Chief Secretary-led committee in favour of establishing deemed-to-be universities in Kerala

The Chief Secretary-led committee formed to recommend a policy on launching deemed-to-be universities in Kerala is learnt to have endorsed the proposed reform, albeit with certain disagreements raised against the majority view.

The first meeting of the panel held on Wednesday witnessed considerable support for the proposal. However, concerns remained over the complexities associated with the move, especially in the case of aided colleges.

The outcome was viewed by many in the academic circles as a “foregone conclusion”, considering the vehement support of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in assigning a key role for private players in modernising the sector. Understandably, some participants of the meeting stressed on the need to “unbridle” high-performing institutions to enable them to attain excellence.

The panel, which was formed last month, comprised the Principal Secretary of Higher Education, Chief Minister’s chief principal secretary K.M Abraham, Central Institute of Education professor Shyam B. Menon and Mahatma Gandhi University Vice Chancellor Sabu Thomas.

Better alternative

Incidentally, the Commission for Reforms in Higher Education that was chaired by Prof. Menon and included Prof. Thomas recommended private universities as a better alternative to deemed-to-be universities in its report that was presented on Tuesday. They also advocated enacting a Kerala State Private Universities Bill for the purpose. However, such proposals found little traction at the meeting.

While deemed-to-be universities that satisfy the criterion laid down by the University Grants Commission (UGC) will function in accordance with the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2019, they will no longer be legally bound to meet any requirement set by the government.

More critically, providing no-objection certificates (NOCs) for aided colleges to apply for the status could be fraught with challenges. It would create a scenario wherein the government, which has executed the Direct Payment Agreement of 1972 with the managements of aided colleges, will have to foot the salary and pension bills of the staff, even while having no leverage in controlling fee hikes, regulating admissions and ensuring the service condition of staff.

The government hoped to withdraw its financial support after a ‘transition period’ of three years of aided colleges turning into deemed-to-be universities. The termination of public funding could prompt such institutions to hike fees and rely on other sources for sustenance.

On the other hand, it is claimed that private universities that are launched on the basis of a State legislation could be forced to meet certain requirements to ensure equity, accessibility for all sections and social justice. Besides, the UGC has provided hints of gradually phasing out deemed universities, sources said.

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Printable version | Aug 25, 2022 2:49:32 pm |