“Universities” in Delhi that have featured on the University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) list of fake universities, are either still functional or claim to have shut down operations long ago. Out of the 25 universities listed, six are in Delhi, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh, which has nine fake universities. The Sunday Guardian tried approaching Delhi’s fake universities, only to find that some of them have already shut shop after failing to get affiliation, while others continue to operate. Though it’s the UGC’s job to identify fake universities, it does not have the power to shut these down.
Among the six fake universities in Delhi, Vishwakarma Open University for Self Employment (VOUSE), does not even care whether or not it gets UGC recognition. VOUSE does not have a campus of its own, but operates from a small office in North Delhi’s Mukarba Chowk. It claims to have affiliated over 80 institutes across the country. The “University”, operating since 1990, has been awarding diplomas and certificates to students. It offers 81 diploma courses ranging from one-, two- and three-year degree courses, along with several other certificate courses. Among the courses that VOUSE has been offering are those that require extensive medical knowledge, like ICU technology, cardiac emergency care, advanced basic life support, paediatric care life support and renal (kidney) dialysis technology, among several others. Not just this, the university also lists courses like investment banking, human resource management, taxation, interior designing, computer applications and many others.
The “university’s” website also has a long list of affiliated institutions and the courses they have been offering. The institutes listed are from across the country. Some are also located in Delhi.
Vijay Singh Mahajan, director of VOUSE told The Sunday Guardian, “We give admission to students who are not able to make it to any UGC affiliated colleges, but have skills that they can develop. Our university is an autonomous enterprise for innovative learning and skill development and we are self-reliant. Despite the UGC not granting us recognition, we have been running successfully for several years.”
Mahajan alleged that the UGC was not recognising their “university” for “political reasons”. He claimed that he did not have a political source to support him get recognition. “We have written to the UGC and Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) several times, but our letters are just passed on from one department to the other and the departments have been asking for almost 400 clearances. We also do not have any campus nor do we have any land. We have been asking the government for land, but they are not listening to us,” Mahajan said.
Another fake university is ADR-Centric Juridical University. When The Sunday Guardian visited the given address at Gopala Tower in West Delhi’s Rajendra Place, the address too turned out to be fake. Instead, there is a “plant protection consultancy office” on the 8th floor of the building. The office receptionist said, “They have provided a fake address. There has never been a university or college here. We have had a small consultancy office here since 2010. Since the UGC list has been put up, many journalists have been coming here to find the truth.” The guard of the building also confirmed that there has not been any university office in the building.
Three other “universities”, United Nations University, Vocational University and Indian Institution of Science and Engineering” do not have any registered addresses.
The sixth fake university, named “Commercial University”, is supposed to be located in Daryaganj. Though there is no official website of the university, several advertisements were found on the internet directing students to seek admissions in Commercial University’s 2017 session. However, none of these advertisements led to any admission portal. These seemed to be fake links. However, when The Sunday Guardian visited the given address at Daryaganj, an institute with a different name could be found occupying the space. The name on the board outside the shabby building read “Institute of Business Administration and Management (IBAM)”. However, caretakers of the place said that IBAM had shut down operations four years ago.
A lady caretaker of the building said, “IBAM ceased to exist because it could not get affiliation. Before IBAM, Commercial University used to run their operations from here, but they shut shop years ago.” Whether “Commercial University” changed its name to IBAM, could not be established. The caretaker said that now it is a lawyers’ office. However, there was no evidence to substantiate her claim.
Questions have been raised over the UGC’s list of fake universities, as the list has not undergone any changes compared to its earlier lists. No new universities have been added, neither the older ones written off the list.
The UGC had set up a special “malpractices cell” to deal with this problem by disseminating information on the subject to ensure that students are not duped into joining these fake institutions. This cell was set up following the recommendations by a Parliamentary standing committee that some mechanism be evolved to check the activities of such unauthorised institutions.
However, there is a limitation on how much the UGC can do to stop these fake “universities” from functioning. Though the onus of identifying fake institutes lies with the UGC, it does not have the power to shut them down.
As per the UGC Act: “On termination of the affiliation of any college under sub-section (5), the Commission shall take all such steps as it may consider appropriate for safeguarding the interests of the students concerned.”
An official from the MHRD said, “The UGC Act does not give the Commission enough teeth to shut down institutes. The state governments are directed to act upon UGC’s findings.”
Experts have shown concern about there being no new additions to the UGC list. The MHRD official added, “There are rumours about some institutes which are running without UGC recognition but are not on the list. The UGC should look into such rumours. If an institute is actually helping students, there should be a way to make things straight on paper. And the ones that have been confirmed as fake should shut down and be struck off the list if they no longer operate. The government departments concerned need to take up these causes proactively.”