Opposition to the move to confer autonomous status to Ernakulam Maharaja’s College intensified when student organizations and Maharaja’s Samrakshana Samithi staged a protest here on Monday against the visit of the six-member team of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

The UGC team, headed by Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University Vice Chancellor Prof. Anup Singh Beniwal, was on the campus to assess the academic and administrative credentials of the college as part of granting autonomous status.

Students Federation of India (SFI) volunteers tried to enter the Principal’s room, where the UGC team held consultations with the senior faculty members of the college. Police later removed the slogan-shouting activists.

Members of the Maharaja’s College Samrakshana Samithi also joined the protests against the move to confer autonomous status to the college. In his address on the occasion, M.K.Sanoo, noted critic, said autonomy would only result in the prestigious college losing its status as a higher education institution that played a key role in renaissance in Kerala society.

Ernakulam Maharaja’s and the University College in Thiruvananthapuram were the only two government colleges in the State shortlisted by the Higher Education Department for autonomous status.

Those opposing the proposal alleged that it lacked clarity and would eat in to the existing democratic nature of academic and administrative system on the campuses. They also blamed the government for not holding widespread consultations on autonomy to allay the fears of various stakeholders. A section of the teachers also had expressed apprehensions over the likely changes in service rules if granted autonomous status.

Maharaja’s College Principal P.G. Agitha Devi said the college was picked up by the Higher Education Department for autonomous status. She also said presentations on the academic achievements of the college were made before the UGC team on Monday. The expert team will complete their evaluation process on Tuesday.

As per the Higher Education Department, the move to sanction autonomy to select colleges in the State is part of the efforts to equip higher education institutions to meet the standards stipulated by the Central government for financial assistance under the Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) project.

Autonomous colleges would be able to design its own curriculum, with focus on innovation and experimentation. The institutions could also introduce new courses and undertake innovations aimed at periodic revision of curriculum.

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