A committee formed by the Kerala State Higher Education Council outlines its vision for 10 years

The establishment of a women’s university and separate universities for individual professional courses, 80 per cent commonality of name and content for degree courses across Kerala and the setting up of a State council for social sciences and Humanities are among the major recommendations in an interim report prepared by a committee formed by the Kerala State Higher Education Council to give a new shape to the State’s education policy.

The interim report, presented to the executive council of the council in Thiruvanananthapuram on October 19, outlines a vision for the next 10 years under the titles of “Expansion,” “Excellence” and “Equity.” To bring all these reforms to fruition, the “tentative financial implication,” as calculated by the committee, is Rs. 3,995 crore.

Under the “Expansion” title, the committee recommends the institution of separate universities for professional courses. This means separate universities for engineering and medicine (which the State is already moving to) and for nursing, paramedical education, dental science, law and teacher education.

New colleges

While new colleges should be established in the backward districts of Malappuram, Palakkad, Wayanad, Kannur and Idukki, 10 women’s colleges, with full hostel facilities, should be opened, it says.

“The institutional infrastructure and facilities should be increased in order to improve quality and intake in all degree programmes, which are in demand and are relevant to the industry and society,” the committee says.

All institutions should increase their intake by 50 per cent in the next five years and by 100 per cent in the next 10 years for programmes of relevance and demand.

The interim report calls for setting up a State university for distance education. Apart from the dissemination of distance education, this will help phase out the private registration system, it says.

“A modified version of Distance Education called “Twinning Programme” successfully implemented at Pondicherry University can be adopted by the State Open University of Kerala. This programme is an improved version of the existing system of short contact programmes at the study centres. Under the Twinning Programme, a 120-hour per semester, continuous coaching is offered by established and accredited colleges in the evening hours and weekends, using their own permanent faculty, rather than allowing study centres to hold limited contact classes with hired faculty. The model is based on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and sharing of revenue,” the report notes.

Moreover, all distance education programmes now being offered by various State universities should be brought under a separate directorate of distance education within each university and are to be separated from the mainstream programmes.

The State needs to experiment with community colleges, which offer vocational degree, diploma and certificate programmes “with potential of job placements of youth, not only in India but also overseas,” the report suggests.

A committee has to be set up to “identify and frame” the content for those programmes. “During the XII Plan, at least two community colleges need to be established in the State with complete hostel facilities,” the report recommends.

Current relevance

Higher education programmes of current relevance and demand should be strengthened by modernisation of the curriculum, enhancement of infrastructure and facilities and should only be offered through the choice-based credit and semester system.

Universities and colleges should review the feasibility of continuing with programmes which have low demand and either suspend such courses or restrict them to select colleges, the committee says.

To enhance mobility of students within the State, the committee has called for 80 per cent commonality for degree courses in name and content. A State-level system of coding for all degree programmes should be developed, wherein each course (of three or four credits) is to be designed with a model curriculum and a unique code.

The requirement of total credits and earning a particular degree should be defined with a minimum number of core and optional courses. A 20 per cent flexibility is to be given to each university to modify this content, the committee says.

A panel comprising university and college teachers should be constituted to prepare a manual of minimum educational and infrastructural standards. The Higher Education Council should be entrusted with this task.

As part of a larger initiative for strengthening university and college libraries, a State library portal should be set up. All State universities should become part of this network and all libraries should progressively shift to digital and e-resources for reference books and research journals. A Kerala State library network should be established. Kerala should propose to the University Grants Commission the establishment of a centralised and sophisticated instrumentation facility to be accessed by all teachers and researchers across the State.

Integrated courses

The committee has suggested that all colleges and universities be encouraged to introduce five-year integrated programmes with provision for “lateral exit” at the end of three or four years with a Bachelor’s degree or a honours degree, respectively. Similarly, universities should be encouraged to start integrated Master’s and doctoral programmes. The concept of evening colleges and evening courses should be fully explored for optimum use of resources and space, the committee suggests.

CCMCU

The committee has called for the abolishment of the affiliation system and has suggested a “college cluster multiple campus universities (CCMCU) approach” instead. Under this system, colleges are not affiliated but remain part of the university as autonomous entities.

“A college cluster university does not demand huge land areas as it will not have a separate teaching campus, but will have a centralised university office system with centralised examination and academic monitoring. Each of the college that forms an autonomous campus will be headed by a dean and the university office will have the entire administrative system of a university,” the report notes. In addition to multi-campus professional universities, there shall be at least one CCMCU for every district, “which shall have all the colleges of the district as campuses of that university rather than standalone colleges affiliated to a university,” the report reads.

Substantial Central funding can be expected for this venture. Kerala can also set the tone for the rest of the country by coming up with an Act for establishment of college cluster universities, the report recommends. Each cluster can have 10 to 30 colleges. The State should provide free education to all physically challenged students, the report recommends.