutions by freeing them from unnecessary regulatory clutches, it must also work on protecting the students as SEBI protects its investors. It's not just money we are thinking here, but rather, these are careers and, in the Indian context especially, these are lives we are concerned with.
As we at Careers360 say, "A career is a life".
This is the fourth part of a series of articles on the New Education Policy.
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