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07 May 2024 – The Hindu


College Level Reforms in India

  • More and more people are calling for colleges and other educational institutions to have enough autonomy. According to National Education Policy 2020, colleges will become more independent and capable of innovation, self-governance, and academic freedom as they develop into autonomous institutions. The University Grants Commission (UGC) introduced a new rule in April 2023 in order to achieve this aim. Since then, universities vying for autonomy have responded in a way never seen before.

What recommendations does the NEP provide for higher education and/or colleges?

  • By 2035, GER in higher education is expected to increase to 50%. Additionally, 3.5 million more seats in higher education are planned. In 2023, the GER in higher education was 27.1%.
  • Reforms to the Curriculum-Couse-Cum:
  • A three- or four-year holistic undergraduate programme with a flexible curriculum can include several exit alternatives and the necessary certification during this time.
  • All undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral courses will henceforth be multidisciplinary, and M.Phil. courses will be discontinued.
  • To enable the transfer of credits, an academic bank of credits will be formed.
  • As the premier organisation for developing a robust research culture and expanding research capabilities throughout higher education, the National Research Foundation (NRF) will be established.
  • Set up as the nation’s best interdisciplinary education models that meet international standards, interdisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs) will be on par with IITs and IIMs.

 The Indian Higher Education Commission (HECI):

  • With the exception of medical and legal education, HECI will function as a single umbrella organisation for all higher education. Academic criteria, accreditation, and regulatory guidelines for higher education institutions will be the same for both public and private universities. Moreover, HECI will feature four separate verticals, which are as follows:
  • Concerning regulations, the National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC),
  • General Education Council (GEC) in charge of creating standards
  • financing from the Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC),
  • for accreditation, the National Accreditation Council (NAC).

 Freedom for Universities:

  • College affiliation will be phased out over the course of 15 years, and a step-by-step process for giving institutions varying degrees of autonomy will be developed.
  • Every college is expected to grow into a constituent college of a university or an independent institution that grants degrees over time.

Qualifications for College Autonomy:

  • According to the guidelines provided by the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), colleges that fit into the following categories are qualified for autonomy:
  • If they meet the requirements of Section 2(f) of the UGC Act, HEI in any subject or discipline—whether aided, unaided, partially aided, or self-financed—are eligible to apply for autonomous status.
  • The college ought to have finished at least ten years.
  • The National Assessment and Accreditation Council, or NAAC, accreditation is a prerequisite for the HEI.
  • If three of the programmes offered by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) have a minimum score of 675, the colleges affiliated with the NBA are also qualified.
  • For a maximum of five years, current HEIs seeking to renew their autonomy status must oversee these eligibility rules and conditions.
  • Following the on-site peer visit committee’s judgement, HEIs with a score of 3.0 or more in the NAAC, NBA, or Corresponding Accreditation Agency will also be given consideration for autonomy.
  • Without an expert on-site inspection, HEIs with an NAAC/NBA/Corresponding Accreditation scoring 3.26 or higher, up to 3.5 for one cycle, and certified in the second cycle, will also be eligible.
  • HEIs with a score of 750 and a mark of 3.51 in the NAAC, NBA, or Corresponding Accreditation will also be qualified without the need for an expert on-site visit.
  • The UGC regulations, which include (a) No cases of ragging in college (Regulations 2012), (b) Promoting Equity in HEI (Regulations 2012), (c) Proper Grievance Redressal (Regulations 2012), and similar ones in writing and spirit, must be adhered to by the HEIs.

 What Does It Mean for Colleges to Have Autonomy?

Curriculum and Instructional Methods Customisation:

  • College autonomy is critical to innovation, improving academic quality, and developing institutional greatness. Colleges with autonomy can modify their curricula to accommodate changing industry and student demands.
  • They can test out novel approaches to instruction and research projects, expanding the boundaries of knowledge and advancing society.

 Enhancing the Effectiveness of Institutions:

  • Colleges that are given more autonomy take on a higher sense of accountability and responsibility since they have more control over their administrative and academic decisions.
  • Faculty and staff are inspired to pursue greatness as a result of this empowerment, which also improves institutional efficiency and fosters a feeling of pride and identity within colleges.
  • Increasing NIRF Position:
  • The 2023 National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) makes a strong argument for the usefulness of autonomy in raising college performance in India.
  • The NIRF rankings provide insight into the beneficial effects of autonomy on institutional performance and academic excellence in the “Colleges Category,” where 55 of the top 100 colleges are autonomous establishments.
  • Additionally, five autonomous institutions are included in the top 10 colleges in the college category of the 2023 NIRF Rankings.
  • The fact that autonomous colleges hold half of the top rankings makes a strong case for autonomy as a practical strategy for achieving academic excellence.

