Thrust on greater autonomy for colleges in UGC 12th Plan

Stating that there is a major "structural weakness" in the higher education system with the growth of universities in the form of affiliated institutions, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has proposed that autonomous colleges, identified as colleges with potential for excellence (CPE) with a student strength of over 3,000, can be converted into universities during the 12th Plan.

The UGC document, now made public, chalks out possible strategies for 12th Five Year Plan proposals. The overall budget requirement projected to achieve proposed initiatives is Rs 1,84,740 crore.

It calls for lessening the burden of universities and facilitating greater freedom and autonomy to colleges by making amendments to acts of universities. It says no university should have more than 50 affiliated colleges with a total enrollment not exceeding 50,000 students. "Colleges which have received 'A' grade accreditation by the NAAC and have proved their sustainability for two consecutive periods of accreditation, may be upgraded into unitary universities. This may be done for all eligible Central and state government-funded institutions," it says.

To increase intake in higher education, the UGC has proposed evening universities and colleges. It has recommended introduction of shift system of courses to be offered in colleges, and evening postgraduate degrees and diploma programmes in universities for those employed.

While currently, 6,811 colleges are eligible to get developmental funds from UGC under Section 12(B), it proposes major amendment of the UGC Act to make another 20,000 government/government-aided colleges eligible for the grants to enhance intake. "This is needed in the 12th Plan for the 50 per cent increase in the intake proposed to reach the desired gross enrollment ratio," says the document. Further, it plans "college cluster universities" with colleges which receive such grants.

"The 20,000 colleges recommended to be brought under Section 12(B) of the UGC Act may be clustered to create 400 college cluster universities. They will have to be created by the state through an enactment of state legislation based on a model act...together with its own academic and executive bodies (such universities) will have enormous freedom and autonomy to develop their own innovative programmes and ideas," it says. The document adds that the current 6,811 colleges can be clustered with an average of 50 colleges, leading to 140 cluster universities. Establishment of 800 constituent colleges in 40 central universities and creating 20 women universities are among other proposals.

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