BHUBANESWAR: Introducing the 10 per cent quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of the general category in the higher education institutions from next academic session will not be an easy task in Odisha.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has asked public universities to increase their total intake of students by 25 pc to ensure the quota does not cause a drop in the number of unreserved seats.
With the new academic session beginning July, there is little time for the Higher Education Department to create new infrastructure to handle the increased roll strength, create new teaching posts and recruit faculty.
Odisha has around 400 Plus Three colleges offering under-graduation, a Central University under MHRD, an Odisha State Open University and 10 State-run universities - Utkal University, Berhampur University, Sambalpur University, Ravenshaw University, North Odisha University, Jagannath Sanskrit University, Rama Devi Women’s University, Khallikote University, Gangadhar Meher University and Fakir Mohan University.
While 90 pc of the Plus Three colleges are already facing space and faculty crunch, the universities are in no better situation. According to the Higher Education Department reports, the 10 universities are already running short of 748 faculty positions.
At Utkal University, the highest of 28 professor posts are vacant against the sanctioned strength of 47. Fifty pc of the total 76 associate professor positions are also vacant. In new universities like Rama Devi and Khallikote, nine out of 13 professor posts and five out of six professor posts are vacant respectively.
Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University, Prof Soumendra Mohan Patnaik, said public universities that are offering self-financing courses will face space crunch in accommodating the 25 pc additional students. “We are already facing difficulty in certain departments to accommodate all students due to lack of adequate number of classrooms. Besides, we would need to create new laboratories and hostels. That will not be an easy affair considering the fund crunch that universities face,” Prof Patnaik said.
The last recruitment in universities was done in 2017 but the process was subsequently put on hold by University Grants Commission.
While the 11-year-old Central University of Odisha (CUO) will implement the 10 pc quota in the new academic session, it aims at meeting the additional infrastructure requirement in the next two years. Sachidananda Mohanty, Vice-Chancellor of CUO, said he received the MHRD circular two days back which states that Central Universities have been allowed two years time to create new classrooms and other required infrastructure. The Vice-Chancellor said the university, which is facing severe space constraint, did not receive any funds from MHRD for infrastructure development in the last three years and only three days back, the Ministry approved `319 crore for the institution. This fund will be sanctioned for implementing 14 new infrastructure posts in CUO campus.
Due to fund crunch, the university has not be able to completely move to its permanent campus in Sunabeda. The CUO has 44 faculty members including 29 guest faculty for 900 students studying in 14 departments under seven schools of studies. It operates from two campuses - one at Sunabeda and temporary one at Lanjiguda, both in Koraput district. While the Sunabeda campus has three single-storey academic blocks housing 11 departments, the Lanjiguda campus has three departments - Biodiversity, Anthropology and Mass Communication.
“We will have a meeting with the core committee of CUO and decide how to go about implementing the 10 pc quote from July academic session,” he said.
Higher Education Minister, Ananta Das, said he is yet to receive a circular from the MHRD to look into the quota system. “Any improvement in infrastructure for increasing capacity of classrooms and infrastructure will need additional funds, which is not readily available. Implementing this cannot be done in a hurry and the new academic session is just five months away,” the Minister added.