Behind Bid To Educational Autonomy

By Sunil Dang

The Union Minister for Human Resource and Development Prakash Javadekar recently informed that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has granted greater autonomy to 60 higher educational institutions, including five central and 21 state universities. Apart from these, 26 private universities as well as 10 other colleges have also been granted autonomy under the Autonomous Colleges Regulation. These institutions will remain within the ambit of UGC but will have just the freedom to start new courses, off campus centers, skill development courses, research parks and any other new academic programs.

Some new provisions bypass Governors and Vice Chancellors in the decision making process. This move is seen as alarming by many. Besides this, the provision empowers college and institutional management to hire or fire staffs at will. Some provisions may be used against students agitating against various administration decisions. This too has a potential to develop in an explosive situation as a number of students union have been proactive off late.

Not just students, even faculties are anxious. With autonomy, will they be required to put inthe same number of hours at work, which is 16 for assistant professors and 14 for associate professors, per week? It is an open secret that several senior teachers stop preparing fresh lectures mid-career. . They recycle old notes. So, in effect such specimens of academic inertia work only a trifle more than the hours thus specified. Imagine working only 16 hours a week! Over and above this miniscule work, all teachers flout the University Grants Commission rule that every faculty member should be available in the place of work for 40 hours per week. There are a few who shortchange even the prescribed minimum. But let that be.

Apart from these, faculties are reluctant to take on development of syllabusor any aspect of autonomy. Their apprehensions are ill-founded; for the purpose of autonomy is, after all, improvement of academic standards. Faculties assume that syllabus formation is a daily task! Syllabi, in Delhi University, are revised once in 20 years! Let us assume that if St Stephen’s (which figures in the list) becomes autonomous, the syllabi would be revised once in five years. Is that a backbreaking thing? If the teachers want work load reduced for something as infrequent as this, what does it show of their attitude? Sure, they can argue that this takes away from the hours spent in coming up with original research work but it’s also true that the research output of our universities in already quite low. However, there are some political angles in this move too. It is often argued that in India, education sector is highly dominated by the leftists. . The ground reality of today’s India is that the right wing is making strong bids to build its stronghold in the education sector. Initially, the right wing leadership tried to intrude in the left bastion by sending vice-chancellors supporting their ideology to various universities. Then, they thought of sending their people as faculties, if not on pay roll then at least as visiting faculties. But, these required huge amount of effort from the government and the concerned ministry. May be it took a lot of government effort because these steps were part of a quick result based initiatives. Hence, it’s safe to say that they coined an innovative idea which is being implemented with long-term perspective.

Choosing 60 institutions in the name of educational autonomy is expected to go smoothly for few years weaving right wingers in a calibrated manner. Once, these right wingers gain majority in these institutions, they willdevelop curriculum and then after distortion of history and brainwash of the raw Generation-X wouldcommence.. The government of India is doing this because they know that to remain in power in the corridors of New Delhi, one needs the support of the youthof the nation. . Hence, in the name of autonomy of education, government has a long-term political goal which we can’t afford to ignore as it would make our educational pride into a political playground.