Former VCs blame vested interests
PATHANAMTHITTA: The member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Xavier Alphonse S.J. on Wednesday said an "organised resistance from teachers and politicians'' to granting autonomy to colleges was the bane of the higher education sector in Kerala and it was high time the education sector came out of this "vicious circle.''
The UGC member was delivering the keynote address at a two-day national workshop on `Autonomy for colleges in Kerala,' being organised jointly by Mar Thoma College at Thiruvalla and the Mahatma Gandhi University.
According to him, non-autonomous colleges were not `real' colleges. Autonomy implied freedom to formulate academic programmes, curriculum, evaluation techniques, etc. In the globalised world, autonomy was essential to make a student rise to international standards, he said.
Inaugurating the workshop earlier, S.P. Thyagarajan, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras, said autonomy would open new frontiers of knowledge which could lead the educational institutions in Kerala to a new phase of operations.
Addressing the workshop, Ninan Abraham, former Vice-Chancellor of Kanpur University, said that without autonomy, it was not possible to attain quality in higher education. In spite of its high literacy rate, Kerala often found to have been unwilling to accept innovative ideas, Dr. Abraham said.
A. Sukumaran Nair, former Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, alleged that the higher education in Kerala was under the control of the bureaucracy which would never allow granting autonomy to colleges.
"We have been talking about autonomy for the past 25 years without initiating any concrete action. The affiliation system was started in London more than 200 years ago and it was subsequently extended to various countries under the colonial rule. The sorry side of the thing is that a fast developing country like India still continues the affiliation system when England had abandoned the system 100 years ago,'' he said.
Dr. Nair said that "Nalanda and Taxila were known for freedom of thought and expression, but, our colleges have been denied it. Bureaucracy has vested interests and therefore it is not ready to delegate the authority to academic institutions.''
Nirmala Jeyaraj, Principal of Lady Doak College, Madurai, shared the college's experiences of autonomy with the over 100 delegates participated in the workshop.
John Britto, former Principal of St. Joseph' College, Thiruchirappalli, said autonomy was not a foolproof system.
Cyriac Thomas, former Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, presented a strong case for academic autonomy.
"We are resting on the glory of the past and not willing to explore alternatives for future. When an innovative idea is presented in Kerala, the first reaction will be in the negative and hence our mindset should be changed,'' Dr. Thomas said.
Francis Soundararaj, former Principal of Madras Christian College, was the moderator.
Mar Thoma College Principal N.M. Mathew, programme coordinator Abraham George, and M.M. Mathew and Icy K. John, both conveners, also spoke.