The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Autonomy at Xavier’s door

Calcutta, Jan. 18: St Xavier’s has beaten Presidency in the autonomy race.

The University Grants Commission announced today that the 145-year-old St Xavier’s would become the first undergraduate college in Bengal to acquire the status of an autonomous institution, which would be granted at the end of February.

V. N. Rajsekharan Pillai, the commission’s acting chairman, said only one final inspection stands between autonomy and St Xavier’s College. The inspection will be made by a team of experts from the commission in a fortnight.

“It should not take us more than three weeks from the day the inspection is held to make the final announcement,” Pillai said.

In addition to academic, administrative and financial freedom from Calcutta University, to which the college is affiliated, autonomy will fetch St Xavier’s an additional central grant of nearly Rs 1 crore a year.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government and Calcutta University held a series of inspections of the college before sending their recommendations to the UGC. “We have studied the two inspection reports and we are happy with the institution’s performance,” Pillai said.

He gave the impression that the commission was prepared to hurry Presidency along towards autonomy by waiving one of the formalities. It will exempt the government-run college from the mandatory requirement of getting rated by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council.

Today’s development is a consequence of the state government’s pledge to have at least one college unveiled as an autonomous institution in the New Year and before the Assembly elections.

Bhattacharjee himself is a strong proponent of autonomy and has been pushing for it in the context of long-standing criticism of the CPM for controlling the education system with a tight hand.

Once autonomy is granted, St Xavier’s will enjoy full academic freedom that includes the right to frame its own courses, syllabus and examination system. It will no longer be bound to the system followed by Calcutta University, except that the certificates and marksheets will bear the university’s stamp.

The college will have the freedom to recruit teachers independent of the government and the university.

Financial freedom is a key element of the package, enabling it to structure tuition and other fees and raise funds as it deems fit. Financial assistance from the state government will continue.

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