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Explainer: SC directs 123 Deemed Varsities, including MAHE, to drop “University” from their names3 min read

December 1, 2017 3 min read


Explainer: SC directs 123 Deemed Varsities, including MAHE, to drop “University” from their names3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On November 24, Manipal University updated the cover photo of their official Facebook page symbolizing a monumental change. It was now to be addressed as “Manipal Academy of Higher Education” (MAHE), ending a decade-long run of branding itself as “Manipal University”.

The change came following the Supreme Court’s order to restrain all the deemed-to-be-universities to drop the word “University” in their name. The order, dated November 3, directed the heads of these institutes to use the words “Deemed-to-be-Universities” in parenthesis instead. The apex court further asked the Universities Grant Commission (UGC) to implement this order within a month.

What is the UGC and what does “Deemed-to-be-University” mean?

The Universities Grant Commission of India is a statutory body set up by the Government of India in accordance to the UGC Act, 1956 and is responsible for the promotion, coordination, and regulation of higher-education in India.

This body works under the Ministry of Human Resources and Development. However, one crucial aspect of the UGC is that it is the only grant-giving agency in the country. It means that it has the authority to grant the “university” status to institutions of higher learning in the country.

The Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956 says: –

“The Central Government may, on the advice of the Commission, declare, by notification in the Official Gazette, that any institution of higher education, other than a University, shall be deemed to be a University for the purposes of this Act, and on such a declaration being made, all the provisions of this Act shall apply to such institution as if it were a University within the meaning of clause (f) of Section 2.”

Therefore, a deemed-to-be-university is an institute of higher education, other than universities, which is working at a very high standard in a specific area of study. Any institute can be declared one by the Central Government on the advice of the UGC. The ‘deemed-to-be-university’ institutions enjoy the academic status and privileges of a hitherto full-fledged university.


MAHE, Manipal was granted this status by the UGC in 1993, which ended its affiliation from Mangalore University, which meant that the institute was now able to award degrees to its student under its own name.

Why did the Supreme Court need to take such an action?

A letter dated November 10 from the UGC asked 123 deemed-to-be-universities to follow the Supreme Court’s order. The order says that using the word “University” violates Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 and has asked these institutions to stop using the word within one month of the issue of the Court order.

This decision came following the SC’s decision to suspend all B. Tech degrees which were granted between 2001 and 2005 through distance learning. While hearing out the case, the Supreme Court observed that a considerable number of deemed-to-be-universities were acting and functioning like “universities” and therefore asked the UGC to stop this.

The order led to major confusion about the new status of the universities, which technically has seen no change. Almost 117 of them are seeking to obtain the status of fully-fledged private universities.

Commenting on the effect the change in name will have, Alex Chandy, Director, PR and Media Communication for MAHE said “Supreme Court order is for 170-odd deemed-to-be-universities in the country. Not ours alone.” 

The list of 123 institutes includes Christ University in Bangalore, Symbiosis International University in Pune, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani among others. Institutions that do not comply with the SC’s directive will face action under the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016. 

In an India Today article Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer who represented deemed universities said, “I wish the Supreme Court while giving this direction had detailed and discussed these provisions of UGC Act, 1956. I am also surprised to note that the Supreme Court feels that the Deemed Universities are unregulated, which is not the case, in fact, they are the most regulated rather controlled segment.”

Edited by: Shriya Ramakrishnan

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