Autonomy must for achieving academic excellence
D. S. Cheema
ODAY quality of higher education has become a prime concern for most countries. The National External Quality Assurance mechanism has been adopted by many countries to address this concern. In India this responsibility was taken over by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in 1974. The response since then to the efforts of this agency has been mixed.


Autonomy must for achieving academic excellence
D. S. Cheema

The idea of autonomy is to let institutions with potential excel in serving all stakeholders
The idea of autonomy is to let institutions with potential excel in serving all stakeholders. Thinkstock

TODAY quality of higher education has become a prime concern for most countries. The National External Quality Assurance mechanism has been adopted by many countries to address this concern. In India this responsibility was taken over by National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in 1974. The response since then to the efforts of this agency has been mixed. In the mean time, intelligentsia and academics are happy quoting facts and figures in seminars and magazines/journals, without contributing anything to find solution to this serious problem.

The debate whether autonomous higher education institutions can deliver better quality as compared to affiliated colleges has been going on since 1948, when a report of the University Education Commission recommended academic freedom to deserving colleges. The committee on colleges appointed by the government noted in 1964, “One of the practical methods of improving higher education in India would be to select a few colleges on the basis of their past work, influence, traditions, maturity and academic standards and give them an autonomous status with freedom to develop their personalities, experiment with new ideas, frame their own syllabus in consultation with the university, device and conduct examination and initiate new measures”.

The Committee on Standards of University Education (1965) reiterated, “In an affiliated system, the weak colleges tend to determine the policy of the university with regard to the course of study, teaching requirements, examination, etc. Good colleges, which are capable of rising to much higher standards, are consequently not allowed to do so. Unless these colleges which can do better than the rest are permitted to go ahead with their plan for modernising and improving their academic programmes, they will not be in a position to hold on to superior standards indefinitely”.

Similarly, an explicit mention of autonomy to colleges is found in our national policy on education (NPE) in 1986, “In view of mixed experiences with the system of affiliation, autonomous colleges will be helped to develop in large numbers until the affiliation system is replaced by free and more creative association of universities with colleges. Similarly, creation of autonomous departments within the universities on selective basis will be encouraged. Autonomy and freedom will be accompanied by accountability”.

The idea of autonomy is to let institutions with potential excel in serving all stakeholders. In pursuance of the National Policy on Education (NPE) and Programme of Action on NPE, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has revised the system of selection, procedure for grant of autonomy, pattern of governance and pattern of monitoring and evaluation of such institutions. As of now, many universities and affiliated colleges are shy of getting them accredited from NAAC as the process involves rigorous system of inspection and monitoring. Tamil Nadu is the only state where more than one-third of the higher educational institutions are accredited by NAAC and another one-third enjoy autonomous status.

The very purpose of opting for autonomy is achieving academic excellence. Criticism that autonomy may lead to poor quality education may not be valid as all the stakeholders, including institutions, parent universities, students, parents and society at large, can get benefited by higher standards of education. In the ultimate analysis, market forces will decide the longevity of autonomous institutions; the better they are, more the chances of their survival.

Most colleges want to take the shelter of universities to handle academic and administrative issues and as such are happy in the present situation. Also, the criticism is basically due to lack of self-confidence in their systems and lack of faith in the teachers working in autonomous institutions. No doubt they will need to put in more effort and be responsible and accountable. However, in the overall interest of higher education, colleges with potential for excellence must opt for autonomy.

Dr Malcolm S. Adiseshiah, former Vice-Chancellor of Madras University, has this to say about these aspects, “I know a number of colleges who have refused the offer of autonomy because in these days of academic anarchy, they are afraid to take on the responsibilities of selecting students and staff, constructing curricula and using the technology and evaluation system of all true educational systems. It is much easier to shelter behind the existing Vice-Chancellor, the Syndicate and the Board of Studies.”

Gains of a free hand

Though there are many misgivings and apprehensions regarding the autonomy an autonomous college/institution can get the following benefits:

  • Such colleges can design their own courses of study and syllabi under the guidance of the parent university.
  • Managements can have their own rules for admission and fees to be charged.
  • These colleges can conduct their own examinations and notify results.
  • Autonomous colleges can aspire for the highest standards in higher education through greater creativity and using innovation in application of technology in education.
  • These colleges can allot appropriate funds for infrastructure, libraries, laboratories, research, and so on.

...and the criticism

  • Since most of the autonomous colleges are likely to be in the hands of private management, they may misuse the authority and may not bother about the regulatory system.
  • As internal assessment and evaluation will be in the hands of the management, students may be threatened
  • Such colleges may try to show good results at the cost of quality.
  • Different autonomous colleges will have different academic standards. This may cause lot of disparity in achievement standards of students.
  • Students may become insecure, and they may also perceive themselves as inferior.
  • In the name of autonomy, institutions may experiment with various courses and syllabi; all such experiments may not turn out to be useful and students may suffer.
  • Some autonomous colleges may become elitist and create categories of students in society.



