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UGC Grants Autonomy to 60 Educational Institutes – What This Means

The UGC has decided to grant autonomy to 60 educational institutions, including 52 universities and eight colleges.

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The UGC has decided to grant autonomy to 60 educational institutions, including 52 universities and eight colleges.
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The Centre on Tuesday, 20 March, announced that the University Grants Commission (UGC) had decided to grant autonomy to 60 educational institutions, including 52 universities and eight colleges, across the country.

Out of the 52 universities, five are central universities, 21 are state universities, 24 are deemed universities and two are private universities.

Stating that the institutions granted autonomy have “maintained high standards”, Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar indicated that it was a step towards a ‘liberalised regime in the education sector’, with autonomy facilitating the quality of education.

So, what does this autonomy really mean? How were the institutes selected? Would it lead to a fee hike? And who is protesting against the decision? Here’s a deep-dive into all of these aspects.

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How Were the Institutes Selected?

The autonomy to the 60 institutes was granted under a UGC regulation on ‘Categorisation of Universities for Grant of Graded Autonomy’. The selection of the institutes was done primarily on the basis of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) ratings that they have been accorded, with the 52 universities coming under two categories. While those having a NAAC score of 3.5 and above have been put in category I, those scoring between 3.26 and 3.5 belong to category II.

Meanwhile, those having scores below 3.26 were placed in category III, but none of the universities in this category were granted autonomy.

Following were the prominent universities selected for autonomy:

  1. Central Universities: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Aligarh Muslim University, etc.
  2. State Universities: Jadavpur University, Panjab University, University of Madras, Osmania University, etc.
  3. Private Universities: OP Jindal Global University and Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University
  4. Deemed to be Universities: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Narsee Monjee Institute of Studies, Symbiosis International, etc.

In addition to the 52 universities, the eight colleges granted autonomous status, once again selected primarily on the basis of the NAAC score, included Jai Hind College and Mithibai College in Mumbai.

Regarding the status, the principal of Jai Hind College was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying:

We applied under the new autonomy guidelines of the UGC, which gave us an advantage. Since our last NAAC grade was more than 3.51, we were granted autonomy directly without any inspection.
Ashok Wadia, Principal, Jai Hind College

So What Does This 'Autonomy' Entail?

The decision to grant autonomy means that these universities will be free to start new courses, off-campus centres, skill development courses, research parks, and other academic programmes, while also being able to determine the fee structure.

Notably, it has been said that any move by the institutes in this regard would now not require the approval of the UGC.

In addition to this, the universities can also "hire foreign faculty, enroll foreign students, give incentive-based emoluments to the faculty, enter into academic collaborations, and run open distance learning programmes".

As far as the colleges are concerned specifically, the autonomy status will bring with it the freedom to decide on their own syllabus, conduct examinations as well as their evaluation, and announce the results. However, the awarding of degrees will continue to be carried out by the university under which they fall.

However, as pointed out by a press release of the HRD Ministry, the autonomy of these institutes does not imply that they will not be within the ambit of the UGC.

There will be differences in the level of autonomy accorded to category I institutes as compared to those falling under category II.

As pointed out by The Indian Express, for a category II institute like the Panjab University, while it would not attract any regular inspections when starting a new academic programme, it would still need an approval from the UGC to start off-campus centres, research parks, and enter into collaborations with foreign universities.

Moreover, no permission would be needed for a category II institute to hire and enroll foreign teachers and students.

On the other hand, a category I institution would not need to pass through the UGC approval process for starting off-campus centres, research parks, etc, as well entering into agreements with foreign institutions.

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Will There Be a Fee Hike After Autonomy?

An apprehension that has instantly cropped up after granting the autonomous status to these institutes is whether there would be a hike in the fee structure, thereby making it difficult for the poor to access quality education.

Naturally, any decision regarding the fee structure and the curriculum to be adopted vary from one institute to the other.

While this move would not mean that the grant to the universities by the UGC will stop, the financial pressure on them will increase and they will have to look for ways to fund themselves.

In this scenario, the fees for the existing courses may remain the same, but any new academic programme would have to be largely dependent on the university's own funds, which in turn, would mean a higher fees for the students. The authorities at Panjab University have indicated that though there may not be any change in the fee structure for existing courses, it would be under consideration as far as new courses are concerned.

Teachers and Experts Doubt the Autonomy Move

The autonomy decision has met with protests by students and teachers of JNU and Delhi University. Students of Panjab University have also flagged their concerns over an impending fee hike and said that they will protest against the UGC's decision.

Some experts have also not lauded the move, with Rajan Welukar, former VC of Mumbai University, telling HT that it was a 'half-hearted' attempt.

As many as 95 percent of provisions in the new norms are already enjoyed by the universities and deemed-to-be universities. The universities start a new course at their will.
Rajan Welukar, Former VC, Mumbai University

SS Mantha, the former chairperson of All India Council for Technical Education, said that "in effect, the UGC confers a limited academic autonomy to the institutes".

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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