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Rethink on autonomy norms raises a storm

CHENNAI, MARCH 17. Anna University's decision to go back to its Syndicate for changing the norms on grant of autonomy to long-standing institutions has sparked a debate among college heads here.

The Vice Chancellor, E. Balagurusamy, says: "We felt the need to change the statutes as none of the colleges was able to meet the varsity's norms." However, representatives of established colleges feel that the statute fixed impractical guidelines.

Last year, the university publicised the statute changes. To become eligible for autonomy, an institution must have completed 10 years and produced at least two batches in two postgraduate programmes. It also outlined the method of setting up the Academic Council and the governing board and infrastructure norms.

Though over 40 colleges met some of the basic norms, only 14 applied for autonomy including theexisting autonomous institutions.

Prof. Balagurusamy said none of the applicants met two requirements: In the four years prior to the application at least two faculty members should have submitted research papers for publication. The faculty-student ratio should be at least 1:10 for postgraduate courses and 1:12 for undergraduate programmes.

`Too rigid'

K.P. Mohammed, principal, Crescent Engineering College, Vandalur, says the ratio is too stringent and cannot be satisfied even by the existing autonomous colleges in the university or the National Institutes of Technology or the College of Engineering, Guindy. "The cost of employing many teachers will become too high and will have to be passed on to students, making education costlier. There is also an acute shortage of qualified and experienced faculty in all disciplines."

The All-India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission have prescribed a minimum of 1:15 staff-student ratio for even autonomous institutions. So, Anna University's prescription cannot be sustained, he says.

"I brought up this issue at the fifth Academic Council meeting and only then a consensus to request the Syndicate to change the provisions to refix the ratio at 1:15 was reached. The Vice-Chancellor at the next Academic Council meeting conceded this request... Now saying that no college met the strict norms reflects badly on their quality. While the UGC is eager to grant autonomy to more colleges, one cannot put hurdles to reputed colleges seeking the status," he said.

A.M. Natarajan, principal, Kongu Engineering College, Erode, says that even for accreditation, the norms are not so strict. The university should come out with new and practical norms and take faster decisions on granting of autonomy.

"All these have to be done soon so that the colleges get their autonomous status by May. This will give them two months to prepare the new curriculum and syllabus, get university ratification, put it on the Internet and tell students joining afresh what autonomy means to them," he says.

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