The government’s decision to start honours courses at the undergraduate level has evoked mixed reactions from the who’s who of the education sector in the State.

From the current academic year (2013-14) the Higher Education Department plans to start honours degree programmes at four colleges — Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram, (BA Honours English); Maharajas College, Ernakulam, (BA Honours Economics); Victoria College, Palakkad, (B.Com Honours); and Brennen College, Thalassery, (B. Sc. Honours Mathematics).

According to a government order the colleges are likely to be upgraded to centres of excellence during the 12 Five Year Plan, as part of a strategy to enhance the quality of undergraduate degrees and scope for employment.

The initial decision was to start a four-year programme comprising eight semesters, but the Higher Education Department later clarified that it would be a three-year course enrolling 30 students for each programme.

Sr. Teresa, Principal, St. Teresa’s College, welcomed the move. She said aided colleges were ready to begin the programmes. The curriculum for the honours courses was different and had high quality, she said.

Fr. Prasant Palakkappillil, Principal, Sacred Heart College, Thevara, said honours courses were usually part of a four-year programme. “We are yet to know the finer details of the proposed programmes,” he said.

Sunilkumar S. Menon, Head of the Department of Economics, Maharaja’s College, said it would be a challenge to find qualified students for the courses as the admission process was almost over for regular undergraduate programmes under the Mahatma Gandhi University.

The Higher Education Department had directed that existing teachers could be roped in to handle a few honours courses. Experts in the area could also be recruited as specialist faculty, he said.

Rajan Varughese, senior faculty member of UC College, Aluva, and former Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Cochin University of Science and Technology, blamed the Higher Education Department and the State Higher Education Council for maintaining secrecy over the initiative and not holding any academic discussions before launching the programmes. He recalled that the choice-based credit and semester system was introduced in Mahatma Gandhi University after a year of discussion and debate.

A.V. George, Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, said the Higher Education Department had forwarded to the varsity the syllabus for BA Honours (Economics) programme to be offered by Maharaja’s College. The government had also requested the varsity to place the proposal before the Board of Studies for immediate approval, he said.

As per the official order, candidates with 70 per cent (general category); 60 per cent (SC); 55 per cent (ST) marks in the qualifying examination can apply for the honours courses. There will be an internal system for annual evaluation. The government will arrange facilities for internship.

More In: Kochi