The building housing the Institute of Distance Education (IDE) on the Kariavattom campus of the University of Kerala may house the varsity's first ‘school' comprising the departments of commerce, management, and law.

Prior to this the IDE will be shifted to the three-storey building set up recently on the Ppalayam campus of the university. The nitty-gritty of such a shifting was discussed at a meeting, the other day, of a committee chaired by Vice-Chancellor A. Jayakrishnan. The committee was constituted to give a final shape to the process of accommodating all teaching departments of the university on the Kariavattom campus.

Under the school system, teaching departments offering courses in related knowledge areas would be grouped academically and administratively. This would help them offer inter-disciplinary courses and carry out research in frontier areas.

The first school of the university would not be called so initially. It would be—for the record—be termed as a coming together of three departments. To pre-empt any protests from university employees over a potential ‘loss of posts,' all three offices of the departments would be retained as such inside the new ‘school.' Libraries of the three departments would be unified and the new library may remain open for a longer period of time daily.

This is not to say that the school system in the university is a done deal. For one, the State government is still to return to the Chancellor the file containing its opinion on whether the school system would entail any additional financial burden for the State. The Law Department is understood to have recorded its observation that there would be no additional expenditure for the State on account of the new system. The file is reportedly now with the department of higher education.

Not all academics in the varsity are convinced that the school system is the road to take. While some academics oppose it for purely ‘practical' reasons—they would have to travel daily from the city to the Kariavattom campus—others have a more philosophical reason. “There is a certain beauty in being a small entity,” the director of a university centre told The Hindu, “I am concerned whether a grouping of departments will lead to a loss of a creative space.” The department of library and information science, for instance, is in what is perhaps a unique dilemma. While it is true that the department is desperate to move out of its present space inside the Kerala University Library, it is also desperate not to move too far away from the library which serves as a laboratory of sorts for its students. After all where else would students of information science have access to such a rich and varied collection of books?

For its part, the IDE has come up with its own objections. At a recent committee meeting, it was pointed out to Dr. Jayakrishnan that the new building at Palayam would not be big enough for the IDE's needs. The meeting resolved to speed up procedures for constructing one more storey for the building. Also, the Registrar had been asked to identify suitable space for the IDE to conduct its contact classes.

The school system was first mooted in the varsity many years ago. So far the university has followed the dictum ‘make haste slowly' on this issue. If the school system does become a reality any time soon, there are sure to be many disbelieving eyes in Kerala's mother university.