Cleansing the Augean stables

At long last, the scandal-ridden higher education in the private sector in Himachal Pradesh is in for a massive clean-up. The Himachal Pradesh Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission (HPPEIRC), the regulatory body, is knee-deep into the task of screening and scrutinising the functioning of private colleges and universities dotting the state. Over the past few years, the quality of education imparted in various institutes has been questioned with the exposure of a range of horrendous frauds, and irregularities, ranging from fake degrees, sale of degrees, unqualified and ineligible staff, appointments and college affiliations. Many institutes that are supposed to be temples of learning have been reduced to teaching shops, playing with the careers of innocent students. With nearly 200 colleges and 17 private universities in the hill state— spanning such diverse fields as pharmacy, nursing, law, arts, and education — to regulate, the job at hand for the commission is indeed Herculean.

The latest skeleton to tumble out of the closet is that a majority of the college principals are ineligible for the post they occupy. Of the 61 private colleges examined so far, 45 heads do not meet the prescribed criteria. More than 30 are either overage or working in an officiating capacity, even as five institutions have been found to be headless. Earlier, about half a dozen vice-chancellors came in the HPPEIRC firing line when it came to light that their appointments were not as per the UGC norms. The commission has also been constrained to order the refund of salaries of staff that were deducted by the managements of some colleges during the Covid crisis in disregard for government orders.

An overhaul of the sector is imperative. At stake is the future of not only the nearly 23,000 students of the private colleges and universities but also that of the many more prospective ones. The grim state of affairs calls for the plugging of the shortcomings in the system that has led to the standards falling to such deplorable depths. Stringent action against the wrongdoers and regular monitoring of institutes will help clean the Augean stables.

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