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What Is a Deemed University?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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A deemed university or “deemed-to-be-university” is a status granted in India by the Department of Higher Education to certain universities meeting specific standards of research and excellent scholarship. When a college gets this status, it’s able to set its own curriculum, prices, and types of study without reference to the department or to any other universities with which it may share affiliation. It wasn't until the 1950s that the deemed university came into existence, and initial numbers of colleges that bore this approval grew slowly. This changed in the late 20th century, with a number of universities receiving this recognition, which was followed by a retraction of deemed university status by about a third in 2010. It’s not clear that universities will continue to retain Department of Higher Education approval of this type in the future, and other ways of classifying colleges have been proposed.

The University Grants Commission wrote the laws that initially dictated when institutions could be called a deemed university in 1956. They’re not very specific, and since that time, more precise definitions of this form of university have emerged. Some qualifications supposedly met by a deemed-to-be-university is that it has existed for at least 10 years, has a commitment to research and innovation, and that it is financially sound.

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In the past, when a college meets these requirements it could apply to become a deemed university. If that application was successful, the college operated and gave out degrees under its own name, instead of that of an affiliate college, managed its finances, conducted its own administration, created its own laws, and determined what educational paths it would pursue. Deemed universities increasingly offered programs like distance learning, and some of them were considered to be very good colleges.

Increasingly, the Department of Higher Education heard people’s concerns or complaints about the abuses or poor educational standards of some of these schools because they weren’t pursuing rigorous academic standards. This led to interest in the late first decade of the 2000s to fully inspect all deemed university schools and determine if they’d continue to have the government stamp of approval. Many of them lost their status, and many more were put on warning. Presently less than 50 schools retain this designation.

These investigations were undertaken at the same time Indian interest grew in different methods of classifying schools to help determine which ones are reputable. The government continues to consider other methods for school approval, among them, things like using accreditation to identify those colleges that are meeting certain standards. Some argue the deemed university is still a good idea but simply needs redefining or more government oversight so that these schools commit to an expected level of excellence. For those people considering a degree from a deemed university, the ones that retain this designation are usually professionally recognized.

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