US varsity, AISFM agree on exchange programme

HYDERABAD: The US Northwestern University’s School of Communication and Annapurna International School of Film and Media (AISFM) have joined hands for a student and faculty exchange programme. As a first step towards building a relationship, a group of students from Northwestern spent a week here at AISFM for an Indian cinema seminar. Excited over the first visit under the student and cultural exchange programme, 27 students and faculty from the Northwestern University's School of Communication campuses at Evanston (US) and Doha (Qatar) produced five films at AISFM at Annapurna Studio, owned by the family of veteran Telugu actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao. Barbara O’Keefe, Dean, School of Communication, said they wanted to be in India as Indian cinema is a “completely global cinema”. She believes there is great opportunity for them as they are the first American university to have any association with an Indian film school. — IANS

Asian-American students outperform other ethnic groups

WASHINGTON: Asian-American students perform better than all other ethnic groups when it comes to science and maths, with males in particular scoring better, a new US study has found. US researchers Nicole Else-Quest, Concetta Mineo and Ashley Higgins studied 367 white, African American, Latino/Latina, and Asian American 10th grade male and female students in maths and science. The study results indicated that while male and female adolescents earned similar grades in maths and science, Asian-American students outperformed all other ethnic groups, with males in particular receiving the highest scores. Furthermore, the researchers found that Latino- and African-American male students received the lowest scores in math and science. “Asian-American male adolescents consistently demonstrated the highest achievement compared to other adolescents, mirroring the ‘model minority’ stereotype,” the researchers said in a statement. — PTI

Campus NoteS

Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak
Seminar on democratic decentralisation

A seminar on “Democratic Decentralisation and District Planning Committee” was organised by the Centre for Haryana Studies of the university recently. The seminar was sponsored by ICSSR, Chandigarh. Focusing on the need for drastic changes to make the democratic set-up more vibrant and responsive, the speakers pointed out the issues that have dented the very concept of the governance. The seminar was inaugurated by Prof. S.S. Tiwana, Dean, Academic Affairs, Panjabi University, Patiala. While Prof. Tiwana said planning from bottom line is the need of the hour, Prof. S.S. Chahar, Director, Centre for Haryana Studies, said democracy in the country has perhaps been reduced to just an electoral democracy, where people can vote once in five years to elect candidates imposed by political parties. However, he said, the need to extend democratic participation in decision-making also is the main challenge. Delegates from IIPA, New Delhi; CDLU, Sirsa; Centre University, Mahendergarh; and Women University, Khanpur; along with research scholars from various departments presented their papers. Dr Ranbir Singh Gulia, Dr Rajbir Dalal and Dr Satyawan chaired the sessions. The valedictory session was inaugurated by Prof. Suresh Mishra, Director, Centre for Consumer Studies, IIPA, New Delhi. Professor Anjana Garg conducted the seminar which was attended by 40 delegates.

NAAC team visit

A four-day visit of the NAAC team for grading of the university concluded here recently. The NAAC peer team chairperson, Prof. S.P. Thyagarajan, handed over the official peer team report to the MDU Vice-Chancellor, Dr R.P. Hooda. Dr K. Rama, Deputy Advisor, NAAC, while speaking at a meeting highlighted the mission-vision of NAAC and its objectives vis-a-vis the accreditation of universities. The NAAC team comprised chairperson Prof. S.P. Thyagarajan, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras; Prof. S. Chandrashekhar, former P-VC, Central University of Karnataka; Prof. S.S. Alur, former Professor, NLSUI, Bengaluru; Sita Vanka, Professor of Management, University of Hyderabad; Prof. Tankeshwar Kumar of Panjab University, Chandigarh; M.P.Mahajan, former Professor, Applied Chemistry, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amristsar; and Dr K.Rama, Deputy Advisor, NAAC. The team visited university departments, offices, satellite campuses, and interacted with students and their parents, faculty members, alumni, non-teaching employees, and other stakeholders of the university during its visit.

Health awareness camp

The Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) of the university organised a health awareness and gender sensitisation camp at Lakhan Majra recently. The camp was aimed at raising the awareness level of rural women folk and facilitate their empowerment, said the Director of WSC. Meanwhile, The Department of Sanskrit of the university organised a one-day seminar on “Various Facets of Valmiki Ramayan” recently. According to Prof. Asha, Head, Department of Sanskrit, several noted scholars took part in the seminar which was held at the UIET Conference Hall.

Pt. B.D. Sharma University of Health Sciences, Rohtak
Lecture on vascular disease

A special lecture on “Peripheral Vascular Disease: A Marker for Cardiovascular Mortality” was organised on the university campus recently. Dr Rajiv Parakh, a well-known peripheral vascular and endovascular surgeon, said young people need to understand how to maintain a healthy vascular system as they get older. The degenerative vascular disease primarily affects the 50-plus age group. He said vascular disease in all of its manifestation is a leading cause of death and disability, including disabling amputation and major stroke.

— Contributed by Bijendra Ahlawat