Kerala State Higher Education Council urged to study pros and cons of having private universities in Kerala

A three-day international meet on transnational education which concluded here on Sunday has urged the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) to study the possibility of permitting private universities to invest in the higher education sector in Kerala.

A resolution adopted by the conference proposed that the council constitute an expert committee to carry out the study and make recommendations to the government.

Briefing the media on the Thiruvananthapuram Declaration approved at the concluding session of the meet, T.P. Sreenivasan, Vice-Chairman of the council and organising committee chairman, said the study would assess the pros and cons of having private universities in the State.

He said private sector investment in the higher education sector was possible through establishment of universities or funding of government universities. He, however, added that there was an undercurrent of resistance to opening of private universities in Kerala.

The declaration urged the private sector educational providers in the State to leverage Kerala’s reputation as a global tourist destination to market their capacity to deliver quality higher education at affordable cost across the developing world and to attract more international students to the State.

It called upon the council and the Malayalam and Sanskrit universities in Kerala to explore the potential for developing open online courses in niche areas such as Kerala history or Kathakali.

Highlighting the potential of global education platforms such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), Niche Open Online Courses (NOOC) and flipped schools, Mr. Sreenivasan said these could be used to supplement the conventional courses. “All over the world, such online courses are revolutionising education.

“To catch up with the rest of the world, we have to learn and adapt,” he said.

The declaration called upon universities and engineering colleges to consider the potential of MOOC and flipped classrooms to supplement the current training approaches, especially in areas facing a severe shortage of qualified faculty.

As many as 13 international experts and 22 speakers from across India participated in the conference, along with 43 college principals, faculty and researchers.

The meet urged the State government to constitute a committee including representatives from academic institutions, the private sector and the Malayali diaspora to assess the opportunities created by the Union government’s decision to allow international branch campuses. Another resolution stressed the need for national academic agencies such as the University Grants Commission and the All India Council for Technical Education to establish a system of credit transfer to enable increased mobility of students nationally.

The declaration appealed to the Centre for a policy regime to attract foreign students to Indian universities and academic institutions. Proposing a national online platform to deliver MOOCs in national languages, it said this would not only improve access to better education but also popularise such technologies among universities.

The document called on universities and private sector organisations to join hands to assess the potential of technology-enabled transnational education in creating a better trained workforce.

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