The college as a mini-university
Sep 04 2013
Education is a concurrent list subject, meaning it is under the control of both the centre and states. The nation has produced voluminous reports on this subject over the past six decades. All of these were of high standards with wonderful application details, if one were to compare them with the reforms that have happened in the developed world over the past few decades. World over, countries have completely reworked the scope and dimension of ‘knowledge’ needed in the emerging social and economic order.
There have been research and development on new curricula, on the delivery of education to the ‘pulsating youth’ and on giving exposure to students on the ground realities in countries that are geographically at different locations but have populations who look at the idea of ‘one world’ more meaningfully. They trust that ‘education’ alone can bring in changes and, hence, their children and youth should get access to the ‘21st century education enriched with knowledge’.
In our country also, we believe in ushering in change through education, but what we lack is reforms. As a nation we have had a tradition of making every member of the family well-developed both under the British empire and also as an independent nation over the past six decades.
For the past 10 years, the government has been talking about making access to education easy and affordable. It has brought in several reforms in the higher education sector, but none of them have been ‘passed by Parliament’ because the HRD ministry did very little in terms of R&D on the need, scope and applicability of the structures it wanted to create.
The recent talk of adopting a new policy for restricting the number of affiliated colleges under a university is one such example. The human resources development (HRD) ministry has come up with a new proposal under the Rashtriya Uchattar Shiksha Abhiyan (Rusa), which mandates that no university should affiliate more than 200 colleges. It is a fact that almost each university has more than 200 colleges today. For example, Pune, Anna and Osmania varsities have 811, 617, 901 affiliated colleges, respectively. In such a scenario, the new proposal seems non-usuable unless both the centre and state governments create new universities. This is a difficult process and the governments would find it tough to invest in the creation of new universities. A big task also in view of the financial demands of universities. It is thus obvious that the proposal is not going to work in its present form.
What are our problems? First, the pressure of numbers and to address it universities ended up picking more colleges. Secondly, the enormous delay in not bringing in the required changes to enhance the utility and quality of education is also a big problem. One needs to make such changes in college education to meet the demands of the job givers or those who desire to become entrepreneurs. Thirdly, the lethargy in moving with time has become a part of academic operations in colleges. Finally, an acute no-change approach of people who establish universities is also a great issue. The student community today is familiar with the expectations of industries and business communities. They are disturbed by the stagnant college education system.
The legal structure of universities needs to be revised completely on these issues. Indeed we should create an entirely fresh legal framework that triggers innovative reforms in colleges. To make this happen, we must make colleges fully autonomous and ask them to follow a credit-based modular structure as a framework for graduate-level programmes. Give them full freedom to take academic and operational decisions and make them responsible for accepting the total credibility in respect of decisions and their implementations. In short, we should create a fully autonomous and responsible entity that, in principle, operates as a mini-university and gives degrees in collaboration with the university to which it is attached.
Thus, we would be creating a structure that would allow individual colleges to become free in bringing in innovations and also be an owner of the education delivered there. The degree certificates that would be given by the university would show the names of both the colleges and the university to which they are attached. Colleges can also enhance financial earnings, which would allow them to support innovations in teaching and learning processes. Thus, both the university and affiliated colleges would become joint-entity in addressing the challenges of numbers and creating value in education.
(The writer is former UGC chairman, founder director of NAAC and a former vice-chancellor of the University of Pune)