Autonomous status - a game changer for several colleges

Pranita Roy
Sunday, 12 May 2019

In the new academic year 2019-2020, four colleges affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) including prominent city-based institutes like Modern College Arts, Science and Commerce, Shivajinagar, Sir Parashurambhau (SP) College will be now acting autonomously. In the recent past, it has been observed that a considerable number of colleges have been 
awarded autonomous status.

In the new academic year 2019-2020, four colleges affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) including prominent city-based institutes like Modern College Arts, Science and Commerce, Shivajinagar, Sir Parashurambhau (SP) College will be now acting autonomously. In the recent past, it has been observed that a considerable number of colleges have been 
awarded autonomous status.

In Pune itself, six colleges including prominent ones like Deccan Education Society’s BMCC and Fergusson College, MIT Academy of Engineering have been autonomous since 2016. With this, SPPU now has a total of 15 colleges that have been granted autonomous status.

To boost the quality of education, the State and Central governments have been pushing eligible colleges with a good National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grade to apply for autonomy. 

At present, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has a total of 687 autonomous colleges across 108 universities in the country. Andhra Pradesh leads the list with around 101 autonomous colleges While Maharashtra has 79 autonomous colleges. 

Academic independence
One of the major advantages stated as per the guidelines of UGC for autonomous colleges is that they get academic independence. This means that the colleges can set a local, relevant curriculum tailor-made to their requirement. Apart from this, the college has the freedom to reform the examination and evaluation system. This has attracted several institutes to achieve autonomy. 

While a number of colleges opt for autonomous status, it is advantageous for the universities too, who find it difficult to meet the needs of several colleges affiliated to it. SPPU alone has over 800 colleges affiliated to it, with over 10 lakh students undertaking education here.

Deputy Director of College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP), Mukul Sutaone also stated that colleges are allowed to revise or change the syllabus depending on the response and impact of the subjects. “Almost every four years, the syllabus is revised.

Every mid-year, we also record the progress or effect of any subject, according to which the required changes are made. This wouldn’t have been possible without autonomous status.

The process to regulate syllabus is slow because of the dynamics it covers. Also, the university cannot focus on individual colleges and their recommendations,” said Sutaone. “Therefore, in a way, this also reduces the burden from a university where it doesn’t have to focus upon only one college,” he said. CoEP has been an autonomous body for the past 16 years and has been providing guidance to autonomous colleges on sustainability.

The city-based colleges are aiming to bring in an industrial-based syllabus, which will provide employment opportunities to students.

Boon to rural colleges 
It is also observed that very few colleges in rural areas have received autonomous status. But the college administration in rural areas feels that the status will benefit them more and 
prevent student migration to cities. 

“The university is affiliated with colleges from both cities and rural areas. Therefore, they have a holistic approach towards formulating a syllabus, which will stand relevant for both areas,” said Shivaji Sathe, Vice-Principal of SPPU affiliated TC College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Baramati, which has been awarded the status this year. 

“Whereas if colleges in rural and remote areas get the freedom to choose and make their own curriculum, then the syllabus can be modulated according to the requirement of the area in which the colleges are located. This will prevent students from leaving their hometowns and going to cities for higher education. As they will acquire skill-based education, which meets the local requirement,” said Sathe.

Examination and evaluation reforms
Another big advantage the colleges have attained is reform in the examination and evaluation system.

“We have a re-examination system for students in our college. Those students, who don’t perform well or fail in the examination, are given extra classes to improve in the subject and are allowed to take the examination again. This has reduced the number of ‘year downs’ and allowed them to keep terms (ATKT),” said Sutaone. 

Teachers question sustainability
However, the teachers’ fraternity is not very excited about the autonomous status. They have raised concern over sustainability after the colleges become self-financed. Post autonomous status, colleges will be introducing new courses, which will be treated as unaided and teachers appointed for these courses will be salaried by the college management. A city-based teacher on condition of anonymity said, “The aided courses will continue to be funded by the State government. However, new courses will be unaided. Already few teachers in autonomous colleges have felt the financial crunch. If the college management doesn’t act wisely, then for the long term, the sustainability looks difficult, defeating the purpose of the strategy of autonomous status that assures improvement in quality education, eventually affecting students’ academics.”
Sutaone also stated that a government has a strict committee, which inspects and verifies functions of autonomous colleges and only then renews their status. For previously awarded colleges, the duration is six years, while the newly awarded colleges have it for 10 years.

The Search for Autonomy
- The University Grants Commission has a total of 687 autonomous colleges across 108 universities in the country. Andhra Pradesh leads the list with around 101 autonomous colleges, while Maharashtra has 79.
- To boost the quality of education, the State and Central governments have been pushing eligible colleges with a good National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grade to apply for autonomy. 

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