Academic autonomy at Maharaja’s hit by hurdles

College authorities find spending of funds tough, thanks to bureaucratic hassles

Triple hurdles — bureaucratic hassles characteristic of a government institution, intransigence of the university, and the lack of clearly defined roles for stakeholders — have stood in the way of the smooth implementation of academic autonomy at Maharaja’s College, the only government college, out of the 19 colleges in the State, to be granted autonomy, P.K. Raveendran, chairman of the governing council of the college, has said.

While having the government as ‘manager’ helps in the smooth flow of funds, bureaucratic hassles in approaching the government for everything makes spending of funds really difficult. No wonder, only a part of ₹20 crore allocated in the last two years has been spent.

The principal can authorise payment only up to a certain limit, beyond which it needs the approval of the Director of Collegiate Education or even a government Secretary. “Academic autonomy is not possible without a minimum amount of administrative and financial autonomy similar to what is being enjoyed by managers of private autonomous colleges. The possibility of bestowing the principal of Maharaja’s College with an elevated status and greater powers in keeping with his greater responsibilities may be explored,” Mr. Raveendran told The Hindu.

He also called for a restructuring or overhauling of the administrative mechanism, considering the greater responsibilities and the larger workforce associated with the implementation of autonomy.

The university puts up its own set of hurdles in the enforcement of autonomy as its statute remains to be amended to accommodate the handing over of some of its responsibilities to the colleges that have been granted autonomy. Mr. Raveendran said that the hefty fee charged by the university for approving the restructured syllabus — ₹1 lakh for PG courses and ₹50,000 for UG courses — means that Maharaja’s will have to shell out up to ₹31 lakh every time it has to revise the syllabus of its 21 PG courses and 20 UG courses.

Further, the lack of clearly defined roles of the college and the university means that the college does things, which, it thinks, are very much within its powers, whereas the university considers that as an overreach on the part of the college.

'Upgrade in syllabus quality'

Mr. Raveendran, however, said that despite the odds, the college had managed to qualitatively upgrade the syllabus based on detailed workshops involving experts, while academic activities have also improved as national and international seminars are being held frequently in addition to lectures by persons of eminence.

“We are also trying to introduce innovative multidisciplinary courses like a blended B.Sc course in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. Besides, 65 of our teachers are research guides who have produced over 100 Ph.d thesis, extracts of which have been published in three volumes,” Mr. Raveendran said.

The college authorities on Friday placed their suggestions for the better implementation of academic autonomy before the committee set up by the State Higher Education Council to assess the functioning of autonomous colleges in the State.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 12:30:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/academic-autonomy-at-maharajas-hit-by-hurdles/article22432499.ece

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