The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Autonomy for colleges

Calcutta, Aug. 3: The government has decided to grant autonomy to several undergraduate colleges, including Presidency College.

Nearly a decade after rejecting a similar central proposal, higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty acclaimed its merit and said the government was pursuing the course of decentralisation.

“We are considering a policy on autonomy. A move in this direction has to be taken because there cannot be a better option to tackle the increasing demands for quality education at the undergraduate level,” he said.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government is moving fast as the CPM leadership has given the go-ahead after realising that the administration is unable to cope with the cost and demands of higher education.

Jyoti Basu’s government, in which Chakraborty held the same portfolio, could not accord autonomy to Presidency and other colleges because of the party’s opposition. Alimuddin Street had feared that it could lead to a loss of turf under Calcutta University and other institutions controlled by the CPM.

Chakraborty, however, attributed the push for the new policy to a recent University Grants Commission directive that the government start the process of setting up autonomous colleges in the Tenth Plan period.

During Basu’s rule, the CPM rejected proposals for setting up Navodaya Vidyalayas, open universities and private engineering and medical colleges only to embrace each idea later.

Once the colleges are granted autonomy, they would no longer require to conform to the systems followed by the universities they are affiliated to. They will be empowered to frame their syllabi, run their own examinations and control admissions. They will also be able to fix tuition fees and award degrees to students.

CPM officials admitted that the party changed its stance once it realised that the centralised system of conducting undergraduate examinations had become unwieldy. Calcutta University, for instance, has over 200 affiliated colleges.

The officials said the government favours granting autonomy not only to Presidency, but also to middle-ranking colleges. At one point, it had thought of making a few select colleges controlled by it independent.

“Decentralisation is required to provide diversified scope for higher education, especially in the emerging areas. It is not possible for universities to offer such scope,” said an education official.

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