 National Interest in Preserving College Autonomy:

  • Autonomy is becoming more and more popular in Indian higher education; by 2022, there will be 1,000 autonomous colleges spread over 24 States and Union Territories. With more than 80% of all autonomous colleges, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana are at the forefront of this trend.
  • Even in states with less autonomous institutions, there is a heightened national interest in autonomy, suggesting that its transformative power over higher education is becoming increasingly apparent.

 What Are the Various Issues with College Autonomous Functioning?

  • Despite the UGC’s proposal for college autonomy, some universities have sadly shown reluctance to give up sovereignty for dubious reasons. It is vital to address the difficulties that institutions face even after gaining autonomy from the UGC.

Limitations Placed on Colleges:

  • There are universities that place restrictions on the amount of autonomy their colleges are allowed. One frequent limitation is the use of caps on syllabus modifications, which frequently permit just a portion, usually 25%–35%, to be changed. This restriction makes it more difficult for universities to exercise their autonomy, especially when it comes to developing curricula and fostering academic innovation.
  • One significant problem that colleges face even after receiving autonomy from the UGC is that universities frequently take their time acknowledging this autonomy. Such delays not only make college operations less efficient, but they also erode the sense of autonomy since colleges may still feel connected to the university’s bureaucratic procedures.

 Using Arbitrary Charges:

  • Additionally, colleges could be required to pay arbitrary fees that the university imposes in order to be affiliated. This strategy calls into question the fairness and transparency of the universities’ use of such tactics, in addition to undermining college autonomy.

 Political Manipulation:

  • Politics typically plays a role in the appointment of principals and vice-chancellors, among other important leadership roles. Colleges’ governing bodies and decision-making processes are occasionally controlled by individuals with political affiliations.
  • undue political pressure on universities to make choices that might not be in line with institutional interests, such as admitting particular students or hiring particular faculty members.

 What Ideas Should Be Included to Give Colleges More Self-Governance?

 Guaranteeing Adherence by State Councils:

  • The efficient execution of UGC autonomy laws must be ensured by the State Councils for Higher Education. Universities need to understand how critical it is to address autonomous college concerns within the larger context of higher education reform.
  • It is imperative that they optimise the decision-making procedures across colleges and universities, guaranteeing that colleges receive substantial empowerment from their autonomy.

 Accepting Collaboration and Trust:

  • Universities may establish a supportive and empowering atmosphere for autonomous colleges by promoting a culture of trust and cooperation. This entails giving them latitude to experiment with their instructional strategies, research projects, and administrative procedures while making sure they uphold rigorous academic standards.
  • Mutual gains from this cooperative strategy may include increased institutional efficacy, higher-quality academic output, and a more robust higher education system as a whole.

 Establishing a Helpful Environment:

  • Universities need to foster an environment that supports creativity, excellence, and inclusion in higher education in order to effectively promote autonomy. This entails giving universities the freedom to decide for themselves and take chances to raise the calibre of education they provide.
  • All parties involved—faculty, students, government agencies, and administrators of the university—must collaborate for autonomy to be successful.

 Sustaining Financial Independence and Sustainability:

  • Many Indian universities, particularly those that are public or government-funded, have historically been very dependent on funding allotments from the state or federal government.
  • As autonomous schools should handle their finances independently, which can be difficult without enough planning and resources, it is necessary to ensure financial sustainability.

 Deep Learning Using the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS):

  • CBCS should be implemented as an institution in place of the conventional learning system. Students can study the disciplines they are interested in and receive an integrative education thanks to it. It’s not required to learn just the material covered in the course. The CBCS system use credits to assess academic student success as opposed to marks and percentages.

 How to Use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software in Colleges:

  • Use of college Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with accreditation data management software can be beneficial, since NAAC/NBA accreditation is a prerequisite for eligibility for autonomy.
  • It has the ability to gather, organise, handle, and preserve institutional data as well as all the records and paperwork required to produce comprehensive compliance reports. Along with protecting data privacy, it also offers the ability to manage data chronologically.
  • College autonomy is critical to innovation, improving academic quality, and developing institutional greatness. By adjusting their curricula to the changing demands of both industry and students, autonomous institutions may push the boundaries of knowledge and advance society. Furthermore, autonomy helps universities develop a culture of accountability and responsibility, which improves institutional effectiveness and builds pride in campus identity.
  • The 2023 NIRF rankings present a strong argument for the usefulness of autonomy in raising college performance in India. Collaboration amongst stakeholders is necessary for the effective implementation of autonomy in order to maintain a dynamic and vibrant higher education ecosystem.

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