Published: 22nd August 2020
Three engineering colleges granted autonomy: Change in Kerala government policy or left with no choice?
The three engineering colleges that got the special status from the UGC had met various parameters laid down by the national body
For the first time since the LDF Government assumed office, three engineering colleges, and that too from the self-financing sector, were recently granted 'autonomous' status by the UGC. The recent development has put the LDF in a tight spot as it had vehemently resisted the concept of autonomous colleges while being in the opposition.
The state government is now in a Catch-22 situation. If it endorses similar applications from other institutions clamouring for autonomy, it will constitute a major U-turn in the LDF's policy. And if it disagrees, the institutions are now empowered to go ahead and obtain the autonomous status directly from the UGC, reducing the government's role to that of a mere spectator. As per the UGC (Conferment of Autonomous Status Upon Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Autonomous Colleges) Regulations, 2018, a higher educational institution can apply and obtain autonomous status from the UGC irrespective of whether the state government or the affiliating university endorses the application. We are not against granting of autonomous status to deserving institutions.
The three engineering colleges that got the special status from the UGC had met various parameters laid down by the national body, said Rajan Gurukkal, vice-chairperson, Kerala State Higher Education Council. But the state's reduced role in the process of granting autonomy will have adverse consequences, he warned. However, the applications of over 10 arts and science colleges for grant of autonomous status are still kept on the backburner. The LDF government, wary of brickbats that it may receive over an explicit change in policy, has not spelt out its stance on such applications.
The images of students belonging to the Left-affiliated student unions chasing away a UGC team that came for inspection at University College, Thiruvananthapuram in 2014, is still afresh in public memory. Ironically, government-run Maharaja's College, Ernakulam, was among the 19 institutions which received autonomous status from UGC that year. R Jayaprakash, KSHEC former member secretary, who was part of the UGC team that recommended autonomy to institutions in the state in 2014-15, pointed out that prominent higher educational institutions in the country such as the IITs and a majority of the colleges that bag top NIRF rankings are autonomous institutions. In autonomous colleges, there is more scope for teacher development and his or her participation in the college administration. Such colleges are also eligible for special financial assistance from the UGC under the special Autonomous Grants Scheme. Besides, the National Educational Policy aims at making all higher educational institutions autonomous by 2035, he pointed out.