Autonomy to Educational Institutions in India – National Education Policy 2019

The draft national education policy of 2019 (DNEP-2019) is a
comprehensive initiative aimed at revamping the Indian higher education sector,
create world class multidisciplinary institutions, and increase the gross enrollment ratio to at least 50% by 2035 to match with China and Brazil. It is
presently in public domain for views, opinion and suggestions.
In this write-up, I shall deal only with the policy
initiative of DNEP-2019 for creating autonomous colleges removing the concept
of an affiliated college from the Indian universities. Removing the burden of
affiliation from the universities will set them free to concentrate on teaching
and research for their on-campus students rather than as affiliating and
examination conducting bodies for the college sector country wide. Therefore,
the concept of affiliating universities and affiliated colleges will go from
Indian higher education system. Every HEI will be either a full-fledged
research or academic university or an independent degree awarding autonomous college.
Therefore, there will be no college to be called as affiliated college. All
previously affiliated colleges will function as autonomous colleges by 2032 and
will be empowered with degree awarding authorities in their own names. There is
also the provision that if any college can’t sustain itself as an autonomous
college, then it has to merge completely with the current affiliating
university and become part of it. However, this will prove quite challenging
for the universities to broaden their campus beyond boundary limits
particularly for the colleges who lack on multiple fronts.

The policy basically plans for whole institutional
restructuring and consolidation of existing 800 universities and 4000 colleges
into three types of higher education institutions labelled as type 1 (research
universities), type 2 (teaching universities), type 3 (autonomous colleges)
with equitable roles in multidisciplinary teaching, research and service.
However, what is more surprising is that these type 1 and type 2 universities
will also be required to run undergraduate courses across all subjects. It will
create confusions among the minds of student community regarding relevance of
type 3 institutes. Under this plan the centrally funded HEI’s will
automatically transform as type 1 institutions, however, this is also a major
drawback as all centrally funded universities are not having quality mandate of
excellence in research. Some state institutions have done remarkable
progression in teaching and research, therefore, there must be lateral entry
for good and quality state institutions to type 1 category also.
In DNEP-2019, the thrust is on faculty autonomy also which
is a welcome and laudable initiative, however full of challenges for teaching
community. Providing autonomy to faculty will in real sense help and motivate
the teachers to use their own and innovative ideas and ways to enrich the
curriculum in tune with societal needs, improve teaching methods and pedagogy,
developing a healthy and liberal relationship with student community and
motivate them towards quality learning. Overall, this initiative will provide
teachers scope for continuous improvement of teaching-learning in HEI’s.
Providing academic and administrative autonomy including
financial autonomy to HEI’s is a remarkable initiative of DNEP-2019. This will
fulfil a long pending demand of granting autonomy to academic institutions to
put themselves in the path of imminence or excellence without undue
interference in administrative and academic matters from outside and will also
prove quite healthy for the efficient work culture, faculty promotions, timely
updating of curriculum, introduction of new courses and programmes in tune with
institutional vision and mission. The autonomous colleges are expected to emerge
as centres of excellence to contribute to the overall development of the Indian
higher education sector.

Under a UGC scheme hundreds of colleges are already
functioning as an autonomous institutions in India. Pertinently, Islamia
College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar also functions as the only UGC
autonomous institution in the valley since 2015. Therefore, the functioning of
existing autonomous colleges is also expected to get changed and have the every
opportunity to get converted as type 2 universities. Similarly, the existing
top ranked universities and centrally funded universities will be eligible to
move into type 1 universities. However, for that purpose they will have to
approach national research foundation (NRF) for funding under the Mission
Nalanda and Mission Takshashila.
State governments will have to prepare plans for creation of
new institutional architecture and consideration for framing the different
types of institutions: one each of type 1, 2, and 3 for 50 lakhs, 5 lakhs, and
2 lakhs of population, respectively with due consideration for geographic
boundaries. At least one type of institution will be established for every
district the policy reads and that is a healthy initiative to eliminate the
concept of parity vis-à-vis imparting quality education with no rural city
divide. The matter of concern is however, that whole higher educational system
in the state will get revamped and consolidation of existing HEI’s into a fewer
number of type 1, 2 & 3 HEI’s will prove an uphill task for policy makers
and administrators. States will be required to prepare ten year educational
plans and emphasize on using the college campuses effectively for the
development of school complexes and extension centres for vocational education,
however, this again seems to prove as a messy situation for the states.
The challenging aspect for the state governments is that
colleges that fail to develop as type 3 (autonomous colleges) by 2032 will have
to be closed by the respective governments and instead will be used as adult
education centres, public libraries, vocational educational facilities, etc. by
the concerned states. This will definitely put state governments under
tremendous pressure to see them converting as autonomous colleges in absence of
quality infrastructure, deficit teaching-learning initiatives, incompetent
leadership, etc. Therefore, focus of our policy makers must be on strengthening
the existing colleges, develop research oriented infrastructure, initiate
faculty development and enrichment initiatives, create more physical
infrastructure, establish adequate laboratory and library facilities, and
enrichment of teaching faculty, adequate funding and state-of-the-art
technologies for innovative teaching learning processes to enable them to qualify
for type 3 category institutions (autonomous colleges) and sustain as an
autonomous institutions.
To conclude, formulating and implementing a policy or a plan
is the core of the institutional progress and relies finally on the leadership.
Therefore, colleges should get able and competent leadership to enlighten them
with the goals of autonomy and prosperity in the coming years to grow as type 3
institutions.