A few days ago, state Education Minister Vinod Tawde announced that higher education institutions in Maharashtra had received Rs 340 crore under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shikshan Abhiyan (RUSA), a bulk of which had been allotted to two premier institutions from Pune, the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) and Fergusson College. While the SPPU bagged a Rs 100-crore grant for its consistent performance on research and high ranking on National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), Fergusson College has become the only college in Maharashtra to be awarded the status of a university and is set to receive Rs 55 crore.
What is the RUSA?
Launched in 2013, RUSA is a centrally-sponsored scheme, aimed at providing funding to eligible higher educational institutions run by state governments. The Centre provides 60 per cent of the funding for such institutions in general category states and 90 per cent in special category states. The funding comes through the higher education department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The funds received under RUSA have to be utilised for infrastructure, new buildings, research programmes and so on. Excellence, access, and expansion are the thrust areas educational institutions are expected to work on.
What does it mean for SPPU?
It has only been a couple of months since SPPU became one of the 60 educational institutes across the country to be awarded Grade I autonomy by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The university is also in the race for the Institute of Eminence tag, which brings Rs 1,000 crore with it. The SPPU had asked for Rs 150 crore under RUSA II, of which Rs 100 crore was for proposed changes in infrastructure and Rs 50 crore for new research and innovation initiatives. However, as only Rs 100 crore has been approved under RUSA II, university authorities said it was still unclear under which heads the grants had been allotted.
SPPU Vice-Chancellor Nitin Karmalkar said the money had to be utilised in a 70:30 ratio for existing infrastructure and new facilities. “About 70 per cent of the funds have be used for improvement of existing infrastructure and 30 per cent for new facilities. Under infrastructure, we had proposed creation of a world-class hockey turf where our sportspersons can practice, and building of a new auditorium. We had proposed improvement of the rain water harvesting facility and water drainage systems and upgradation of hostel buildings. We had also proposed creation of two new studios — one for centre for performing arts and another state-of-the-art studio for communication and mass media students,” he said.
One of the important suggestions by SPPU, under research and new innovations, was the creation of a centre for employability. “Basically, we have envisaged bringing in various stakeholders who can contribute in any way to make our students 100 per cent employable and create employability situations. At this centre, we propose to bring in mentors for students, arrange important guest lectures and field visits, internship opportunities, mock lectures, placement drives and so on,” said Karmalkar.
What does it mean for Fergusson College?
Fergusson College is already an autonomous institute, having received autonomy in 2016. The MHRD had asked autonomous colleges, which wish to upgrade to an university status, to send in their proposals by April 19, under which the institute had sent its proposal. Under the RUSA II scheme, the college is expected to receive Rs 55 crore (shared between the Centre and the state government) to upgrade to an university.
Principal Ravindrasinh Pardeshi said some of the processes needed for a college to transform into an university had already been set in motion after the autonomy was granted. “Unlike other colleges affiliated under the university, we have been deciding our own syllabus and setting up an exam schedule. We started bodies like the academic council and the board of studies for decision on new courses, syllabus and so on. The exam board and finance board was also set up,” said Pardeshi.
However, it is still unclear what is in for the students once Fergusson College becomes Fergusson University. The college currently decides its own exam schedule and conducts the examinations, but the results are announced by the university. The degree also comes from the university. This is likely to change.
Once Fergusson College becomes a university, it can award its own degrees. While Fergusson College is one of the oldest and most reputed institutions in the country, an affiliation to the Pune University did offer an edge to the students, especially to those wishing to study in foreign institutions. The Pune University is well-recognised internationally.
Currently, while Fergusson College has the autonomy to choose its syllabus and courses, it has to select these from the list approved and offered by Pune University.
Once it becomes a university itself, it will be able to offer its own courses, irrespective of whether these are approved by Pune University or not. The courses and syllabus just need to be approved by the UGC.