Varsity's 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 engineering colleges 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 were able to meet the varsity's norms." However, representatives of established colleges feel that the statute had fixed impractical guidelines and this had created the problem.

The university had publicised last year the statute changes for granting of autonomy.It spelt out the norms, which stated that to become eligible for grant of the status, the institution must have completed 10 years, sent out at least two batches in two postgraduate programmes. It also outlined the method of setting up administrative bodies such as academic council and governing board and the infrastructure norms.

Though over 40 colleges met some of the basic norms, only 14 colleges applied for the autonomous status, including existing autonomous colleges. However, Prof. Balagurusamy said all the applicant-colleges did not meet two of the requirements:

1. Within four years prior to the application at least two faculty members should have submitted research papers for publication.

2. The faculty-student ratio should be at least 1: 10 for postgraduate courses and 1:12 for undergraduate courses.

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

The AICTE and the UGC have prescribed a minimum of 1:15 staff-student ratio for even autonomous institutions. So, the Anna University's prescription cannot be sustained, he said.

"I brought up this issue in the 5th Academic Council meeting and only then the consensus to request the Syndicate to change the provisions to refix the ratio to 1:15 was reached. The Vice Chancellor in the next academic council meeting conceded to this request... Now saying that no college had met the strict norms reflects badly on the quality of the colleges. While the UGC is eager to offer autonomous status to more colleges, one cannot put unnecessary hurdles in the way of reputed colleges seeking autonomy," he said.

A.M. Natarajan, principal, Kongu Engineering College, Erode, says that even for accreditation, the norms are not 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 up on the Internet and tell students joining afresh what autonomy means to them," he says.

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