NEW DELHI: The University Grants Commission’s decision to grant graded autonomy to 60 institutions of higher education has invited criticism from various quarters with many teachers and academicians calling it merely "financial autonomy".
Many have also expressed concerns that the move will make higher education more expensive in country as it will allow self-financed courses and departure from public accountability.
The UGC, on Tuesday had granted varying degrees of autonomy to 52 Universities and 8 colleges that will allow them to undertake many decisions on their own.
“It will be remembered as a black day in the history of higher education in India,” said Saikat Ghosh, a senior professor in Delhi University.
He added that under pressure from the government, the UGC has announced the autonomy which has nothing to do with the freedom to teach and learn and engage with ideas but it will give financial autonomy to administrations and management bodies of universities and colleges so that they can start self-financed courses and hike student-fees at will.
“The autonomy clause was a major part of the recommendations put forward by a discredited draft of the National Education Policy”, said Ghosh.
“The government had been forced to withdraw this draft after it became clear that the drafting committee had not done any homework regarding the history of higher education in India, the needs of the people and the founding principles of equity, access and excellence”.
A professor in JNU, which is also in the list of 60 institutes said that now the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development has taken out the provisions of the draft and tried to push them as UGC regulations.
“In this case, autonomy from regulations also means that there will be no check on the quality and adequacy of infrastructure (classrooms, labs, faculty, student-teacher ratio etc), leading to an inevitable and certain fall in overall standards of all institutions,” he said.
A statement by the Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers Associations called it a “pursuit to make education market determined and market dependent.”
“The Government has for some time been putting enormous pressures on colleges to become financially autonomous It has initiated the switch from grants to loan based funding for infrastructural needs of institutions through the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA),” FEDCUTA said.
“It is arm-twisting public universities to sign a tripartite agreement with UGC and the MHRD that involves drawing up a blueprint for revenue generation and commitment to progressively increase the revenue they are to earn from the market. All these will make education commercial and reduce public institutions to cost cutting revenue maximisers,” the Federation also added.