Mumbai gets first-ever private university

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Mumbai is set to get its first private university, as the Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal by the Somaiya trusts, which run several educational institutions, to set up a self-financed university.

Self-financed universities receive no aids or grants from the state government, and have the freedom to decide their curricula, course structures and fee. The Cabinet’s approval means the institutes under the Somaiya group will no longer fall under the University of Mumbai. While the institute did not reveal more details, one official close to the developments who did not want to be named said a drastic fee hike is not likely.

The Somaiya Vidyavihar University will be run jointly by Somaiya Vidyavihar, KJ Somaiya Trust and The Somaiya Trust. It will include the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering (KJSCE), KJ Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, and five other institutes, at the Vidyavihar campus in Ghatkopar. Around 3,000 students study in the engineering college alone. “We are delighted to hear the state cabinet approved our application for self-financed university,” said Samir Somaiya, president, Somaiya Vidyavihar.

The government will now introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to set up the university, which will start functioning from the academic year 2019-20.

While students already enrolled at these institutes will continue to remain a part of the older system, the new entrants will receive degrees from the new private varsity.

At least 14 private universities, most of them in Pune, have come up in Maharashtra after the government enacted the Maharashtra Self-Financed Universities (Establishment and Regulation) Act in 2013. On Wednesday, the Cabinet approved one more self-financed universities — DY Patil University in Ambi-Talegaon. Until now, Amity University in Panvel was the only private university in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).

Somaiya Vidyavihar University will focus on offering interdisciplinary courses in engineering, management, liberal arts and languages, now that is a private university, the official quoted earlier said. “There are changes happening in the world of education, including a more interdisciplinary and application-based approach to teaching and learning. We want to open up to that kind of scenario,” the official said.

The inclusion of post-graduation institutes, such as KJ Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham, KJ Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies and KJ Somaiya Centre for Jainism Studies, in the same campus, will diversify offerings, the official added.

By approving the Somaiya Vidyavihar University, the state has, for the first time, brought institutes receiving its grants under a self-financed system. The government will no longer provide grants to these institutes unless the management decides to keep government-aided sections out of the private university’s purview.

“No financial aid is given to self-financed universities. However, we have asked the management for an undertaking that it will continue the same benefits and perks given to those appointed in aided positions,” said an official from the state government.

The first institute official quoted earlier said despite the shift to a private university, there may not be a fee hike. “I don’t think there will be a fee hike. We are justified in what we ask from the students, as we spend whatever we earn. We are not an institution that wants to make money.”