The State government has introduced new quality norms for extending the approval given to self-financing engineering colleges. But many in the managements say it is stepping on AICTE territory. G. Krishnakumar highlights the key aspects of the debate.
The Higher Education Department has started a process to improve quality of education at self-financing engineering colleges in the State.
With adverse observations made by the Kerala High Court and reports of falling standards in the performance of teachers and students, the stakeholders have been concerned about the quality of education in these institutions.
A Division Bench of the High Court had pointed out last July that students would be seriously affected if engineering colleges were allowed to function without ensuring infrastructure and qualified teachers. This precarious situation had arisen, it said, because the State government and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) had allowed the mushrooming of engineering colleges without considering these factors.
The Bench had directed the State government to ensure that no-objection certificates were issued only to those institutions which had infrastructure and faculty as stipulated by the council. The department has now issued an order specifying conditions for the extension of the approval given to the self-financing colleges and for sanctioning new courses. Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the government was duty-bound to ensure that there was no downward slide in the quality of technical education.
While the increase in the number of self-financing institutions had a positive effect on improving accessibility to professional higher education, he said, it has brought in its wake concerns of quality.
An expert committee appointed by the government has submitted the first set of suggestions to the government to regulate the growth of higher education through self-financing institutions in the State without sacrificing the interests of the students who enrol in them.
Based on its recommendations, the department has agreed to extend the approval for all self-financing institutions in the State in 2012-13. But for 2013-14, the extension will be given only to those institutions with a minimum running average pass percentage in the first appearance in all subjects (full pass) up to the fourth, sixth, and eighth semesters at 25 per cent, 30 per cent, and 35 per cent, respectively, and for 2014-15, at 30 per cent, 35 per cent, and 40 per cent, respectively.
But the managements seem to be unhappy over what they term the ‘haste' with which the government plans to implement the recommendations. G.P.C. Nayar, national president of the Federation of Associations of Private Unaided Professional Colleges, says it is unfair to hold the colleges alone responsible for the waning quality. Nearly 20 self-financing engineering colleges in the State will be forced to close down, if the government implemented the recommendations on extension of approval.
“Though the move to ensure quality is a welcome step, there is no point in blaming the self-financing colleges for the present situation. We are only admitting the students allotted by the government and there are quite a lot of them who are poor in their academic performance. Despite sincere efforts by the managements, a section of the students always fail to clear the exams,” he says.
Mr. Nayar says the AICTE remains the ultimate authority in sanctioning new courses and increasing the intake. The government move to introduce new regulations is an infringement on the rights of the managements. “We would approach the court, if the authorities fail to relax the stringent conditions,” he says.
T.A. Vijayan, secretary of the Kerala Self-financing Engineering College Managements' Association, says the government should have initiated the proposals at least by 2011 to give the managements time to make preparations. “But what is the point in issuing a series of recommendations in January and also directing the managements that the regulations will be applicable from next year,” he asked.
Mr. Vijayan says the association will not oppose the reforms. But several colleges will face financial loss, if the recommendations of the committee on extension of approval and intake are accepted. In the detailed project reports submitted to the AICTE, the managements usually outline the courses and the intake proposed for each academic year. The council also gives approval based on these reports.
The Self-financing Engineering College Managements Association is planning to approach the High Court against the decisions of the department. The association will take up the issue with the government during the coming talks on seat-sharing and fee structure for professional courses in the next academic year.