The University Grants Commission (UGC) has instructed Pearl Academy, a Delhi-based fashion and management institute with centres in Noida, Jaipur and Mumbai, to stop awarding joint degrees with Nottingham Trent University (NTU) of Britain and to close down all the centres. “Pearl Academy is not authorised to grant any degree either in a standalone mode or in collaboration with any foreign university,” reads the UGC notice to Pearl Academy. It also mentioned that the institute is not a “university”, according to a 1956 law that governs India’s higher education system.
After the higher education regulator’s order, there has been many complaints against the private institutes who have tied up with foreign universities to offer degrees, which is clearly not ‘legal’ in India. Many private institutes have collaborated with foreign universities and offer courses, promising an “international degree”. These degrees are invalid as Indian universities don’t recognise them. Their international acceptance is quite questionable as well. There was a similar collaboration between Mewar University and Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI). And, it was declared illegal last year. Mewar had collaborated to offer degrees on behalf of FDDI.
The CEO of Pearl Academy, Sharad Mehran, defied the UGC by stating that there had been no wrongdoing and the institute has had a heritage of more than two decades of excellence in education.
“It has become a matter of grave concern as many students are becoming victims of the fraudulent act of the institution,” the UGC said, barring Pearl Academy from enrolling “students for the coming academic session for any degree programme. ”
Pearl Academy had acknowledged offering joint degrees with NTU, in response to a query from the education regulator.
A senior UGC official said the disclosure could invite legal action because only a university can offer degrees in India, not an institute. “A foreign university can only collaborate with an Indian university with prior approval from the UGC.”
The latest action came after Hindustan Times asked UGC through provisions in the right to information (RTI) act if it had taken any action against the institute.
The institute had accepted that 4,100 students were receiving education at its four branches and the NTU-Pearl agreement went back to 1995. The official response has no name and designation of the signatory authority, though. More than 4,000 students were suffering then and are fighting a legal battle now.
The commission was not happy with Pearl Academy’s reply. After an inquiry, the UGC official said that “we decided to ask the institute to close down its centres.”