THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the state budget stresses on strengthening the higher education sector, academics have pointed out the hollowness of some of the announcements such as filling 886 vacant faculty positions in universities and unreasonable expectations on increasing student enrolment.
Though touted as a major budgetary announcement, most of these vacant posts have arisen due to retirement and filling them was only a natural process. During the previous budget too, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had promised “creation” of 1,000 new faculty positions in government and aided colleges. However, these were also for vacancies against retirement from previously sanctioned posts. Finally, 721 of these 1,000 posts were filled in colleges.
The government had recently sanctioned 197 new-generation UG and PG programmes. Of these, 166 programmes were in arts and science colleges and the rest in the university teaching departments. Surprisingly the budget is silent about creating adequate teaching posts for these new-gen courses. The only mention is about creation of 150 new faculty posts, and that too in universities.
“In the absence of permanent teachers in colleges for such new-gen courses, guest faculty will be appointed which will dilute the quality of education and undermine the very purpose of starting these courses,” warned R Jayaprakash, former member-secretary, Kerala State Higher Education Council.
Another budgetary announcement that is seen as far- fetched from reality is the government’s resolve to almost double the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher educational institutions from 37% to 72%. At present, over 9.5 lakh youth are enrolled in higher studies. If the number has to be nearly doubled, the government will have to provide the required infrastructure facilities and support staff which is impossible in the current scenario due to the huge financial commitment involved.
M Shajarkhan of the Save University Campaign Committee believes these knee-jerk announcements on achieving certain objectives are aimed at garnering Central funds routed through RUSA. “Most of the grants under RUSA are performance-based,” he said.