THE NEW autonomous status of Panjab University might not provide additional financial assistance to implement the new freedom, but was a positive step to gain a licence to do something new, said Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover, on Wednesday. He, however, added that income will have to be generated from other sources which will be a limitation, but it was not bigger than the benefits.
The university has been declared autonomous under Category II, within a new regulation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) on ‘Categorisation of Universities for Grant of Graded Autonomy’. The decision, announced by HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday, has granted autonomy to 60 higher education institutes in the country, including 52 universities.
“Things are changing for the good and we have come a long way. Now, we will not have to seek permission from the UGC for everything,” said Grover. For example, he added, now PU could decide the remuneration for outside faculty. Earlier, the university could not do so even if it was generating income on its own.
The new “liberalisation measures”, he further said, were UGC’s aim at providing an experience of professions that students would want to join after completing their courses. Under Category II status, the varsity will still have to seek UGC approval for foreign collaborations along with a peer review. But Prof Grover dismissed the same, saying, “Earlier, no questions were asked. But now, we can at least negotiate and innovate more to raise the benchmark for quality education.”
The V-C gave the example of a course the varsity has proposed in its application for Institution of Eminence. The six-year MBBS-MD integrated course is based on medical school courses in the US and Canada which begin after graduation. “We can start such a programme in collaboration with PGIMER and NIPER. It will be competitive, too, and without an exit option where doctors will be research doctors,” he added.
Prof Grover further stated that such a proposal would have had to go through too much scrutiny earlier. But now, they had a chance to explore this option freely. About peer reviews, he said it would not be too much of an issue between academicians. But, he warned that it would be an expensive ride as the varsity will have to start small. All of the experimentation has to be self-sustaining.
“The UGC will continue to give only 6 per cent grant. But the varsity will have to look at additional sources of income to make the most of the autonomy. We have to chalk out a clever plan to remunerate foreign faculty through twinning and exchange programmes,” he said, adding that these programmes will also be expensive for students.
Prof Grover also cautioned, “Let’s not get too hopeful though. This has been done in good faith, but will take years to create an impact. Autonomy is an opportunity to enhance the quality of education and the day we stop doing that, we will not stand anywhere.”