Who’s who of politics lend name to unrecognised institute
India’s education minister Arjun Singh and senior politicians from virtually all major parties are endorsing a private Pune-based institution that is not recognised by any government authority but claims it is backed by the Indian government.
The MIT School of Government, accused by students of duping them into thinking its courses have official sanction, has also raised concerns at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for its “misleading” use of the MIT name.
The MIT-SOG — MIT here stands for Maharashtra Institute of Technology — claims on its website and prospectus that it is “commended by the ministry of human resource development” headed by Arjun.
The ministry has replied to Right to Information appeals by The Telegraph saying it does not “commend” any institute, and has no discretionary powers to recognise any diploma course. The only course the MIT-SOG currently offers is titled “masters diploma in government”.
Government recognition only comes from bodies like the University Grants Commission, the All India Commission for Technical Education and the Medical Council of India, which first ensure that the institute meets certain quality norms.
Investigations by this newspaper have revealed that the MIT-SOG is not recognised by any government body.
Rather, a parliamentary committee had hauled up the school in 2005, soon after it was set up, when it was caught using a graphic image of Parliament for publicity.
But Arjun, whose ministry regularly stresses the need to ensure strict standards of quality in higher education, wrote to MIT-SOG founder Vishwanath Karad this January, calling the institute’s work commendable.
“The dedicated and committed efforts being made by you and your institute towards the cause of education are really commendable and deserve all the encouragement,” Arjun wrote in the letter, a copy of which is with this newspaper. Arjun is also listed as a “faculty” member at the institute.
The HRD ministry has fought battles with the commerce ministry to prevent the “commercialisation of education”. It is drawing up a law to regulate private institutes that it says often dupe students.
Arjun’s office, when contacted, appeared surprised that the MIT-SOG is not recognised by any government body, and said it would look into the case.
The MIT-SOG, however, says the letter is equivalent to being “commended by the MHRD”.
“We are endorsed by the MHRD. The letter says as much,” Pardeep Kumar, the MIT-SOG’s associate director, said.
Thirteen other ministers in the current government, L.K. Advani and some other BJP and Left leaders have also written congratulatory letters used by the institute to woo students. (See chart)
Many of these leaders are also listed as faculty members on the MIT-SOG website.
Several students who joined the institute under the impression that it was indeed supported by the Government of India have said they were even led to believe that the institute was tying up with Harvard University.
Many students have left the course midway, conceded Kumar, who doubles as spokesperson for the Indian Youth Congress.
“Many of our students leave halfway through the course when they realise the institute will not guarantee them jobs,” Kumar said, emphasising that the institute was being run despite financial losses because of the founder’s commitment.
Kumar, however, denied that the institute had ever told students it was seeking a tie-up with Harvard.
In an email, Rick Calixto, Harvard’s director, trademark programme, has written that the university “would certainly not affiliate itself with an institution clearly infringing the MIT trademark”.
Harvard has forwarded its concerns to MIT at Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has said it is “concerned” about the “misleading” use of the MIT name by institutes such as the MIT-SOG and has taken “active steps to enforce the issue”.