The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Want college control, not cash

Calcutta, July 10: Take it or leave it, the Bengal government has told the UGC after unveiling a misnomer of an autonomy policy for Presidency College.

“We want to create our own model of autonomy for state-controlled colleges. If it is acceptable to the UGC, it is fine. Otherwise, too, it is all right for us,” higher education minister Sudarsan Raychaudhuri said today.

The minister did not say whether the message was meant only for the UGC or for other autonomy advocates, such as chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Such is the CPM’s addiction to control over education that it is willing to pay any price — even Rs 30 lakh — to ensure old habits die hard. “We can do without the Rs 30 lakh (over five years) that the UGC will give if we follow the guidelines,” Raychaudhuri said.

Initial reaction from the UGC suggested that the “Bengal model” does not meet its requirements. “I have not seen the report (of a committee that made the recommendation). From what I have read in the media, the changes suggested for Presidency College do not meet the UGC criteria. So, it will not be eligible for autonomous status,” Suranjan Das, a member of the UGC executive committee, said.

According to the autonomy policy unveiled in the Assembly yesterday, Presidency will neither have the right to recruit staff nor decide syllabus without approval from its parent Calcutta University — which means administrative and academic freedom will be out of bounds.

Other than a few cosmetic changes, Presidency will remain dependant on the university for all its vital activities. But UGC norms require an autonomous college to conduct academic, administrative and financial functions on its own.

The higher education minister went to the extent of saying the government was “very satisfied” that Presidency has not received the autonomy that St Xavier’s has. “The government’s main intention in granting autonomous status to Presidency College was to upgrade the overall standard. We had set up the expert committee to examine how the college could be upgraded.”

He said the state government was developing its own concept of “autonomy” in the best interest of education in government colleges. “We hope that this will be acceptable to all, especially the guidelines that the UGC will adopt under the 11th plan,” the minister said. “We will try out this model. We will see how we can make it evolve.”

The partial autonomy has found cheerleaders in both the CPM as well as the party-packed government college teachers’ lobby that has been demanding the university should retain control over Presidency.

The CPM had misgivings on autonomy because it felt that granting freedom to Presidency could “open the floodgates”, robbing the party of its stranglehold over education.

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