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Govt between crores and colleges
- Institutions may miss money bags if decision to grant independence waits

Calcutta, Nov. 28: The more the government drags its feet on granting autonomy to deserving colleges, the greater the state’s slide in the race for funds from the University Grants Commission, a top UGC official said today.

Rajshekharan Pillai, the UGC vice-chairman, said Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have already enacted legislation and bestowed autonomous status on scores of colleges to take advantage of a UGC initiative. Bengal, in contrast, is yet to respond to the move designed to create centres of excellence across the country.

“There are at least a dozen colleges in Bengal that may turn out to be candidates for autonomy. Since the state government has not yet formulated a decision on whether it would allow autonomy in colleges, I am sorry, none of these institutions can hope to avail the special financial support on offer,” Pillai said.

According to conditions set by the UGC, an institution identified as autonomous and a centre of excellence will be entitled to support worth Rs 1.72 crore. An institution that is not autonomous but accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council will get Rs 70 lakh. An institution that has the potential for academic excellence but neither has autonomous status nor accreditation is supposed to get Rs 35 lakh. The scheme is valid only for the Tenth Plan as the funds will have to be used up during the period.

The UGC official’s remarks, observers said, contained a soft warning that the government was showing the same lethargy that shaped its initial half-baked response to the central policy clearing the way for private engineering colleges.

Thanks to the early resistance, Bengal could not offer seats outside those in state run-institutions, which forced students to migrate to other states.

In a late course correction, the government embraced the policy and allowed setting up of private engineering colleges but, by then, Bengal had lost hundreds of bright youngsters.

Tamil Nadu now has 60 autonomous colleges out of 160 across India. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh come next on the list. Even Orissa, which finds it hard to match Bengal’s boast about institutions of repute, has 17 autonomous colleges.

The UGC official said had Bengal responded in time to the initiative to create centres of excellence across the country, colleges in the state could have fetched a bounty of about Rs 20 crore.

Presidency College, for example, is an applicant for the status of centre of excellence. But it can get only Rs 35 lakh now as it neither enjoys an autonomous status nor an NAAC accreditation. Only seven out 340 colleges in the state have the accreditation.

The accreditation of Presidency, which is under state government control, is pending because of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s do-it-now government’s delay in sending the institution’s assessment reports to the council.

According to Pillai, the main reason for making it obligatory for colleges to have the autonomy status to avail the full Rs 1.72 crore is to encourage the states to grant independence to more colleges. “Unfortunately, the response has not been satisfactory from Bengal,” Pillai said.

He added that the UGC will set up four national institutes of fundamental sciences; in Bhubaneswar, Pune, Chennai and Allahabad.

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