Outright opposition and cautious optimism were what greeted members of a committee on autonomy headed by educationist N.R. Madhava Menon during a stakeholder meeting organised by the Kerala State Higher Education Council here on Thursday to discuss the committee’s interim report on granting academic, administrative and financial autonomy to colleges in Kerala.
Representatives of Leftist teachers organisations AKPCTA and the AKGCT and the Students Federation of India (SFI) led the charge against the granting of autonomy to educational institutions, arguing that the academic climate in Kerala was not conducive to such a move.
Any such “pseudo autonomy” would only end up empowering private managements.
Thinking of granting enhanced freedom to colleges when universities themselves did not have the requisite levels of autonomy would only be a recipe for disaster, given Kerala’s political and social ground realities, they argued.
The representative of the Government College Teachers’ Organisation (GCTO), while welcoming in principle the concept of autonomy, stressed that only government colleges should be initially brought under this scheme. Gradually, autonomy could be extended to aided institutions and then, if it was deemed fit, to unaided institutions.
Anyhow autonomy should be rolled out only in a controlled manner, he added.
An outright endorsement to the committee’s recommendations was given by the representative of SB College, Changanassery, who pointed out that the 90-year-old institution with excellent teacher and infrastructure resources had to be content with teaching outdated syllabi set by someone else.
Wrapping up the discussion, Mr. Menon said institutions in Kerala had the potential to offer world class education to the youth.
“Autonomy in no way means more power to the managements but more power and freedom to even the junior-most teacher in a college. Autonomy tempered with accountability is the best way forward for quality education,” he said.
The final report of the committee would be submitted by the end of April or at the latest by May 15, he added.
HEC vice-chairperson T. P. Sreenivasan was present.