The State Budget for 2012-13 envisages a push for the higher education sector. G. KRISHNAKUMAR says the allocations will help the Higher Education Department meet its targets for enhancing quality and adding much-needed infrastructure.

The State Budget for 2012-13 proposes a push to the Higher Education Department's target to step up infrastructure and enhance quality in the higher education sector.

The government has envisaged three major projects — establishment of a technological university; an academic city; and an integrated institute of science and technology — as part of its efforts to build up infrastructure in the budget presented by Finance Minister K.M. Mani in the Assembly on March 19.

A State award fund for universities; upgrade of 10 colleges as centres of excellence; and a “Walk with a Scholar” project figure on the list of initiatives aimed at ensuring quality in the higher education sector in the State.

By earmarking Rs.5 crore for the proposed Indian Institute of Technology in the State, the government has conveyed the message that it is keen to have the prestigious higher educational institution in Kerala at the earliest.

Elaborating on the proposed programmes to be undertaken in the higher education sector, Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the proposed technological university would improve the academic standards by adapting innovative administrative and academic practices. The government's aim was to develop a system that ensured professionalism and result-oriented management.

A detailed project report prepared by the Directorate of Technical Education says the new university will consist of constituent colleges, autonomous affiliated colleges, and centres of research in thrust areas. A constituent college is one having representation in the management of the university and which is approved as a constituent college by the governing council of the university.

Full academic freedom will be provided to the constituent colleges and they will function with the freedom to design the curriculum, frame syllabus, and conduct the examinations. Initially, all government engineering colleges in the State will be included as the constituent colleges.

The engineering colleges other than the proposed constituent colleges and at present affiliated to different universities can de-affiliate from them, obtain autonomous status as per University Grants Commission guidelines, and get affiliated to the university. The centres of research in thrust areas of technology will be established in the constituent colleges to foster postgraduate education and research. Cooperation and funding from national and international agencies will be sought for establishing the centres.

These centres will act as nucleus of research in frontier areas of technology and will have interaction with industry. The university will also have incubation centres, technology transfer centres, and intellectual property bureaus in the constituent colleges.

Pointing out that the proposed academic city is an attempt to encourage institutions of international repute to open shop in Kerala, Mr. Rabb said the city would have a state-of-the-art campus. The project was part of the initiatives being identified under the Emerging Kerala programme of the government.

The academic city would be a unique assortment of high-quality international universities and institutions offering specialised courses for domestic and international students. He said it would facilitate teacher-student academic exchange programmes. The budgetary provision for the project was Rs.25 lakh.

S&T institute

The Higher Education Department has plans to set up the Lal Bahadur Shastri Integrated Institute of Science and Technology in Malappuram. Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal had earlier agreed to consider the State government's request to grant Rs.50 crore for the project. Mr. Rabb said that the proposal for the institute was in line with the Rajinder Sachar Committee Report highlighting the need for new development strategies for minority communities.

The budget has assured help for improving the quality of the higher education sector by allocating funds for various projects including the elevation of 10 colleges as centres of excellence and a State award fund for the universities.

As part of the centres of excellence initiative, colleges will be encouraged to strengthen their academic and physical infrastructure for achieving excellence in teaching, research, and outreach programmes that would be comparable to global standards.

The aim is to promote flexible and effective governance, besides enhancing the quality of the learning and teaching process at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels with the help of a flexible credit-based modular system. Innovative practices by such colleges will also receive government support.

A major allocation in the budget is for the State award fund for the universities initiative (Rs.20 crore). Universities in the State will receive support to become universities with potential for excellence under a scheme implemented by the University Grants Commission (UGC). Nearly 16 universities have been selected by the commission for assistance under this scheme.

The main objectives of the scheme include encouraging and facilitating the chosen departments at the selected university to work together by associating their likeminded faculty members to cooperate and collaborate in their programmes and activities on a regular basis.

While there will be no preference on the subject areas to be identified and/or taken up under the scheme, it is necessary that each one has to be of the inter- and/or multi-disciplinary type and in the emerging, frontier or cutting-edge subject areas of regional, national and/or international importance. It is expected that two or more departments at the university will be able to jointly launch new and innovative academic, research and/or extension programmes/activities in inter- and/or multi-disciplinary areas. The departments should also initiate major programmes/activities of regional/national/international interest and importance and benefit from their combined academic performance, research capabilities, and overall achievements.

The budget has earmarked Rs.50 lakh for the ‘Walk with a Scholar' programme. The objective is to nurture students at the undergraduate level through focussed mentoring by a team of experts. Students will get a chance to clear their doubts on various aspects related to their academic courses, besides seeking their support in research and development activities. The Finance Minister has also allocated Rs.50 lakh for setting up a science city at Kottayam.

The budget is silent on two projects announced in Governor H.R. Bhardwaj's address to the Assembly on March 1. The government had said that it would facilitate the setting up of an off-campus centre of the prestigious Hyderabad-based English and Foreign Languages University in the State.

The previous Left Democratic Front government had also keenly pursued the project and had even identified 90 acres of land at Thinkalkarikkam near Pathanapuram in Kollam district. But there is no budgetary allocation for the proposal. The Finance Minister has also not earmarked any assistance for the Indian Institute of Information Technology at Kottayam mentioned in the Governor's address. It was proposed in the public-private partnership mode.